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Transcript of interview with Karl Stefanovic: The Today Show: 12 January 2011: Queensland floods; foreign assistance for floods

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Minister’s Office: 02 6277 7500 or 0466 745 615

The Hon. Kevin Rudd MP





12 January 2011

Subjects: Queensland Floods, Foreign Assistance for floods


KARL STEFANOVIC: Well, Kevin Rudd joins me now, knows it better than anyone else. Looking at that modelling worse case scenario stuff I know, do you think it will get to that level, do we know?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, nobody knows. We've got to listen very carefully to what the analysts are telling us. This is a violent river when it gets going. It's a big river. If you look at all the rivers upon which Australian capital cities are located, this is probably the biggest.

You mentioned 1890 before. Look behind us here, I mean you had naval ships which were lifted off their moorings and and deposited in the middle of the botanic gardens over there.

So in this - we're standing in my electorate now and these are my suburbs and my communities, you've got at least half a dozen that way which are now flood affected, about

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half a dozen that way which are flood affected and it's craziness with a blue sky at the moment.

KARL STEFANOVIC: And particularly warm.

KEVIN RUDD: Yeah, yeah.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Let me tell you, it's a typical summer's day here in Brizzie and the ones that I remember used to be followed by a thunder storm in the afternoon. Let's hope that doesn't happen. You've been out and about in your electorate, how are people dealing with all of this?

KEVIN RUDD: Look to be honest about people are very grim by determined. I was talking to folk last night who were making big decisions about when to move. Then moving to the other end around West End and around Orleigh Street and Duke Street in West End last night were physically moving people's furniture out as the waters actually came in.

So people are making decisions about whether to move. I live over this way at Norman Park and I just - coming here this morning there's already water down the bottom of the hill now in stacks of people's yards and rising. So I think we're in for a pretty - a pretty awful couple of days mate.

KARL STEFANOVIC: These areas too, I remember distinctly being more prone to flooding, but if we get the [indistinct] are there going to be other areas that possibly there may be a level of complacency there because they haven't gone through it before? I mean what are you urging your constituents to be careful of here?

KEVIN RUDD: The most particle thing is this, number (1) be attentive to the warnings from the state government and the city council about when to evacuate and no heroics, get the hell out of there.

Number (2) leave yourselves time.

Number (3) look after your neighbours.

You know the great thing I've seen here last night is people who just didn't know this family in Duke Street in West End who just piled in from around the neighbourhood and we just formed a human chain in getting their stuff out and that's happening in so many places. But I fear we're going to be doing a lot of that in the days ahead.

KARL STEFANOVIC: You know, having talked to Anna Bligh who is doing a great job under the most exceptional circumstances…

KEVIN RUDD: Well that's Anna's electorate there.


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KEVIN RUDD: And she is within my Federal Electorate so she actually has an instinctive feel for what it's like.

KARL STEFANOVIC: So dealing with this, and also dealing with those people and those communities, and - I mean you live in one of those places as well. It's very hard, it's very taxing, it's very frustrating and let's hope it doesn't last too long because we know born out of that is even more frustration and anger.

KEVIN RUDD: I reckon you know, you're right there Karl. The smartest thing people can do is also just take a deep breath when you're feeling the anger levels rise and be patient.

For example, just over here at Morningside which is the headquarters of the local Brisbane City Council and SES distribution centre for sand and gravel and the sand bags. There's a queue a mile and a quarter - a mile and a half long. People are getting there eventually but I think people have just got to continue to exercise patience.

This is going to be a tough old time.

KARL STEFANOVIC: I'm just - just receiving word in now, these images that we're looking at here, like what you said before in terms of people getting their valuables up onto the roofs and those kind - this is a suburb - that was a suburb of Brisbane. I think - I think around the Yeerongpilly. Let's go back to that vision now. Look at that? I mean that's trying to stack everything up as those flood waters continue to rise and this is a great old Queensland - a typical house in this area built on stilts but nonetheless for those people, and for those communities, geez that's ominous.

KEVIN RUDD: Yeah it's a worry. I don't know what the suburb is there. I presume if it's Yeronga, it's about four kilometres up to your right…

KARL STEFANOVIC: Look at those images.

KEVIN RUDD: …at the moment.


KEVIN RUDD: Fairfield Road, just the sight of that I went to last night was already largely underwater and most people had managed to make arrangements for their stuff, some hadn't effectively. But this is what's worrying. Over here at West End last night just standing there talking to the locals, as we stood there the water would actually then move about two or three feet during the course of a conversation, that is towards you up the road. And people have all got markings of the '74 flood around the streets, about where it went to, and are all breathing deeply.

KARL STEFANOVIC: How worried are you?

KEVIN RUDD: Really worried. I didn't live here in '74. I lived in Nambour up on the Sunshine Coast. But I remember how phenomenal it was. We've been told this is going to be worse. People are very grim. And to your people who are watching nationally, thank them for what

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they've been giving us, in terms of support and moral support and also the financial support through the telethon which you guys ran the other night. And we need more. But also, here we are in Brizzie. A week ago, the people of Brisbane were binding together to support the people in central Queensland who were going through a debacle, and they still are up there. And now, we're in the middle of a debacle here.

As you see from your footage, that's what - a lot of this footage - I don't know the suburbs, but that's in and around Bulimba, which is the other direction from my electorate here, and that's what people fear they're going to have revisited upon them.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Cam's over there this morning, in fact, and he was pointing - or asking a family about that very thing, you know, a dad with all his kids down at that river at the moment, having a look. I guess the operative message to come through here, and the one from you and also the Premier and the Prime Minister this morning, was get out if you can and do it now, have a plan in place.

KEVIN RUDD: Well, I was talking to folk about that last night, literally, in houses along Quay Street in Bulimba who are umming and aahing about when to go. I went out there almost with a tape measure and said have you worked this out, okay, work out what you need to stack here, work out what you can get out and get the hell out of here. So, look, based on what we hear from the hydrologists, this is only going to get worse.

And let's not forget also the violence of the river. Look at this huge lump of pontoon screaming down at us here just now in the river behind us. It's violent as well.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Pontoons, lots of boats - I mean, they love their boats here in Brisbane and certainly on Moreton Bay, a lot of that junk, a lot of those pontoons, a lot of those boats, those yachts - I saw a houseboat go through this morning, I saw a fridge - this is the sort of stuff that we're looking at.

KEVIN RUDD: Yeah, I saw that one last night round West End.

KARL STEFANOVIC: All that flowing through and out of the Brisbane River. It's a perilous situation to be on the water.

KEVIN RUDD: Well, see, here in Queensland, we love the water and we live by the water and, you know, boaties - it's not some sort of elite sport. Everyone has got a tinnie or a boat of some description. And if it's not, you know, tied up at moorings along the river, it's out a little further.

And so, this is, you know, apart from anything else, not just an assault on the way Queenslanders have their wellbeing - geez, look at that…


KEVIN RUDD: …crunch - but also it's an assault on the lifestyle. But a good thing is what I've seen is neighbours binding together to help each other, as I saw last night. This bloke knew

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none of the people who were in his house, pulling everything out, but there was a group of 20 people there within a few minutes. So that story is happening right across the city. KARL STEFANOVIC: Well, as I said to you - or you wouldn't have heard last night, but I said last night that very few people work harder in their electorates than you do. I saw that during your prime ministership. And it's true the word to this day as well. You work very hard for those people. They're going to need all the help they can get, and we really appreciate your time and expertise here.

KEVIN RUDD: No. And thanks for what you guys are doing, in terms of covering this stuff because if you're in some far off Australian location watching us at the moment, look, the real problem will be in the 12 months ahead. So spare a thought now for the people of Queensland and families who, for whatever reason, fall through the cracks, who are going to need that extra bit of help. So the Premier's Appeal - who, I agree with you, she is doing a terrific job hanging this thing together, the volume of information she's got to process, get out there in a responsible and calm way - but we need also those contributions to her Premier's Flood Appeal.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Yeah. Very well said. I mean, as the Foreign Minister, this is making news all around the world. I know that a lot of foreign dignitaries and officials are sending their messages of support as well.

KEVIN RUDD: Yeah, I haven't even mentioned that. But in my other hat, which is as Foreign Minister, we're just inundated with expressions of support from around the world and offers of material assistance, everywhere from Indonesia just up the road, the United States, the United Kingdom, throughout Europe, Africa, you name it. And so this has captured the world's imagination, but let me tell you, it's captured the gut-wrenching concerns of the people of Queensland and the people of Brisbane.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Good to talk to you.

KEVIN RUDD: Okay, mate. See you.

KARL STEFANOVIC: See you. See you around the place. All right. That is Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, his own electorate one of those ones in the firing line this morning.