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Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Page: 17

Queensland and New South Wales Floods

Mr RIPOLL (Oxley) (15:03): Mr Speaker, my question is to the Prime Minister. Could the Prime Minister please update the House on the latest information from the floods in Queensland and New South Wales.

Ms GILLARD (Lalor—Prime Minister) (15:03): I thank the member for Oxley for his question. His region suffered flooding last year, and I have had the opportunity to attend with him and also with the member for Blair some commemorative events marking the suffering and loss that we saw last summer. Unfortunately, it is a sombre ritual that whenever this parliament comes back together at the start of a year we have something to reflect on that has harmed our nation in the time in between. Three years ago we came together and this House was devastated by the Victorian bushfires. We felt the pain of Victorians and the pain of Australians in those dramatic and destructive events. And then last year we paused to reflect on all that we had lost in the summer of natural disasters as it had hit so hard in Queensland and in other parts of the nation, including Victoria. Coming back to the parliament today, we actually meet at a time when, in Queensland and northern New South Wales, people are struggling with floodwaters and are seeing those floodwaters rising with all of the implications that that has for their communities.

I spoke last night to Senator Barnaby Joyce about circumstances in St George—a very beloved place for him. I have visited St George myself. I visited last time during the flooding. For many of the families there, this is the third time that they faced flooding. Last year, when I visited there, I met people who were worried about flooding then who had only just got their homes back together following the earlier flood, and now of course those same individuals are seeing floodwaters threaten. So we know that right around those parts of Queensland and into northern New South Wales there are people who are doing it very tough indeed, and our thoughts are with them.

In these circumstances, we have made available the resources of the ADF. They did such remarkable work last summer and some of those resources have been deployed again, including fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. I think people would be well aware of the work that both can do in times of natural disaster and some of the very dramatic, indeed, heroic things that helicopter crews did last summer.

We have been asked by Premier Bligh in respect of Queensland and Premier O'Farrell in respect of New South Wales to join with them under our natural disaster arrangements in making available category C assistance. That means that there will be assistance for small businesses and primary producers. The triggering of that category C assistance also means for those areas we have triggered the Australian government disaster relief payment, which is an emergency payment of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child. These are being triggered in various shires in Queensland and New South Wales. So, for anyone who is interested in very specific information about their own circumstances, I would advise them to ring 1802266 to get help and advice. I am sure, as we sit this week, we will be thinking about our fellow Australians who are in those circumstances—some in evacuation centres, some very anxious indeed. Our thoughts will be with them.