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Transcript of interview with Steve Price: MTR 1377 Melbourne, Breakfast: 17 January 2011: Queensland floods; Victorian floods

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Hon. Robert McClelland MP Attorney-General

Attorney-General Transcript





Subject: Queensland Floods, Victorian Floods.


STEVE PRICE: Monday morning, more on the state of the floods in Victoria. We’ve already been to Echuca this morning, to Horsham, and Charlton. We’ll talk to our reporters again on the ground and find out what the latest situation is. I spoke to Major General Mick Slater earlier this morning about the Queensland flood clean up. He says he’s been staggered at the damage to vital infrastructure in particular, but he’s also been warmed by the response from Queenslanders - particularly those who’ve volunteered to help in the clean up.

He says without that manpower and woman power and kid power he wouldn’t be able to do the job he’s been asked to do. Robert McClelland is the Federal Attorney General. He’s in charge of disaster relief and emergency management. I guess Mick Slater answers to him ultimately. The Attorney General’s on the line, thanks for your time.

ROBERT McCLELLAND: Good morning, Steve.

STEVE PRICE: Gee you picked a good bloke to put in charge, I’ve got to say.

ROBERT McCLELLAND: Yes, he is - he is outstanding. And I mean he’s a fellow who has seen disasters around the world so if he’s certainly in a good position to talk about the severity of the severe situation.

STEVE PRICE: Yeah I said to him, look you’re trained not to be overwhelmed and he said well that might be the case but he has been a little overwhelmed. We don’t yet really know the extent, do we, and we’re just talking Queensland here at the moment, we’ll get on to Victoria in a moment. We don’t really know the extent of the damage.

ROBERT McCLELLAND: No we don’t. It’s going to be very, very substantial - into the billion dollars. That’s not totally government of course, that will be insurers and costs across the community. But there are also other significant community losses and of course loss of life. Authorities have confirmed eighteen people have died and there’s at least a dozen unfortunately still missing.

Hon. Robert McClelland MP Attorney-General

Attorney-General Transcript

STEVE PRICE: Do you have any idea what ultimately this will cost us? Or are we just estimating those figures?

ROBERT McCLELLAND: It’s very early days in terms of the recovery so we are just estimating. I can give you an indication just in terms of emergency disaster payments - sixty eight million’s been paid out for relief payments to individuals just in Queensland. But obviously Mick Slater’s reference to the damage to the infrastructure is where the big cost’s going to be, and the trick is to take the opportunity to try and rebuild communities so that they’re more resilient in the future. And that’s going to be something we’ll be working with the Queensland and local governments on.

STEVE PRICE: Is the program to rebuild a state responsibility or a federal responsibility?

ROBERT McCLELLAND: The state makes the call on the ground but we provide significant funding and as a result of that. We also look at these matters through the Council of Australian Governments on a nation-wide basis, but in terms of the individual decisions to repair some local infrastructure that will be a partnership between federal, state and local Governments.

STEVE PRICE: There’s been some debate about whether you’d use the Future Fund, have you talked about that yet?

ROBERT McCLELLAND: No that hasn’t been discussed. In the past, we have been able to cope with these natural disasters, bearing in mind of course that the damage caused by these floods is unprecedented. Having said that the bill just to the Commonwealth last year - bearing in mind we had the Victorian bushfires, of course the tragedy down there - was in the order of a billion dollars, and that means that nation-wide the state’s collectively would have also incurred repair bills in the order of a billion dollars.

STEVE PRICE: We’re talking years aren’t we?

ROBERT McCLELLAND: In terms of the Queensland recovery, we are talking years...

STEVE PRICE: I mean Mick says…you know…there’s rail lines look like pieces of spaghetti.

ROBERT McCLELLAND: Yeah and that in turn has an effect on producers getting their crops to port, on the mining industry getting their produce to port so there are going to be repercussions across the state. Tourism is being affected in the short term but that will spring back and spring back quickly so I urge Victorians who tend to travel to Queensland to keep that on their itinerary.

Hon. Robert McClelland MP Attorney-General

Attorney-General Transcript

STEVE PRICE: What’s your reaction to the comment from Greens Leader Bob Brown suggesting that the coal miners should be paying to fix the damage caused by the floods because the coal industry has caused global warming?

ROBERT McCLELLAND: Look I think it’s not the time to debate the impact of climate change. The task is to get everything back on the road...

STEVE PRICE: Those sorts of comments don’t help, do they?

ROBERT McCLELLAND: Look I don’t think those comments help in so far as they are a distraction from the main game. The main game is relieving hardship and getting business, small and large, up and running as quickly as possible. We want to help see communities bouncing back from this crisis.

STEVE PRICE: The other thing we haven’t talked about is the impact on the cost of living. I mean, we are going to see fruit and vegetable prices presumably, Attorney-General, go through the roof.

ROBERT McCLELLAND: Given the size of the crisis, of course there will be some flow on effects. Wayne Swan has made some comments that this is crisis is unquestionably going to have some impact on our economy. The extent of it is yet to be seen fully but these are the sort of things we can anticipate.

STEVE PRICE: We will have the Prime Minister in Echuca today. Victoria won’t be forgotten in this, we would hope. Forty-three towns already effected. A one in two hundred year flood event today in Horsham. Places like Echuca, Quamba, took on water already. I suppose Australia’s been through such a dreadful period in the last ten days with Queensland, Victorians will be hoping today that they don’t get forgotten.

ROBERT McCLELLAND: There’s a range of Commonwealth assistance available for Victorians who have been affected. That includes the income subsidy if they lose employment or are out of work as a result. There are also some temporary emergency grants available to adults and children and there’s also some assistance available to assist families if they have to have temporary accommodation and finally with repairs to their properties there are grants available so Victorians, if they need income support assistance, they can call Centrelinkl 180 2266, or in respect to hardship and emergency payments, 1300 650 172.

STEVE PRICE: Alright, appreciate your time.


Contact: Ryan Liddell - 02 6277 7300 or 0427 225 763.