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Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

23 December 2011

Treasurer's Economic Note

If this year has proven anything, it's that our community spirit is strong. It always makes me really proud and optimistic about our country that Australians remain exceedingly generous and quick to offer a helping hand to those in need – we saw that during last summer's natural disasters. It's a great reminder as we head into Christmas and enjoy time with our families to spare a thought for those less fortunate.

This time last year after weeks of heavy rains, we began to see isolated flooding across parts of Queensland. Even as the waters were rising around towns like Theodore, no one could have anticipated what the next few months had in store. It was a summer of hardship for many parts of the country. Walking the sodden streets of places like Goodna or Cardwell and talking to locals who'd lost everything, it was hard to comprehend the scale of the recovery that lay ahead. It's taken days, weeks and months of hard work and tens of thousands of tonnes of timber, concrete, steel and bitumen to get us back to where we are today. Houses have received new carpets, wiring and fresh coats of paint. Factories, shops and mines are back up and running. Crops have been replanted. Hundreds of schools have reopened. Thousands of kilometres of roads and railways have been repaired. The effort, resilience and determination on display this year has been nothing short of extraordinary.

The Gillard Government has stood shoulder to shoulder with the disaster-hit communities across the nation. We're committing well in excess of $5.6 billion to help families, businesses and communities get back on their feet after the Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi. This includes:

  • Helping fund the rebuilding of thousands of kilometres of Queensland roads including the Bruce, Palmerston and Captain Cook highways;
  • Helping fund the repair of more than 4,000 kilometres of railway;
  • Donating $12.1 million to the Premier's Flood Relief Appeal;
  • Providing more than $200 million to Queensland local councils to rebuild parks, community buildings and public facilities damaged by the floods and cyclone, including funding repairs to Brisbane's ferry terminals and the Riverwalk;
  • Contributing $7.5 million for repairs to marine facilities along the Cassowary Coast and $6 million for tourism industry support; and
  • Providing support to mental health and community services to work with people personally affected by the floods and cyclone.

As chair of the Queensland Business Taskforce, I also saw firsthand the tremendous contribution made by Australia's private sector. Businesses ranging from the largest corporates to the smallest family-run store chipped in donations and provided everything from clothing and furniture to heavy machinery and building materials to help communities rebuild. I've been having regular briefings from the head of the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, Major General Dick Wilson, to discuss the reconstruction efforts as well as preparations as we head into another wet season. Earlier this month, I also sat in on the Disaster Recovery Cabinet Committee of the Queensland Government for briefings from all relevant agencies. Plenty of lessons have been learnt from last summer. There have been improvements made to planning and building guidelines, more comprehensive flood mapping has been carried out, and we're working to make flood insurance simpler and more effective. Authorities in all states are working hard to make sure our communities are well prepared for the worst nature can throw at us.

I'll be minding the shop as Acting Prime Minister for the next week or so from Brisbane. After that I plan to take a few weeks off with my family, including a bit of time up at our regular holiday spot on the Sunshine Coast. After the break, I'll be back again with the Economic Note ready to get stuck into 2012. From my family to yours, best wishes for the festive season wherever you are across Australia.

Wayne Swan
Acting Prime Minister and Treasurer of Australia
Friday 23 December 2011