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Monday, 18 February 2019
Page: 667


Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (11:40): I come in here not to make any political statement, but, unfortunately, what we have just heard from the member for Herbert is a disgrace, using, politically, the disaster that occurred up in North Queensland that people are still recuperating from as a political attack. She should hang her head in shame. She should be on her knees and asking forgiveness for all of those people who have been through this natural disaster. To come into his place and use that for cheap political pointscoring is absolutely disgusting. You should be ashamed of that, Cathy—very, very ashamed.

I will make this call to all of those people that she's just named as being knocked back by Centrelink. I'm getting calls like that about the state government administration, about Centrelink administration. I tell you what I've done as the local member for areas affected, such as Idalia, Oonoonba, Annandale and Giru. I have gone and contacted those people and I have helped them actually get the payment they deserve. To all of those people who were named bid the member for Herbert, who obviously is not doing her job helping these people: if you live in Dawson or if you live in Herbert, contact my office: 0749440662. If water has come into your home, you are eligible and we will get you the payment that you deserve. Forget about the member for Herbert; she just wants cheap political pointscoring. We will get you the payment that you deserve and we will help you with your insurance queries. I've got to say the LNP candidate for Herbert, Phillip Thompson, would also be interested in talking to people in the Herbert electorate.

This is a shocking event that we went through up there. I walked through the home of Samantha Doyle, a young mother, with the Prime Minister. There was, I would guess, about a metre of water—maybe a bit less than that—that had gone through her home. It had left mud and muck everywhere. It looked like it was sewage contaminated water that had gone through the home. She was uninsured. You saw the human heartache there that impacted upon that young family. What you have to think is that the key facts of this is that the council has advised that the flood levels here were greater than a one-in-500-years flood event, not just a one-in-100-years event. In some parts, rainfall recorded at a one-in-2,000-years level. The height of the Ross River Dam surpassed anything that we have ever seen, up to almost 250 per cent. And you have to say that dam did a pretty good job, given it got up to that level.

There's been a lot of focus on Townsville. I want to mention the communities in my electorate. Giru was flooded. They are often forgotten but not forgotten by me. I went down there and talked to residents there. I'm going to be helping some, particularly the community kindergarten. I also understand the police are still searching for a man missing at Groper Creek after the boat he was travelling in crashed near a jetty close to Hinkson Esplanade. My thoughts are with the family and friends of that man. I guess that we're all starting to worry about his safety and wellbeing at this late stage.

Thoughts are with the smaller communities, both north and south of Townsville and also out west, where the disaster is still unfolding. The facts are that the government has provided $1.9 million in community recovery payments. That's payments that have been made. Sixteen thousand applications for assistance have been made. Most of those have been approved. Again, my office is keen to help those who are finding it difficult. That's what local members are there for. As of this morning, insurance companies have received 13,560 claims, with losses estimated at $165 million. They have already paid out more than $16 million in support and emergency accommodation. That's good, but I have heard from some people that they are getting a raw deal from their insurers with the wording of the policies and not covering tiles and things like that. Again, my office is here to help. This nation is watching, this place is watching and I am carefully watching what these insurance companies do. We will be acting for flood victims against insurers.

The one bright light out of this terrible event is the community support. The North Queensland Cowboys, for instance, went out and lent a hand, along with a lot of other boaties at that time. We had John Asiata and Antonio Winterstein, who used their boats, along with a flotilla of other boats from the community, to go out and rescue people from their houses, which had just started to become inundated. The Salvation Army's emergency services section served hundreds of meals across three evacuation centres to residents who had to evacuate their homes from more than 20 suburbs. We had the Red Cross out there on the ground helping people.

We had volunteers from the Seventh-day Adventist Development and Relief Agency filling a thousand sandbags for local residents. The Catholic Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Townsville, Tim Harris, who's own home was inundated, went out of his way to help others. He made some comments recently praising the efforts of the community, working together, including the Army, the police, the council and even the local paper. He described the story he heard of an 80-year-old man who had grown 'these beautiful flowers that he'd nurtured'. When rescuers came to evacuate him from the home, the man was reluctant to leave the flowers. What the old fellow said, the bishop relates, was, 'Cut that flower for me; it's too beautiful to leave.' I met up with people at Calvary Christian Church—Reverend James MacPherson and Renee Vucetic—who were providing a collection centre of goods for families affected by floods to come and collect the stuff they needed, like linen and towels and some things like that, and they also provided free meals to the people in the community who needed it. So our Christian churches really stood up and did a great community effort.

Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Judd Finger and 92 Army personnel from the amphibious 2RAR rescued more than 400 people from flooded homes in Idalia. Lance Corporal Sean Price, who worked with Senior Constable Ben Pearson from the Queensland Police Service, rescued hundreds of people, only to return home to find that his own home had been flooded. Thirty-one Team Rubicon members—ex-Army or Defence Force personnel—flew up from places like Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and the Gold Coast to bolster the numbers of their Townsville branch helping people. Ingham helicopter pilot Josh Liddle spent two weeks in Hobart fighting bushfires and then returned home to help Townsville residents with flood relief. Alicia Populin and her family took 16 families into their two-storey home. More than 60 people were accommodated as well as their cats, dogs and guinea pigs. The community support for their neighbours was tremendous.

Tow truck driver Steve Gurney pulled 15 cars to safety, all without charge. Tracie Davis Nieass opened her beauty salon for evacuees to get dry and warm in, and she manned an impromptu evacuation and support centre at Annandale. Ryan Lacaze, who rides his jet ski to raise money for children's charities, put his machine to another good use, rescuing people who were caught in the rising water. Zane Biffanti and his neighbour Scott responded to pleas for help on social media with their kayak. Bushland Beach resident Ashley D'Silva and her friends rescued more than a dozen pets from Idalia and Fairfield. Teenager Trayeden Fulmer started a Facebook page to rally volunteers. He ran a crew as a 16-year-old, or a teenager, rather, of about 60 volunteers, including one of his teachers from Kirwan State High School. Dozens of doctors volunteered. We had residents from Innisfail help, like Inderjit Singh, who rallied volunteers from the UNITED SIKHS. Some even flew in from Melbourne to assist in Townsville. Businesses like the Pavilion Cafe, the Warfighter Cafe, Adani, PVW, The Coffee Club, Domino's and Fasta Pasta all helped.

To recognise these people for the great community work that they and so many others did, I've launched a flood hero website, www.floodhero.com.au, where people can go on and nominate someone who was a flood hero. My office will be in contact with the people who nominate. We want to officially recognise these people who've done so much for their community.

Can I end by saying that one of the most inspirational moments was when Gunner Willem Borwn noticed a sodden Australian flag floating by when he was doing rescue efforts. He knew it belonged to the pole at the front of Jannine and Norm Napier's house, and he raised that flag back up to its rightful place. Norm said: 'It lifted our spirits for sure. It made everyone smile, just to see it flying again.' That's a poignant moment right there. It's not politics, like what was in this House earlier; it's about the Aussie spirit. It is about the North Queensland spirit. It's always going to shine through. That's why I particularly want to commend all of those people who did something heroic. Even just helping a mate is heroic, and you should be recognised as a flood hero. I'm calling on people to go to the website, www.floodhero.com.au, and nominate someone they want. I will ensure that those people are officially recognised as the flood heroes that they are. Again, I commend all those people who assisted in some way, shape or form—looking out for their neighbour, helping their mate.