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Sky News On The Hour 4pm -

View in ParlView

Subjects: Queensland floods

PM: Thank you very much I'm here in Rockhampton, I'm joined by our local Federal Member Kirsten
Livermore and by a man who now needs no introduction I don't think, Brad the local Mayor here and
we are here in the operations centre with people continuing to work on flood relief and recovery.

Here in Rockhampton of course the peak of the floodwaters has passed so that's good news but the
community here still has a journey ahead. The floodwaters will subside slowly and so we've been
talking today about expectations are that the highway will be cut for around another week, that the
airport will not be available for a number of weeks to come. So there is still a journey ahead for
the community of Rockhampton.

I will go from this centre to the evacuation centre and be talking to people who have been directly
affected by these floodwaters, but I did want to take this opportunity to congratulate Brad,
Kirsten, the community of Rockhampton on how it is continuing to work together to manage the
circumstances here, there is a real sense of solidarity, a real sense of professionalism, of
getting on with the job and of helping each other.

We've also had the opportunity here today on my second visit to Rockhampton, to talk about what
needs to happen in the future on infrastructure in Rockhampton. Of course we won't know the full
damage from the floodwaters until the floodwaters recede, but we've started today a discussion
about what can be done in the future to better flood proof Rockhampton.

This place, as people like Brad and Kirsten know only too well, Rockhampton had a major flood in
1991, and just like this flood, through those floodwaters the highway was cut, the Bruce Highway.
That's why immediately on coming to Government we commissioned a feasibility study of flood
proofing the Bruce Highway and the results of that feasibility study will be available in the
middle of this year and I believe that will point the way to the long term solution for having a
road that is flood proof.

We've also made available, not as a result of the immediate flood circumstance, but as a result of
earlier representations from the local community and from the local Member, we had budgeted for $40
million to enable some urgent works to be undertaken.

So we've started a conversation today about infrastructure, that conversation is obviously going to
have to continue, but I'm sure I can speak for all of us and say at this point our thoughts
continue to be on the relief efforts and recovery efforts and waiting, hoping for those floodwaters
to subside.

So I'll turn now to Kirsten Livermore who may want to say a few words.

KIRSTEN LIVERMORE MP: Thank you very much Prime Minister and it's a great pleasure to welcome you
back to Rockhampton. It's only a week and one day since your previous visit but I think we all
agreed upstairs that has been a very long eight days.

I've been moving around the community for the last little while talk to those people who have been
affected by these floodwaters and I would repeat what the Prime Minister said, we are in for
another very long week or so in the coming period ahead of us.

We really have to be very understanding as the community around those affected by the floodwaters,
that this is going to be an incredibly difficult time for them and it's great to know that we're
are getting so much assistance from agencies like Centrelink, the Red Cross, Salvation Army, so
many churches and other charity groups, and just the other people of Rockhampton and our
surrounding communities to really walk this journey with them and to be ready to assist in any way
we can. It's been terrific Prime Minister, to have you here again today, to be talking about what
we face in the coming weeks but very importantly to keep going on the work that has already been
done in this Government on these important questions about our infrastructure for the future.

MAYOR BRAD CARTER: If I could just lead off with a statement that from adversity you can get
prosperity and today it's been a pleasure to have the Prime Minister to her second visit and to sit
down with myself and some of our senior officers and representatives of the local disaster
management group and talk seriously about critical infrastructure that we may be able to put into
place in the long term that will flood proof parts of our community and certainly this wonderful
asset that we have, the Rockhampton Airport.

I'd like to thank the Prime Minister for taking the time to listen to us and to listen to our brief
in terms of how our community has been affected by this particular disaster and if I could also
thank here again for listening to our plans for the future.

Thank you very much Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister the airport is an issue up here, the Mayor and City would like it flood
proofed, are you committing (inaudible)

PM: We were talking about the circumstances of the airstrip and I've seen it from the air so you
only see a small part of what is normally the tarmac poking through the water. We are going to have
to see what the circumstances of the tarmac are when water subsides. But the priority that the
local council has put to me and that Brad has put to me is their concerns about the highway, the
flood proofing of that, and how that interconnects into the roads for Rockhampton. This is a
growing community and we obviously have a major freight task getting freight that currently goes
through Rockhampton to where it needs to go and so we've been talking about that as the priority.

JOURNALIST: It's not an unreasonable expectation is for a city the size of Rockhampton (inaudible)

PM: Well I think when it comes to setting expectations it always pays to talk to the local people
in the know, Kirsten with me today, our local Member and obviously having the opportunity once
again to talk to our local Mayor Brad, they are I think good at explaining what it is that the
community's looking for and so we've talked through their priorities today.

JOURNALIST: The West Australians are still very unhappy with the deal they're getting, they think
that $15,000 compared to the $25,000 that the Queenslanders are getting is just not on. Are you
going to change it?

PM: Well let me be very clear about this. I was in Carnarvon yesterday and I did have the
opportunity to see there some very considerable flood damage that has happened for the people of
Carnarvon. There in Carnarvon the circumstances are a little bit different actually, most of the
damage tends to be done as the water rushes back when the floodwaters are subsiding and that's
damaged a number of people's plantations of properties. When I was there in Carnarvon local
community members, including the local State Member of Parliament, were talking to me about the
differences in the assistance packages and what can be claimed as clean-up money by small
businesses and primary producers, and the figure for WA at the moment is $15,000 and here in
Queensland it's $25,000.

I explained to the people of Carnarvon that as Prime Minister I respond to requests from Premiers
of States; I responded to Anna Bligh's request and she requested up to $25,000 and that was agreed
to, I responded to the Premier of Western Australia's request and he requested up to $15,000 and
that was agreed to. I indicated to the people of Carnarvon yesterday, and particularly to the local
State Member who of course is a member of the Barnett Government, I indicated to him that should
Premier Barnett and the Barnett Government make a further request of me as Prime Minister, I would
deal with that as quickly as possible and with the absolute degree of sympathy that I can. I've
seen the flood damage myself, so in terms of how that request is initiated, it would be initiated
by the Government of Western Australia. If I receive it I will deal with it quickly and very, very
sympathetically.

JOURNALIST: What's your impression of the scale of this disaster? You've flown over two regions of
Queensland today, what have you seen (inaudible)

PM: Well the view from the air is incredibly reveal and I've had the opportunity today to be in St
George and then to fly into Rockhampton on a Blackhawk helicopter so you get a tremendous view and
I do thank our great Defence Force for assisting me getting here today.

The scale of the floodwaters, the sheer size of this is best appreciated from the air and we are
talking about huge areas, lots of water, a lot of it still very fast moving and so it's going to be
a long time back. We were just discussing upstairs in our meeting floodwaters to not subside
quickly, it takes some time, it's going to take some time here, we've got wide scale floodwaters
here in Queensland and that's going to put pressure of Queensland and local communities for a real
time to come, and so for us as a nation we've got to set expectations about how long we will be
needing to work our way back from here - it's going to take a long time.

I just do want to be clear though, Queensland's been hardest hit, but we do have flood
circumstances in New South Wales and in Western Australia in Carnarvon and I think everybody wants
to bear in mind all Australians in various parts of our nation including mainly here in Queensland
who are suffering through it.

JOURNALIST: How big would the cost of this be to the Federal Government (inaudible)

PM: The best thing to do is to work with people now through relief, work through recovery, and then
assess the damage. You cannot know how much damage has been caused until you can see what happens
when floodwaters subside, but we are standing by and have already made available money to assist
through the just direct emergency payments, the $1000 emergency payments from individuals who have
had to leave their homes, $1000 an adult, $400 a child, already around $3 million has been expended
here in Queensland, joining with the emergency payments from the State Government it's around $4
million. Then on top of that there's the clean-up money and the concessional loans and then of
course on top is going to be the infrastructure bill. I've been very clear that we are talking
about hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars but you can be precise about the figure until
you see the damage underneath.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister with Rockhampton, I'm from Rockhampton-

PM: I can tell that-

JOURNALIST: You really need an assurance that (inaudible) it should have been fixed 20 years ago,
25 years ago (inaudible) and the plans (inaudible) so surely you can give a commitment that we can
get this done, not just say we'll look at the plans when it comes through.

PM: I think we've got to be a little bit fair about how long this problem's been in the making. The
highway was cut in 1991, that's 20 years ago, it's a long time ago, well maybe not 20, round about,
2011 now. So that's a long time ago. 1991 the floods cut the highway, and then we didn't see any
action to address that problem until the election of our Government and through the work that
Kirsten did to bring this problem to the attention of the Federal Government we said well, we need
to really work through this and feasibility study is the way of really working through it. So in
terms of predispositions to get something done, it's this Government that has brought that
willingness to task after it was lacking for all of the years since the 1991 flood.

JOURNALIST: And given that how long do you think the city can function effectively without
(inaudible)

PM: We're talking about this study being available in the middle of this year and we're talking
about $40 million being expended for urgent works, that's separate to anything that ends up
stemming from flood relief, $40 million for urgent works that has already been committed.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister in meeting with the locals on your tour, have you encountered any
particularly compelling stories?

PM: Well I'm off to the evacuation centre next so I'll really look forward to the opportunity to
see you there. I've had the opportunity to talk to a number of local people in St George a little
bit earlier today and I think the thing that really there is most startling and most pressing is
meeting with people whose homes were flooded in March, who have been through the months of recovery
and rebuilding, who just got their homes back where they wanted them, wanting to move in, excited
Christmas, the house is back together again after the March floods and now they're facing flooding
again, that's really, really tough for those people in St George and I had the opportunity to talk
to someone today who's facing exactly that problem.

Thank you very much we'll see you at the evacuation centre.