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Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Page: 4358

Mr HARTSUYKER (4:06 PM) —Members of the House would be familiar with the flood event affecting my electorate, as it has been broadcast on national television. For some areas of that electorate it is the third such flood event in recent times. On 31 March residents of Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Nambucca and the Clarence Valley local government areas suffered a flood event. Across the region thousands of people suffered damage to their houses, businesses and farms. The central business districts of Coffs Harbour and Urunga were particularly hard hit. Many people in rural areas suffered major damage to their access roads.

The impact of these floods was severe, and I have detailed that impact in correspondence with the government. Over the past eight weeks I have written to the Prime Minister on 6 April, the Attorney-General on 30 April and the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs on 7 and 18 May. I also questioned the Prime Minister in the parliament on 12 May. On each occasion I have sought the Rudd government’s one-off cash payments of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child for those families affected by the 31 March flood event. Seven weeks after the floods first ravaged our region, the Rudd government confirmed that one-off cash payments would not be provided to those most affected by the last event. In my view this was an appalling decision, given the assistance that was extended to residents of North Queensland who were affected by floods in February. In that instance the Commonwealth provided $1,000 for eligible adults and $400 for children. The Rudd government’s decision not to provide similar assistance shows that they are not prepared to govern for all Australians.

After the flooding that has engulfed the North Coast over the past week, I welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement in the parliament yesterday that one-off payments would be provided to those affected by the recent flood event. After detailing one-off payments to individuals, small businesses and primary producers, the Prime Minister added the following:

I have also today authorised this assistance for people affected by the earlier floods in New South Wales in late March.

In good faith we accepted that this meant that all of the assistance being provided to those affected by the May event would be provided to those affected by the March event. This morning the Prime Minister’s office advised me that the one-off cash payments to families would not apply to those March flood victims—that is, that the small business and primary producer assistance would go to those affected but that the $1,000 and $400 payments would not. This is an absolute disgrace. Over the past eight weeks I have spoken to many people affected by this flood event. In today’s Coffs Coast Advocate another resident detailed her anger and her feeling of abandonment by the minister for family and community services. She said:

I am one of the many individuals very affected by this flood.

That is the flood of 31 March. She continued:

I lost all of my furniture and anything else that was below the three feet of water that went through my unit.

All of the other tenants in my block of units in Sawtell were similarly affected …

The minister claimed that the reason for not advancing assistance was that damage was primarily to public infrastructure. That is clearly not the case. (Time expired)