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Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Page: 4633


Mr FORREST (Mallee) (19:00): I report to the House the impacts of the unprecedented floods in north-west Victoria which occurred in January and February this year and which continue to take a massive toll. It was quite a shock to the north-west of Victoria, which is often regarded as the arid region of the state, to suffer unprecedented meteorological outcomes. In Mildura in March the notional average rainfall fell on that city in less than eight hours. The trauma continues. The media is long gone now but families are struggling to come to terms with the financial and emotional loss that has resulted. Every day there seems to be a new issue for my office in offering morale support as families struggle with their insurance companies who are denying claims and with their efforts to get their businesses back on track. There were outcomes in the rural city of Mildura, my largest municipality; the shire of Swan Hill; Gannawarra shire, which affected the townships of Kerang, Murrubit and Benjeroop—which Prince William visited because they endured long inundation there and some of the houses are still under water; Horsham and Dadswells Bridge down through the Wimmera; Dimboola; and Jeparit in the Hindmarsh shire across the western Wimmera.

Of all the municipalities, the worst of all is the shire of Buloke, encompassing the townships of Donald and Charlton. I particularly raise the issue of Charlton. There are people there living on bare floor boards with their gyprock plaster removed up to hip height, no heating and enduring the anxiety of waiting for the insurer to decide whether or not they are going to honour a claim. But, worse than that, Charlton lost its hospital, its aged-care service facility and the medical clinic, all in one complex, inundated with water up to my shoulders. I was grateful for the request from the Prime Minister at the time asking, 'What do you need?' I said we needed a field hospital immediately for Charlton between her office and the state government in Victoria. That was provided within a few days. I am grateful for that, but the problems at the medical centre at Charlton continue.

On Monday this week I wrote to the Hon. Nicola Roxon, the Minister for Health and Ageing, for some assistance here. To add insult to injury, as well as losing the surgery the doctor's house has been inundated and his insurer will not honour the claim for flood despite the doctor thinking that he was insured for flood. He is in that predicament and not in a very good state of mind. I have written to the minister for some assistance here. His business has been dramatically impacted. For a GP in a country town with a hospital and an aged-care facility when 25 aged care residents are shifted right across the region, 20 or 30 per cent of his income has just disappeared. He is a very good Irish trained doctor. I remember years ago supporting his application to come to Manangatang in my electorate. He later moved to Charlton. We need some sort of sustainability just to keep him there, because if we lose this really good country doctor the capacity to attract another doctor to Charlton is going to be impossible without the resolution of the hospital and so forth.

So far to this stage the field hospital is operating there with pretty limited capacity. A new temporary clinic has been established and a doctor has been able to move back to town. There is temporary accommodation being provided as far east as Bendigo. We need to get behind this doctor. I plead with the minister for some ongoing assistance for Charlton. They are good, determined and resolute people. They have coped with three floods in less than six months and they need desperate help. I am hoping she will respond to my letter with the greatest of expedition and I look forward to a positive outcome to keep this doctor in Charlton.

I thank the House for an opportunity to bring this report. There are a host of other issues I could report on, but I might leave that to another occasion. This is the most urgent one. A township like Charlton without a medical doctor is not a good formula for rehabilitating people through the future. They need good strong medical and emotional support, and I am pleading for the government to respond to my request.