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Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

21 January 2011

Interview with Liam and Robbie

96.5 Brisbane

21 January 2011

SUBJECTS: Brisbane Floods

ANNOUNCER:

Our next guest, he's joined us today, we wish it could have been under better circumstances, but it's great to have our friend of the show. Federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan, back in the studio. Good morning mate. How are you?

TREASURER:

I'm pretty good, but there's a lot of people doing it really tough out there, but the fantastic thing that we've seen in the past week and a half has been the community spirit. All those heroes out there in gumboots and with brooms coming out of the community to help people they've never met, driving across the city, getting involved in Baked Relief. All of that is just so important. I've never seen anything like it.

I came back as soon as the situation began to get a lot worse early last week and I went over to Zillmere and there was over 200 people at Zillmere - in an area that was largely unaffected by any of this - all there filling sandbags. People just came from everywhere and it's continued to be like that. But I guess the real challenge will be in the days, weeks, months and years ahead, that we've got to really keep up that community spirit because this is a huge event.

ANNOUNCER:

You're a Queenslander like us and the other states are commentating saying that it's the Queensland spirit. Have you seen this anywhere else in Australia? I mean, for us it's natural. Let's get in and do it. We'll fix it. We'll clean it up and hey, we'll be right in a couple of weeks.

TREASURER:

There's no doubt there is a real Queensland spirit here. A real community spirit. You could feel it as you moved around the community. People understood that their neighbours, that families across the city, up the valley, up in central Queensland, out west, were all hurting and there was just, the community came together as one and it was fantastic to see.

ANNOUNCER:

One thing I've noted is that there's only been a small amount of crime, or looting and scams. I mean, a bit of stuff. There's always going to be that element. But I don't want to generalise but in other countries all the news would be - it wouldn't be 200 people going into a suburb to help, it would be 200 people to go into a suburb to smash in the windows and loot. I mean that is a great testimony in itself.

TREASURER:

It certainly is. There's been very little of that, but the acts of generosity, the acts of kindness have been overwhelming. I was out with the Premier last Sunday at Rocklea. You know, and we went into a house where a gentleman from adjoining suburb had adopted the people living in that house and he had managed to clean up the whole house in record time and the gentleman who owned the house was just crying tears of gratitude.

ANNOUNCER:

From a Government point of view you've obviously got some - I mean, that's why we elect governments - you've got some sort of contingency plan sitting around. When one of these disasters happens is it like an all in meeting? Do you get the text to say - hey we've got to-

TREASURER:

Too right. There is a plan. There is a plan worked out between the Federal Government and the State Government.

ANNOUNCER:

But it happened so quick. There were volunteers and I was like - who is running this show? It was amazing!

TREASURER:

There was a plan that was activated. It was run centrally from emergency services down at Kedron near where I live. Regular meetings there throughout the day attended by the Premier and at times the Prime Minister, other senior Ministers, senior public servants, all of those that were operational, representatives of the armed forces. All of that clicked in and it did work very well and you can see that on the ground, not just in terms of the deployment of our emergency services workers, many of whom are volunteers and they've done a fantastic job. But you've also seen it in the deployment of the armed forces. Very significant in the response here has been our defence forces largely based at Enoggera, they've been out there doing some really hard yakka in difficult circumstances in really difficult areas.

So yes, and in terms of relief for families, financial relief, delivery of food, delivery of water, trying to provide accommodation, setting up evacuation centres - all of those things have kicked in. In terms of immediate payments that the Commonwealth makes to families that are in immediate financial distress - they've lost everything. You don't even have your account details. You don't even necessarily have any identification.

ANNOUNCER:

Your wallet or anything.

TREASURER:

Yeah or anything. So we've payed out something like $165 million in only a week and a half to something like 133,000 people. That's just in immediate payments to assist them in the medium term but, of course support will have to be provided for people who've lost their jobs and in addition to that you've got thousands upon thousands of small businesses that have been adversely affected. You've got thousands and thousands of people that have got nowhere to live and in some circumstances it will be very difficult for them to move back into their existing housing. So these are all big challenges which have got long term implications.

ANNOUNCER:

I talk about Baked Relief because I know that Ness has jumped on board this. She's been baking. I mean, she's pretty good in the kitchen at the best of times but she said what a great way for her to get out and do something to support those at the moment.

ANNOUNCER:

I'm great in the kitchen but more from an eating point of view. Not a cooking point of view.

TREASURER:

Well, it's fantastic because there's so many people who can do things in their home that they do not necessarily have the capacity to deliver the goods where they're needed. So what Danielle Crismani has done through Baked Relief has just been fantastic. So my office over in Nundah at the corner of Buckland and Sandgate road Nundah is one of the distribution points and we'll be going out again tomorrow. So if there are goods which have been baked if they could be delivered to my office before 11.00am tomorrow they will be delivered to people in great need out in the southwest.

Because I tell you what I was out at Grantham with Lindsay Fox on Wednesday and, of course the most emotive scenes of this whole tragedy have been in Grantham. But it's one thing to see the footage on the television, it's entirely another to be on the ground talking to the local people about what happened. That is a community which was certainly devastated and there are many others who've had similar experiences. So that's why I think we've had this tremendous community response. People understand just how significant this event has been. How damaging it has been for so many people who've lost loved ones and, of course now we see the floods spreading to other states as well. But what we've seen here has been a fantastic community response particularly in Baked Relief.

ANNOUNCER:

We've got all those details on our website too. If you want to bake some goodies you can drop them off. They will be distributed. The thing that I admire the most Wayne, is that we don't elect you guys to be seeing the things you're seeing at the moment. We saw Anna Bligh cry on the TV, there's stuff you guys see that we don't, and I wouldn't want your job for anything in the world. That's really tough what you've seen and -

TREASURER:

Well, from my point of view it's a privilege to work with so many heroes, if you like. I mean, people who have just dropped everything. Some people have walked away from their paid employment. They're out there helping their fellow Queenslanders and fellow Australians.

ANNOUNCER:

I think for a lot of people, you know, my age and younger, they forget that the Government is there for times like this. I mean, it's all about straight politics the rest of the time.

TREASURER:

Yeah.

ANNOUNCER:

And we've all lived through an era without a world war and thank goodness not a major national disaster like this. And I just want to, I don't care what side of the fence we vote on, but you know you're the first pollie I've met face to face and I think of you, I think of the Prime Minister, I think of the Premier, I think about our Lord Mayor, I think of all the Opposition as well. Everybody in all of these areas that I've seen on TV - that I just want to say thank you for a what a great job. And I'm not talking either side, I'm talking both side of the fence here. Bipartisan I think is the right word to use.

TREASURER:

Yeah sure.

ANNOUNCER:

The fact that there has been such strong leadership shown through it all and I think I'm hoping that the younger generation will understand more what a government is actually about.

TREASURER:

That's an interesting point. Could I just say something about younger people and their response to this crisis. I have never seen people under thirty get involved in the community in the way in which they have in the past week and a half. This has been very encouraging.

When you're out in the community you do run into a lot of volunteers and generally the volunteers are always older, and when you're talking to them and you have a conversation about what's going to happen in the future in our country, they often say where is the next generation of volunteers coming from? Who is going to do the meals on wheels run when we all pass on? This is a common topic of conversation among many of the older volunteers and frequently they say, you know, we're volunteering for people and we should actually be the recipients of the volunteering because some of them are getting on.

ANNOUNCER:

(Inaudible) many times to Gen Y and we took it back this week.

TREASURER:

Exactly, because what we've seen on this occasion has been the mobilisation of young Australians, the likes of which I've never seen. It's just fantastic.

ANNOUNCER:

And I think that the silver lining. I think it's going to change us, change the fibre of the younger generation to understand, to have a less selfish view on life, and I don't mean that as a backhanded comment, but unfortunately it takes tragedy. I mean, again I talked about world wars, but I'm only one generation away from that, to have understanding from my parents of the country pulling together and I know this isn't as big as a war. You know, that's affecting our land, but it's pretty big and I agree with you entirely. And I've seen it as well with the younger people just getting it that we are a community and I think that's going to be the silver lining.

TREASURER:

Sure.

ANNOUNCER:

Good to have you in Wayne. It's called Baked Relief - where you drop off your goodies. Not to be confused with cake relief where you just drop your cakes to Robbie and I and we'll take care of it for you. Good to have you in mate, thanks for your support and we'll catch up soon.