The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

29 January 2013

Doorstop interview

Brisbane

Joint interview with
Bernie Ripoll MP
Federal Member for Oxley and
Paul Pisasale
Mayor of Ipswich

SUBJECTS: Queensland communities affected by flooding and storms.

PISASALE:

Folks, on behalf of the city it is fantastic to have the Deputy Prime Minister here. We have the blue skies and the sun is shining. We are not as miserable as we were yesterday. After 2011 we got a kick in the guts and this city was in a state of depression yesterday and it was fantastic to rely on the support throughout all levels of government. Bernie was here and he was able to get the Deputy Prime Minister here yesterday and he's back again today to look at some of the community infrastructure. Wayne, we're so happy to have you here.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much Paul and to Bernie Ripoll and Shane Neumann who is caught in traffic. It is good to be back here today and to see that we have escaped the worst that nature can throw at us. I think everybody is enormously relieved today to see that the river is now going down and that the worst that could have happened, didn't happen. Yesterday I was down in Goodna with Bernie and Shane and people down there were really apprehensive and of course they have escaped flooding. I am told that probably a maximum of 50 houses have been impacted out here. That is an enormous relief to a lot of people in this community and it is great to see how the State, Federal and local governments have worked so well together during this disaster.

I wanted to say a few things about what's happening elsewhere in the country. As I speak, we have got two C-130 Hercules deployed into Bundaberg for an evacuation, particularly of hospital patients being evacuated to Brisbane, something like 95. That rapid deployment has been very important, just as was the deployment of helicopters last night - the Black Hawk helicopters, at least two were deployed evacuating people from North Bundaberg last night. So a very big effort in Bundaberg with both the Defence forces and also assets from the State Government to save lives last night in Bundaberg. If we look elsewhere, there is flooding emerging right through New South Wales. The Defence forces are on standby to assist as this crisis unfolds elsewhere in the State.

I think what we have seen particularly down in Goodna yesterday but elsewhere across the south-east is that the Mud Army has come out yet again. When we were down in Goodna yesterday I was walking down the road and a few blokes walked up and I said what are you doing here and they said: "We're the Western Mud Army. We're here to assist people to take all their gear out of their houses; the fridges, the bedding and all of that just in case it floods."

That great sense of community, of working together, emerged very quickly in the teeth of this crisis yesterday. Thanks to all of those volunteers that have been out there. Thanks very much to all of our emergency workers, to our police, our firies and all of those people that have been out there working very hard to protect our community.

We had a very sad tragedy in the northern suburbs of Brisbane yesterday and that is a terrible tragedy for the family and their friends in the inner northern suburbs of Brisbane. What I have seen, as I have moved around the community, is that we have pulled together during these difficult times and that's what we are known for, not just here in Queensland but right around the country and it is what the world admires about Australia; our capacity to pull together at a time of threat. Neighbour helping neighbour, it has all been on display and that's been one of the great things that comes out of these tragedies.

JOURNALIST:

What kind of Federal assistance will be available to the victims?

TREASURER:

We have been working with the State Government and we have put in place our natural disaster arrangements. People go to centres here in Ipswich and they can access instant support, cash support through the Department of Community Services if they are in need. Over and above that, if they need assistance to get the power back on or a series of issues to deal with utilities, they are also covered by the natural disaster arrangements. Over and above that as we go through the recovery, the Federal Government works with the State Government and Local Government to make sure that we get public infrastructure working again. We have now declared in excess of 40 local government authorities, in terms of our disaster arrangements and as events unfold more may be declared. Overnight we have declared another half dozen. It is now over 40 local government areas have been declared and that means that the disaster assistance that I was talking about before kicks in.

JOURNALIST:

What is your understanding in terms of the impacts of the damage on business production?

TREASURER:

It is far too early to tell. As the flood waters recede we can make those comprehensive assessments but at the moment all of our effort has gone into saving lives and saving property. That is what the Council's been out here doing. We were just talking to some local business owners, the Hooper family here before. The Council has been working closely with them to make sure that their businesses are protected as much as possible and they have been doing that with many other businesses. That is where our focus is at the moment. As we go through the next few days and the next few weeks, it then moves through to recovery and all the natural disaster arrangements kick in.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think it will warrant another flood levy?

TREASURER:

I've said yesterday that it's far too early to be talking about the full financial impact. What we're talking about here is the human impact and we have to deal with that now. As we go through the next few days and weeks ahead we will assess the financial impact.

JOURNALIST:

How much of the army will be sent into the areas of Bundaberg at the moment?

TREASURER:

We deploy our armed forces where they are required in addition to all of the support that comes from the State authorities through the State Emergency Service, through our local councils and so on. The role of the Defence forces here is to provide additional support, particularly in areas where there is great need. That's why yesterday we deployed additional Black Hawk helicopters to Bundaberg. They were also on standby in case they were needed in this region as well. That's why we have deployed two C-130 Hercules transport aircraft today to Bundaberg. When that real need emerges, the Defence Forces come through. We have a joint Defence Force Taskforce operating under a Brigadier. It has 100 personnel associated with it and those 100 personnel will be moving into the broader Bundaberg region over the next couple of days as the flood waters recede to assist the local authorities with recovery in those areas.

PISASALE:

We believe we can handle the situation by ourselves here at the moment and anything that is needed from the Defence force we would prefer it to be deployed in other areas where it is needed.

TREASURER:

Alright, thanks very much.