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Tuesday, 5 February 2013
Page: 3

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:11): I wish to support the remarks of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, because this has been another summer of tragedy—particularly in my home state of Queensland. There have been all manner of tales of great acts of bravery and neighbourly support; neighbour supporting neighbour, community supporting community. We have heard about some of that from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition today. Sadly, in Queensland, seven lives have been lost, and there are many stories of individual hardship and hardship to business.

I pay tribute to the work of the SES and the police, the Army, Centrelink workers and volunteers and also members of parliament—particularly the member for Hinkler in relation to Bundaberg, because the situation there became very serious through Sunday and Monday of the week before last and it did require a huge effort to save lives during the night. The deployment of our Black Hawk helicopters and also helicopters from state emergency services in Queensland did an enormous amount to save lives during that difficult time.

The destruction in that region reminded me very much of what I saw when we went into the region when it was impacted upon by Cyclone Yasi back in 2011—the huge destruction of houses and the levels of the floodwaters. It was a very distressing sight and it will remain distressing for the thousands of people in those areas. I do pay tribute in particular to the very quick response of our defence forces, who have been working on a bridge across the river up in Bundy, doing what they can do to assist our community—and they are receiving enormous community support for that. But it is not just Bundaberg; it is the wider region of Wide Bay and the many smaller towns which have been very hard hit.

In the south-east, fortunately we did not have the destruction that we saw in 2011. I have this vivid memory of going out to Enid Street in Goodna in the electorate of Oxley. I visited there with the member for Blair on Monday morning of last week because we thought the waters were probably going to rise, and once again the thousands of homes there would have gone under. I was walking down the street and these beefy blokes wandered along, and I asked what was going on and they said: 'We're the western mud army. We've just redeployed and reactivated from 2011.' People were turning up before the floodwaters had arrived to assist people take the furniture and fridges and so on out of their houses. As it turned out, they all did pack-up; but that was not required because the worst did not happen.

I think we would all agree that the federal government—working with state governments, working with local governments and working with local community organisations—have a responsibility to do everything we can, not just to deal with the emergency but also to help these communities reconstruct themselves. Certainly the federal government is there in the way in which we were there in 2011, working with the state and local governments to make sure we do our very best. I think there is general agreement that the responsibilities and structures that we put in place in 2011 are serving us well again, as we go through a very substantial reconstruction in Queensland. But, overall, whilst it was a tragedy for so many people across our country, we saw the great community spirit of neighbour coming out and helping neighbour and of communities coming together. It says the very best about Australia.