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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1542

Mr RIPOLL (OxleyParliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (12:29): I thank the House for the opportunity to make a few short remarks about the natural disasters not just in my home state of Queensland but right across the country. Once again over the recent summer months, Australia has felt the full impact of natural disasters, from flooding rains to storms and cyclones, fires and—believe it or not—droughts in some parts of the country. We have seen those bushfires in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales, and we have also seen flooding up and down the coast of Queensland and New South Wales, particularly around Bundaberg. We should all spare a thought for the people of Bundaberg, who have been very hard hit by the devastation and flooding associated with ex-tropical cyclone Oswald. Tragically, along with the loss of property and possessions, people lost their lives, and this is something that we can never forget. We ought to work as hard as possible to try to mitigate these natural disasters as best as we can.

My electorate of Oxley was very badly effected in 2011, and I spoke in this House about the extent of that devastation, as did other people. Homes and businesses from Goodna and Gailes to River Hills, Westlake and Jindalee in the west of Brisbane were also heavily affected. No-one in the western corridor went without being touched in some particular way by what took place in 2011.

But what we saw come out of that was this fantastic and unique thing we call the Aussie spirit. It shone through with the immediate clean-up in the aftermath and the much talked about mud army that we now so lovingly know. Something that I also think is uniquely Australian is the way that, without needing to be corralled, Australians just seem to gravitate together to help their neighbour and to help their friends. It is curious that in my electorate, where there are a lot of migrants and people from overseas, they were just so motivated to help others, but they said that in their own country no-one would come out and help. So it is this unique Australian thing, and all of these people from overseas were saying that here in Australia they too felt like they were part of this and part of this Aussie spirit. It was a wonderful thing to see.

Even so, rebuilding was slow. It sometimes is a very slow process, but we are all in there—the federal government, the state governments and local councils of every colour and creed—rebuilding people's lives, their businesses and their homes. So it was with a lot of anxiousness that over this summer in 2013 we again watched natural disasters, flooding rains, extreme winds and mini tornados come to our state and to our country. Of course, every flood is different, and this one in 2013 was different from the one in 2011. We were better prepared this time, and I want to pay tribute to and record my gratitude for all of those volunteers: the SES, the firemen, the emergency services personnel, the police, the council officers and workers, state government bureaucrats and Commonwealth government officers who all pitched in being much more prepared and much more ready to make a contribution because we did learn the lessons from not so long ago. It was fantastic to see that happen. We were very fortunate in the western corridor in and around Ipswich. The river came up a long way, but very fortunately, due to a whole range of reasons—as I said, every flood is different—we managed to escape the worst and almost no homes were touched in Ipswich. A few businesses did suffer some minor damage but were well prepared for it. That is fantastic news, and again, that amazing Aussie spirit shone through.

I want to congratulate all of the volunteers in my electorate who, through just a simple tweet or Facebook message, were out in droves turning up with trailers, trucks and utes saying: 'Where do you need us? Where can we go and help?' It was really fantastic for that to happen. We also saw, at places like the Centenary Rowing Club, Centenary Meals on Wheels and Jindalee Bowls Club, that they were very scared and very shaken by what was happening, but very lucky this time around. I also want to highlight the mental anguish and some of the difficulties people have had rebuilding their own state of mind and capacity to absorb these sorts of disasters from the last flood. We do thank God that it did not happen to them a second time—I am just not sure how they would have coped.

We also saw this time around people losing power for extended periods not because of the floods directly but because they became isolated and winds tore down power poles, cutting them off from the rest of society either through losing their home phone—lucky we all have mobiles—or losing power to the house as well. I just want to thank all the people who helped, all of those emergency service workers. Hopefully we do not need that Aussie spirit again too soon, but it is comforting to know that it is there and that we will always all pitch in together. Thank you.