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Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Page: 2611

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:01): In the past few weeks we have seen considerable flooding that has hit the eastern part of Australia, from Queensland right down the Murray-Darling Basin. The flooding indeed has been incredibly widespread, as many members in this parliament would be able to bear personal witness to. Natural disaster declarations have been made in 63 local government areas in New South Wales and Victoria. That gives us some idea about the scale of these events. We have also seen four local government areas, around the Fraser Coast, Gympie and Sunshine Coast regions in Queensland, affected by flooding as a result of extreme weather earlier this month.

I had the opportunity to see the damage myself last Wednesday when I joined the member for Riverina and the local mayor, Kerry Pascoe, on a tour of inspection in Wagga. I understand the Leader of the Opposition was there yesterday. I know my colleague the Minister for Emergency Management visited Shepparton last Tuesday. There are communities still bracing for flooding as the waters slowly make their way through central-western New South Wales and the Riverina, so there are some communities still braced for the worst that will hit their community as parliament meets.

These scenes have become all too familiar: houses flooded up to the eaves with their rooftops poking out of the water like little islands, people riding boats down what are usually suburban streets, sandbags and levees thrown up to protect homes and businesses, livestock stranded and properties and infrastructure damaged. But as we have seen these familiar sights we have seen two other things as well. We have also seen the now familiar remarkable Aussie spirit on display as local residents, volunteers and emergency service and Defence Force personnel work together side by side to protect their communities and to help them recover, and we have seen the three levels of government cooperate seamlessly across the political divide to ensure that all necessary assistance is provided.

There have been too many disasters: too many cyclones, too many fires, too many floods. These events have tempered and toughened our national spirit. The more nature throws at us the more resolutely we stand together and the better our response. Those suburbs and towns in New South Wales and Victoria may be very muddy, and indeed some may feel quite broken, but the character of the Australian people is shining brightly there today and we acknowledge it in this parliament today.

The SPEAKER: I thank the Prime Minister for those heartfelt remarks. I now give the call to the honourable Leader of the Opposition on indulgence.