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Monday, 2 April 1984
Page: 1017

Senator ROBERTSON —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Last week in response to my question on assistance available to people at Borroloola following Cyclone Kathy the Minister indicated that a communication had been sent to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory offering financial assistance. I ask the Minister: Has the Chief Minister responded to the Government's offer? It has been reported to me that several families at Borroloola are suffering because emergency food provisions are not available. Will the Minister investigate these claims and take whatever action is necessary to assist these families?

Senator BUTTON —I recall Senator Robertson's question of last week. In my answer to that question I indicated that the Prime Minister had telexed the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory offering any assistance possible under the Natural Disasters Organisation relief scheme and that the Royal Australian Air Force had contributed a Caribou aircraft which had taken supplies to the area. The Prime Minister's offer to the Northern Territory Chief Minister has received no response at this stage. One does not seek to make any point about that. It may well be that a response requires a careful assessment of the damage done and so on and it may be a week or so before a response is forthcoming. The position is that, as at today, there has been no response from the Northern Territory Government.

Senator Robertson in his question referred to reports of alleged suffering by several families as a result of a lack of emergency supplies, particularly food. The question of emergency food relief is a matter for the Northern Territory Government. Nonetheless, I do not regard that as a satisfactory answer. Senator Robertson, in a sense, has perceived the issue by asking whether I will make inquiries to see whether that is true and whether the Commonwealth can make any contribution in respect of that problem. I will make those inquiries and will advise Senator Robertson as soon as there is a response from the Northern Territory Government to the Commonwealth offer. I will make inquiries, more particularly, regarding alleged suffering by families and provide him with a response as quickly as possible.