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MPs subdued as death toll mounts -

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Reporter: Lyndal Curtis

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Federal politicians have been checking on family and friends caught up in the
disaster in Victoria.

The Prime Minister is in Melbourne, the Opposition leader has been touring some fire affected areas
this morning and the Family Services Minister Jenny Macklin will be in Victoria all week.

There's a sombre mood in federal politics.

Chief political correspondent Lyndal Curtis joins us now.

Lyndal, I take it the point scoring and game playing usually associated with federal politics has
been suspended.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Yes, Brendan, it has been. The flags are flying at half mast at the Prime Minister's
residence, the Lodge, and at Parliament. That's a tangible sign for politicians arriving, of the
scale of the disaster that's unfolding in Victoria. Sittings today will focus only on the
far-ravaged communities. Question Time is being abandoned.

There will be a condolence motions in both Houses, but nothing else after those condolence motions.
The houses will then adjourn for the day. There were going to be two Senate inquiries into the
stimulus package. Ones been delayed until later today, another put off. And politicians on their
way into Parliament have been reluctant to comment on matters of politics, recognising this is not
the time for point scoring.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Which politicians have been directly affected by these fires?

LYNDAL CURTIS: Well some politicians from Victoria have been checking on family and friends. Family
First Senator Steve Fielding had a brother in Kinglake. He's okay. Another, Kelvin Thompson has
been checking on friends he visited in the area just last weekend, and they are okay.

As you said, Malcolm Turnbull's down in Victoria. He went down last night seeing for himself some
of the affected areas. Kevin Rudd's been in Victoria since yesterday. He will be staying there all
of today and likely, if he does return to Canberra, will be travelling back to Victoria again very
soon. Rudd has warned that he expects the news to get much, much worse and we saw with the
Victorian Premier John Brumby yesterday, the enormity of what has happened has affected Mr Rudd who
was moved to tears on a couple of occasions while speaking to Channel Nine this morning, when asked
about his thoughts and feelings.

KEVIN RUDD: The expressions of solidarity from around the world have been very important. When
we've had telephone calls from the British Prime Minister, the New Zealand Prime Minister and
others offering very practical support.

The New Zealand Prime Minister rang yesterday offering 100 firefighters. That's been conveyed to
people here in Victoria. The British Prime Minister rang late last night to express the support of
the British people. This is very good in terms of a combined national effort. We're engaged in a
very practical task here. And in terms of those at the front line of that task, bear a thought
today for people who are anxious and frightened as each of these houses is searched. Bear a though
in mind also for the individuals who are charged with the responsibility, be they from the army or
the police, to search each of these homes and each of these communities. This is an awful task but
as nation we're to come thorough this, we're going to come through it stronger.

CHANNEL NINE HOST: And Prime Minister, we're hearing this morning, more news I'm sure you've been
briefed by the police, but we were talking to Christine Nixon a little earlier and it has come to
light that it appears that a number of these fires that have claimed so much life and so much
damage in terms of property were deliberately lit. So much anger and frustration here,
understandable.

KEVIN RUDD: Yeah... what do you say? What do you say about anyone like that? What do you say? I
don't know? Just no words to describe it. Other than it's mass murder.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Channel Nine.

Lyndal Curtis is with us from Canberra. What is the Federal Government doing?

LYNDAL CURTIS: Well the Federal Government is making emergency payments to those who have nothing,
who have just the clothes on their backs to get them some more clothes and toiletries and get them
through the next few days. There are Centrelink offices already in Victoria. The Treasurer has this
morning urged people not to call Centrelink unless it is urgent, to free up critical resources. As
we've heard, the military has gone in.

Mr Rudd this morning declared that communities will be rebuilt and the Government's turning its
mind on how to do that. State resources will be swamped and more and more the Government's
expecting, the Federal Government's expecting it will be carrying the load for that response.

Minds are turning also on how to pay for it all. There are suggestions that the Government should
look at reconfiguring its stimulus package to sending at least some of those funds to Victoria.
There are discussions going on at that question. The Opposition's looking at it. Something the
leadership of the Opposition has turned its mind to.

But out of respect for what has occurred over the weekend, I understand those discussion will be
held in private. So both sides of politics are seen to be working together. And of course, while
the tension is being rightly focussed on Victoria, there's still a serious flood emergency in
Queensland. The Government's keeping a close eye on that. A minister will be stationed up there all
this week in case it has to scale up its assistance there.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Chief political correspondent Lyndal Curtis joining us from Canberra.