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Transcript of interview wiht Joe O'Brien: ABC News 24, Brisbane: 14 January 2011: Queensland floods



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WARRINGAH

14 January 2011

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR INTERVIEW WITH JOE O’BRIEN ABC NEWS 24 BRISBANE

Subjects: Queensland floods.

E&OE……………………….…………………………………………………………………

JOE O’BRIEN:

Tony, you’ve had a quick look around here, what do you think?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, obviously the recovery is starting. The clean-up is in full swing. What’s really impressed me, Joe, is the number of local people who are volunteering to help these shopkeepers. We’ve got the Brisbane Broncos, the Brisbane Lions footballers out here. We’ve got a lot of Brisbanites who’ve just come out to help and that’s the community spirit that we’re going to need, not just in the next few days during the clean-up but in the weeks and months ahead, the period of recovery and reconstruction because that’s what I think people are really going to need, that spirit and that true grit that we’ve seen so far.

JOE O’BRIEN:

Now, you’ve had a briefing from the Police Commissioner this morning, I understand. What kind of picture are you getting from him?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, obviously the police are still heavily involved in search operations in the Lockyer Valley and that’s a slow and painstaking business and that’s going to take, I understand from him, some time. But yes, yesterday their work was disaster relief, today their work is swinging into the clean-up and recovery along with all the other emergency services.

JOE O’BRIEN:

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Now, there’s growing pressure on the insurers to do the right thing by people. What can, we’re hearing that the Government’s planning something in terms of trying to ensure they do the right thing. What can and should the Government be doing in relation to that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think where people have got policies, insurance policies, those policies should be honoured swiftly and in full. Where people have been paying good money in premiums, they should never be dudded by insurers claiming the fine print. Where people don’t have policies, and tragically there are lots of individuals, householders and businesses that don’t have policies, that’s where the Government needs to look to assist.

Now, it’s good that the Government has already announced a range of measures, recovery grants and low interest concessional loans. It’s going to be important that these are administered in a way that gets the money to people quickly and without unnecessary bureaucratic hassles.

JOE O’BRIEN:

How can you ensure that insurers don’t go to the fine print and try to sneak out of it?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think we can appeal to peoples’ good nature. In the end, insurers are human beings first and insurers second. I think that even bankers and insurers, and politicians for that matter, are capable of putting themselves in the shoes of other people and saying “how would I wish to be treated if I were in that situation” and I think as long as people are constantly remembering in all their dealings with the victims of these floods, if that was me how would I want to be treated, then I think we’ll get through this alright.

JOE O’BRIEN:

Now, the Army’s swung into action over the last week as well, in relation to this. Could it come into the scene any more than it already is?

TONY ABBOTT:

Again, I don’t want to be too judgemental. I just want to say that the military personnel that are here have done a great job, a terrific job and I think the public are always very pleased to see a military uniform nearby at a time of trouble. I suspect that there are lots of reserve units in particular who would be only too happy to be deployed to help but in the end that is a decision for the Government and for operational commanders.

But depending upon the magnitude of this and plainly, as we look around, there is a lot of work to be done, it would seem appropriate to deploy as many of the discipline services, the emergency services, as we can.

JOE O’BRIEN:

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And just finally, there’s been a question about the budget bottom line and how it’s going to affect us. We’re going to have to assume that this is going to have a multi-billion dollar impact on the budget bottom line.

TONY ABBOTT:

It means that it is going to be more important than ever for the Government to be a responsible steward of the nation’s finances. Again, I don’t want to get too political at this stage but the Government needs to be very careful about its priorities. It is important that we get back to surplus on schedule but plainly there are going to be very large additional demands on the budget and that means that the Government needs to rethink its priorities at this time.

JOE O’BRIEN:

And finally, what are your plans with the floods over the next couple of days?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well look, I’ve been in Toowoomba yesterday, Brisbane yesterday and again today. I intend to be back in regional Queensland at an early opportunity. In the end, the best thing I can do is to try to ensure that the response to this disaster is as full and as generous and as effective as it reasonably can be.

One of the things that I’ve been trying to do is to get the personal details of some of the people that I’ve been talking to over the last day or so and I’ll be checking in with them in the days and weeks ahead, just to try to make sure that I can learn from them just how effectively the overall response has been because it’s one thing to put out a press release, it’s one thing to have a website but if the assistance is not effectively getting to people in trouble, well then it’s all a bit meaningless.

[ends]