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Sky News On The Hour 9am -

View in ParlView

Subjects: Victorian floods; Queensland floods; NBN

PM: I'm joined here today by Lindsay Fox, who first introduced himself to me as 'just a truck
driver', but I think he's known by Australians for much more than that, obviously the head of
Linfox, a very substantial transport and logistics business.

Lindsay has joined me here this morning because today I want to talk about the contribution of
corporate Australia to Queensland flood recovery, but before I do that I do want to say something
about the circumstances that Victoria is facing today. We know many communities are anxiously
waiting as flood waters rise and many townships across Victoria have already been impacted by flood
waters. We also know that a small boy is missing and so these are very difficult times in Victoria.

Our thoughts are with everybody who is dealing with this emerging flood crisis in Victoria and my
thoughts are particularly with the family and friends of the missing boy who are dealing with such
a tragic situation. I had the opportunity yesterday, late yesterday, to talk directly to Premier
Baillieu about circumstances in Victoria. That followed travelling to flood areas myself, I went to
Echuca and I had the opportunity to be briefed in the morning by the State Control Centre, so I
have been able to talk through circumstances in Victoria.

Premier Baillieu late last night gave me a request for further natural disaster assistance for
Victorians, given the flood circumstances and I will be responding as soon as possible, so we can
make available to Victorians who are battling flood waters some further Federal Government
assistance. We want to be able to provide assistance to families, to small businesses and to
farmers who are dealing with flood waters.

I also spoke to Premier Baillieu about fundraising efforts here, Premier Baillieu has working with
Red Cross got an appeal happening for Victorians, that is the Red Cross Victorian Flood Appeal and
I can this morning announce that the Federal Government will make a contribution of $1 million to
that appeal, to help kick start what I'm sure will be a lot of community fundraising in Victoria,
as Victorians try to look after each other during some very difficult circumstances.

However, I'd have to say, as I had the opportunity yesterday to talk to people in a relief centre,
people who've been evacuated from their own homes, people who were dealing with the flood
situation, many of them not really sure what they were going to go back to when they went back to
their homes. Even in those circumstances when I met with those Victorians, very many of them said
to me that their thoughts are actually with the people of Queensland. So as tough as they were
doing it, their first though, their first heartfelt sympathy was for the people of Queensland as
they go through the aftermath of their flood disaster. So great sentiment from Victorians pulling
together but also thinking about fellow Australians up north.

And it's about recovery from Queensland's floods that I want to talk now. I've invited Lindsay Fox
to join me today, because I've decided to bring together ten Australian leading business people to
form a business roundtable to assist with corporate support as Queensland recovers and rebuilds
from these devastating floods. I've asked Treasurer Wayne Swan to chair this group, I've spoken to
Premier Bligh about it and the Treasurer of Queensland Andrew Fraser will also be a member of the
group working with Wayne Swan.

The purpose of bringing leading corporate identities together, including Lindsay Fox, is to further
leverage corporate support for the recovery and rebuilding in Queensland. Already corporate
Australia has been tremendously generous, many businesses have made donations, many businesses have
allowed staff to go and assist with flood work, many businesses have helped sponsor community
fundraising. So there's already been an opening of hearts and wallets from corporate Australia to
help with Queensland flood recovery and rebuilding, but given the scale of this disaster we need to
do more and so a key purpose of this business taskforce will be to further leverage support from
corporate Australia. Secondly a key purpose of this taskforce will be to help co-ordinate in kind
efforts from corporate Australia.

Once again, generosity has flowed and people have made available the assets that their business
has, whether it's trucks, whether it's foodstuffs they've been prepared to donate, whether it's
computer equipment they've been prepared to donate, people have been very generous. But there is a
need to make sure that these efforts are co-ordinated so the right kinds of donations are getting
to the places where they can be most used and to the people who need them the most, so that kind of
co-ordination will be a second purpose of this business taskforce.

And thirdly if you get ten very smart people together from corporate Australia they have some
advice and insights that can be shared with communities as they rebuild and we would be looking to
the business taskforce for that as well.

I want to be clear, this is not a group that will be managing the government response to the flood
crisis, the Federal Government will continue its direct work, obviously the Queensland Government
will continue its direct work and Mick Slater will be there leading the recovery group in
Queensland, but this is a complimentary role, about making sure that we are leveraging the best
possible business support for Queensland as it rebuilds from these very difficult days of these
devastating floods.

I did yesterday write to corporate Australia and ask them to consider further donations, the kind
of additional support that this business taskforce will not work directly on and I'm very pleased
to be able to announce that in response to that direct request I had a conversation, actually this
morning, with Richard Goyder from Wesfarmers and he has pledged that Wesfarmers will donate $5
million towards the Queensland appeal to assist the people of Queensland with rebuilding. So it's
that kind of additional generosity on top of current efforts that we are looking for through this
business taskforce and through its connections with corporate Australia.

With those words I'll turn now to Lindsay, who will be a member of the taskforce. We've got
representatives of various parts of the Australian economy, obviously Lindsay knows everything
there is to know about transport and logistics and I'll hand over to him now.

LINDSAY FOX: Well I guess one of the things that we gained out of the fires throughout Victoria was
how to try and look after all the people within those communities and while water and fire are
totally opposite the same devastation exists for all of the people within those communities.
They've lost their homes, they've got nowhere to stay, they've got nowhere to place whatever
belongings they had to be stored and placed somewhere, and we've had requests for containers to go
up there and the containers are currently on their way and then there's all of the supply routes
that have got to be covered through these specific areas. Ultimately there will be a process by
which goods are put together here in Victoria and in New South Wales and they'll become the supply
chain to all of the requirements that are currently today in Queensland.

Mick Slater is an outstanding leader, he has been appointed as the singular head, his communication
skills are terrific, he has everybody within the organisations that are working with him
communicating with twice a day and he's showing every skill that I've seen in any form of
leadership.

It's a pleasure to sort of back up all of the requirements that he may require from time to time.
He has the main role running the front of the show and some of the areas where he needs supply of
some goods, we've probably got the access and I guess it's my job to help create a lot of that
access to come through in ultimate outcome for the people of Queensland.

PM: Thanks very much, we're very happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister in light of the recent floods is the Budget still expected to be back in
surplus as promised?

PM: Thank you for that question because I note some reports this morning on this question referring
to a statement that I made yesterday, and I actually want to read to you the statement I made
yesterday and I stand by every word of it.

I said yesterday the following:

"we will be managing the Federal Budget so that we can meet the needs of recovery and rebuilding
and I've been in Queensland, I've been to a number of locations there, I've seen as far as you can
see with the floodwaters still high the scale of the damage and we know when those floodwaters
recede we're going to see even more damage underneath.

So I know that there's going to be a lot of effort and money and resources needed to rebuild,
particularly rebuild Queensland, but we'll be managing the Federal Budget through the Federal
Government so that we can meet those needs as well as managing the Budget into surplus in 2012-13."

That was my statement yesterday, that's my position and the position of the Government.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister (inaudible)

PM: We are going to have to make some tough choices, when you look at the scale of the damage that
we're seeing in Queensland, and we've seen the images on our TV screens and we're obviously very
fearful about the level of damage underneath when floodwaters recede and we can truly see what's
happened to roads, to railway lines, to bridges, to community infrastructure like schools. This is
going to be a huge task and it's going to require tough choices, we will work through to make those
tough choices.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Well we are going to work through to make tough choices, obviously it would be irresponsible of
me at this stage to be indicating to you how that's all going to be done, we don't even know what
the price tag is yet because we can't even know what the full flood damage is. So we will work
through this a step at a time, but I do want to be very clear with people, we face some very tough
choices with the Federal Budget but we'll make them so that we are there rebuilding Queensland and
so that we are there bringing the Budget to surplus in 2012-13.

JOURNALIST: How long do you think it will be before you get the (inaudible)

PM: Look that's probably a question almost better directed to people from the weather bureau and
our hydrologists that have given us all of the advice during the Queensland flood crisis. We will
be putting together a view about the infrastructure rebuild in Queensland as soon as we can, but we
are here with mother nature dictating many of the circumstances, so there will be the need to see
floodwaters recede before we can get an accurate picture. In Queensland obviously floodwaters have
hit at different times in different places, places went into recovery earlier, some places went
into recovery earlier, and so we'll get the infrastructure view a piece at a time as communities
move through recovery into rebuilding. That will then be able to be put together to give us the
total picture, we're obviously working on that now but we need floodwaters to recede to enable us
to see the full damage.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister would the Government consider dipping into (inaudible) funds to find the
(inaudible) for reconstruction?

PM: Look we will have to make decisions about financing the reconstruction but I'm not going to
speculate about how that should be done, it would not be responsible for me to do so, we'll get a
view about the scale of the damage, a better view than we can have today, as floodwaters recede and
when we have that better view we will make the decisions necessary to support the rebuilding of
Queensland and to bring the Budget to surplus in 2012-13.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister I know you said you will be responding to Ted Baillieu's request for
Federal Government support for Victorian flood (inaudible) as soon as possible, is it likely they
will receive financial support from the Federal Government?

PM: I received Premier Baillieu's letter from him last night, so we will respond to it as soon as
possible, he's asking for natural disaster assistance in what we call category-C, so that means
that there is assistance for households with replacing household effects that have been ruined by
floodwaters. Everybody I think understands the filthy muck and devastation people come back to
after floodwaters have been through their homes and so how much needs to be replaced in a
household. So there's support for household contents, clean-up money support for small businesses
and primary producers. We've already triggered and are in a position to assist people with income
support when they're not able to go about their ordinary work or do their ordinary business, so
that could be someone who normally works on a farm but can't do that job at the moment because of
the floodwaters, or someone who works in a business but can't get to the business because of the
floodwaters, or someone who operates a small business, say a coffee shop or something like that,
which is inundated by floodwaters itself so the business can't be operated; so that assistance is
already there.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister as you've travelled from flood communities in Queensland into Victoria,
how has the peoples' reaction affected you?

PM: Well these are such tough days for people and I've been out in evacuation centres talking to
people, offering some words of comfort because some people are understandably very, very distressed
and for me the impact is one where you feel such great sorrow for peoples' loss but also a sense of
determination about working with them in the rebuild and people I think have had on display the
full range of emotions from being tearful and downhearted through to Aussie larrikinism and jokes
and ways of keeping their spirits up. I had a woman say to be yesterday 'oh well at least now I
won't have to get the carpets cleaned I'll be able to get new carpets', I mean that kind of joking
in the face of adversity which is a typically Australian response. So that's really very, very
heart-warming.

So for me there's a lot of sorrow, a lot of sorrow, but also a lot of pride seeing how Australians
responded and a lot of determination about how we're going to get through this and how we're going
to rebuild from it.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister there's been a lot of comparison to the Victorian bushfires. (inaudible)
rebuilding and redesign and things like that, so has there been much comparison from the Federal
Government's point of view looking at the problems that are still going for Victoria and how that
may then be transported to (inaudible) Queensland (inaudible) a year, two years down the track?

PM: I think there are a lot of experiences that Victoria's been through which can help people in
Queensland - no two circumstances are ever alike - but there are always things that can be learned
and taken through to the next stage. So I know Premier Baillieu has been in direct contact with
Premier Bligh, there will be that kind of discussion and exchange, obviously as a Federal
Government we'll facilitate that discussion and exchange. For some of the communities that I've
seen in Queensland their circumstances did very much remind me of the community reaction after the
Victorian bushfires. I mean Lindsey's right to say water and fire are two opposite ends of the
spectrum but some of the communities like Grantham have been psychologically through the same thing
as our bushfire communities which is literally you were sitting in your home and life was normal
one moment and then devastation hit you the next. That absolute traumatic unbelievable power of
nature is just on you in ten seconds; that sort of feeling of shock and trauma is very much the
same. So I think there are things that happened here that we can learn from and experiences we can
share.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister on a different issue why has NBN Co been given an exemption from Freedom
of Information law?

PM: My understanding is this is the ordinary operation of the Freedom of Information Act, that a
body like NBN Co would not be subject to it, so for further details on that obviously feel free to
speak to Senator Conroy but it is the ordinary operation of the FOI Act.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Well I think freedom of information laws, we've got the system, the system's there and the
system is one where something like NBN Co is not covered by it so there's nothing extraordinary or
unusual about it, it's just ordinary business of government.

Thank you.

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