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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 917


Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) (3:30 PM) —Mr Speaker, on indulgence, I would like take this opportunity to update the House on events relating to the earthquake in New Zealand. Let me inform the House on some matters that have happened during question time. I can confirm that Emergency Management in Australia is coordinating the deployment of a New South Wales search and rescue team of 40 personnel to Christchurch. That team is being transported by the Australian Defence Force. They are using a C130 aircraft. The team will land at Christchurch if that is possible, but if it is not possible to land there it will land at Glenham, where there is a New Zealand air force base. The team will have search, rescue, medical, engineering and support capabilities. Queensland and South Australia have also offered support. Emergency Management in Australia is sending two liaison officers to New Zealand to ensure the Australian government is in a position to provide whatever is necessary to New Zealand as quickly as possible. Emergency Management in Australia is remaining in frequent contact with the New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management. Also in the time that we have been here, further reports of damage have come in, including some troubling reports about major damage to some tourist infrastructure, including a youth hostel and a hotel.

In these circumstances, with large numbers of Australians being regular visitors to New Zealand and, consequently, Australians in Christchurch being affected by this catastrophe, I once again refer people who are concerned about the circumstances of family members or friends to contact the DFAT 24-hour consular emergency centre on 1300 555135. I would also like to advise the House that Air New Zealand are offering free flights for government to use for emergency personnel, and I thank them for this gesture at such a difficult time.

I anticipate that more information is going to come to hand this afternoon and into tonight. In these circumstances the Attorney-General will continue to keep people updated on emergency management coordination and disaster assistance, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs will continue to keep people updated on consular activities and contact with Australians in the area. Of course, I will continue to be in contact with Prime Minister Key. We all acknowledge that this is a major catastrophe for New Zealand. Our thoughts go out to everybody who is now involved in this and everybody who may need to confront the news that they have lost a loved one in these circumstances.