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Transcript of joint press conference: flood clean-up site, Rocklea: 16 January 2011: Queensland floods; Premier’s disaster relief fund

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THE HON WAYNE SWAN MP Deputy Prime Minister Treasurer


ANNA BLIGH MP Premier of Queensland

PRESS CONFERENCE Flood clean-up site, Rocklea

16 January 2011


SUBJECTS: Queensland floods; Premier’s disaster relief fund

BLIGH: As the massive and heartbreaking clean-up continues, Queenslanders have been so heartened by the donations from around Australia and around the world to our Relief Appeal. But once we get all of this rubbish off the streets there is still a long, slow, painful recovery for all of these families and communities. That’s why we need to kickstart and restart our appeal efforts. I am absolutely thrilled that the Federal Government has agreed to match with the State Government another $10 million each into the Relief Appeal because we know that this week the task got a lot bigger.

This time last week we were getting ready for a telethon that raised a

lot of money for the appeal and we really thought that we were going to get on top of this. And then this week, what mother nature delivered to Queensland has increased the task of that appeal beyond what it’s currently able to do. So we need, as Queenslanders, as Australians, to dig deeper. If you’ve already donated and you can find a little bit more, then please, it will make a huge difference. If you’re just coming back off holidays and you haven’t had a chance to donate, please, make an effort to help a fellow Australian. What’s happening here in our capital city, what’s happening in Ipswich, and the Lockyer Valley added to all the devastation in regional Queensland, means we have some 28,000 homes that will need in many cases to be completely rebuilt, before people’s lives can be restored. It’s time for us as Australians to dig deeper and to find it in our hearts to help another Australian. Queenslanders are so grateful to what the rest of the country has done for us. We thank you but we do need to say if you’ve got it in your heart to find a little more, then please, now is the time.

So I say thank you to the Prime Minister for $10 million added to

another $10 million from the Queensland Government and the appeal now stands at $84 million. But with 28,000 homes and 28,000 lives and families out there that need repairing, the task is a lot bigger. So I implore people: keep giving, keep helping. We need it.

TREASURER: Thanks very much Premier. This additional $20 million from the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government is really only the beginning. As the Premier was saying, we need all Australians to go an extra mile. Because the scale of this disaster is probably one of the biggest in economic terms in Australian history. And as we see here today, as we can see out at Ipswich, as we can see in the Lockyer Valley, as we can see in Toowoomba, as we can see in Rockhampton; there are so many people, so many families, so many small businesses that are impacted upon. And in the days, and weeks, and months and years ahead, these people are going to need our support. We have to put their interests first.

So that’s why this appeal is so important. We need Australians across all of the states to get behind this appeal. They’ve already been so generous, really generous and we should also acknowledge there are Australians elsewhere in the country who are doing it really tough right now, particularly in Victoria today. And the Commonwealth Government and the state governments will be there with them. But this is of such a scale, that we really do need Australians to go the extra mile. The Commonwealth Government, working with the Queensland Government, is already putting in place very significant resources. In terms of immediate income support, the Commonwealth Government has already paid out $52 million. But in the days, the weeks, the months and the years ahead, the scale of the reconstruction effort is going to be simply huge. And that is going to require the Commonwealth Government, the state government, local government, business community and the whole of the community to pull together. Because the things that we do together are the things that make us strong.

What we’ve seen in this city and right across the state over the past week or so has been an unprecedented community effort. I’m so proud of what Australians have done - people travelling right across the city, people travelling interstate; to help a fellow citizen. That’s terrific. We’ve just got to keep that momentum going in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.

JOURNALIST: Premier, in terms of Wivenhoe Dam, what are your thoughts there on how its held up?

BLIGH: There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that without the Wivenhoe Dam, this disaster would have been on a far larger and catastrophic level. But we will be looking into the full operation of the dam with a comprehensive and very public and transparent review. And we’ll all get to understand a lot more about how the dam operated during the

past week and what that meant for the way that this event was managed.

TREASURER: Could I just add to that, because I think we need to understand something about the scale of what’s occurred here, say compared to 1974. I mean, in 1974 there [were] only 2 million people in Queensland. There are now something like 4.6 million people in Queensland, there are something like 3.1 million people in Queensland in areas affected by this disaster. So the scale of the development, particularly here in the South West corridor has been huge since 1974. So I think people need to bear that in mind, when they’re evaluating what occurred and how people have been affected.

BLIGH: There are whole suburbs like West Lake that have been underwater that didn’t exist in 1974. Large employment areas like Sumner industrial park that didn’t exist. These things have been taken out by this flood. So comparing it to something that happened 40 years ago, it’s apples and oranges completely. I have been referring to the task in front of us without any doubt that the task before us is a reconstruction task of post-war proportions, and what I mean by that is we have massive infrastructure damage that will take months and in some cases years to fully repair. We have homes and lives torn apart, in some cases in the Lockyer Valley, by an event of the most traumatic proportions. So we can not underestimate what is happening. What’s happening on the streets here, getting these streets cleaned, getting the rubbish out of people’s houses is absolutely terrific. But we all need to remember, this is day two, of something that might take years before we can say we are back to normal and we can put all of this event behind us.

JOURNALIST: We know that health is an emerging issue. Is the government looking at setting up any sort of tetanus immunisation clinics, extra clinics, or anything like that at this stage?

BLIGH: As a result of this event right across Queensland, we have provided additional tetanus supply, and hepatitis B injection supplies, to health facilities, hospitals and clinics across Queensland. The Chief Health Officer advises that if you have had a tetanus shot then that will provide for you but obviously we are very, very concerned to make sure that public health is looked after. Anybody who is out there helping in these streets can smell this mud. Anybody who can smell it needs to understand it smells like this because it’s got rotten things in it. This water and this mud has had dead animals, rotten food, potentially toxic chemicals. People should be out here only in boots, appropriate gear, don’t walk through your home in water in thongs. We need to make sure that people are not getting infected by this water. So, we’ve got thousands of people out there, with lots of goodwill in their hearts, all trying to do the right thing, but let’s keep them safe. We don’t want this disaster to get worse with a major public health crisis and it’s not that hard to make sure you’ve got a sensible pair of boots on even though it’s a hot, sweaty day.

JOURNALIST: And are you getting many reports of profiteering, like people selling bread for $10 or things like that?

BLIGH: I’m hearing lots of rumours, but I haven’t seen anything verified. And I have to say being out for example in Gracemere near Rockhampton the other day, the shop owners all talked to me and said our business, our livelihood is our customers and we know that looking after them now will never be forgotten by them. And if we did put our prices up, that would never forgotten by our customers either. So I certainly haven’t seen anything verified reports but I do think people are worried about it and in an event like this, there’s been a lot of wild rumours. If people do see anybody doing this, then they can report them to Fair Trading and we certainly want to know about it.

TREASURER: But also the extraordinary generosity that we are seeing: people just walking off the street, donating not just their labour but their goods, baking, providing all sorts of additional assistance. We shouldn’t let the actions of maybe one or two override what has been extraordinary generosity from people in our community. The likes of which we have probably never seen. And when the Premier talks about Post-War reconstruction, I think she’s right. We need to marshal that community spirit in the days, weeks, months and years ahead because the task before us is absolutely enormous. And it is going to take all of our people, all of our resources, all of our patience to do the right thing and help the people who really need it.

BLIGH: We’ve got a lady on this street who is driving around Brisbane - she runs a cleaning company - and she’s driving around Brisbane to areas like this and dropping off cleaning supplies donated by her company. And that’s the sort of thing we’re seeing over and over and over again. What this is going to do I think, is bring people together in an unprecedented way. People who may have only ever nodded to their neighbours in the last ten years are now walking through each others bathrooms, their getting to know each other very well.

TREASURER: You got a great example up on the corner because the lady who owns that house up there has got four generations of her family, all helping, and everyone who’s working down here is going up and using the facilities at that house. If you go up there now you’ll find lamingtons, Anzac biscuits, cold juice, tea, coffee. What a fantastic effort from this local community. And that’s what we should recognise as well when we’re talking about how we proceed as we go forward. We’re going to need all that goodwill.