SENATOR MURRAY WATT
SHADOW MINISTER FOR DISASTER AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
LABOR SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR FAIRFAX
FRIDAY, 4 MARCH 2022
SUBJECTS: Flood damage to Sunshine Coast and Gympie; Labor calls for Federal support for Qld flood-affected small businesses, farmers and community groups; Shane Stone should be sacked for blaming flood victims.
JUDENE ANDREWS, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR FAIRFAX: My name is Judene Andrews, and I'm the Labor candidate for the federal seat of Fisher. I'm here today with Senator Murray Watt, Shadow Minister for Disaster and Emergency Management and also Jason Hunt, Member for Caloundra. We're here today to look firsthand at the impacts of these extreme weather events across the Sunshine Coast and we're here in Beerwah today but there's been terrible devastation across the whole Sunshine Coast. I'd like to introduce Murray to come and say a few words for you. Thank you.
MURRAY WATT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DISASTER AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Yeah, thanks very much Judene. Good to be with you and Jason here to just have a bit of a chat and have a look at some of the damage that the Sunshine Coast has experienced. This morning I'm obviously here in Beerwah to have a look at some of the damage here and talk to business owners who've suffered. I'll then be heading up to Gympie to meet up with Mayor Glen Hartwig and see some of the damage that Gympie has incurred. Obviously, it's the second worst flood on record in Gympie. So there is some massive damage there that's going to take a lot of time to get on top of. And this afternoon, I'll be catching up with Sue Ferguson, the Labor candidate for Fairfax, to have a look at other parts of the Sunshine Coast and see what needs to be done to repair things. I've been on the phone over the last couple of days with Mayor Mark Jamieson as well, to make very clear that Federal Labor stands ready to work with the Sunshine Coast Council in any way needed to make sure that people can recover quickly. It's actually getting towards two weeks ago now that rain really first started in heavy quantities here on the Sunshine Coast. So I know that the recovery effort is well underway. But we do need to make sure that people are getting the help that they need. And that's why today I'm calling on the federal government to make sure that very quickly they get business support out and support for farmers and community groups who've been affected by these floods. Yesterday, we saw the Prime Minister announce business support, farmers support, community group support in New South Wales and obviously New South Wales has been hammered by these floods and needs support quickly as well. But all of us in Queensland are wondering where the support for Queensland is. So really, we want to make sure that Queensland businesses, farmers and community groups aren't treated as second class citizens. We know that Scott Morrison has a reputation for being the Prime Minister for Sydney. We don't want to see that happen when it comes to disaster support as well. So today, we need the federal government approving disaster assistance for Queensland small businesses, farmers and community groups who have suffered damage over the course of the last couple of weeks.
The other thing I wanted to mention, if you haven't seen it already, there have been some incredibly insensitive remarks made today by the head of Scott Morrison's national disaster agency. Shane Stone, the former Liberal Party president nationally and former Liberal Party chief minister of the Northern Territory is Scott Morrison's close mate and was handpicked by Scott Morrison to head up the natural disaster recovery and resilience agency. Shane Stone is in the media today, blaming flood victims for the fact that they have now been flooded, whether they be in New South Wales or Queensland. What he's basically said is that it's the fault of flood victims because people choose to go and “live among the gum trees”, so what do they think is going to happen and who else are they going to blame for the fact that they've now been flooded? I can't think of a more insensitive thing that the head of the national disaster agency could have said while we've still got people in Queensland and New South Wales under floodwaters and who are going out there trying to clean up to recover. It just shows how out of touch Shane Stone and Scott Morrison are that they think that everyone who gets flooded lives in some beautiful estate on acreage with gum trees. Have a look around here we're in we're in a housing estate here in Beerwah, you know. Tell that to the businesses in the main street of Ballina, of Lismore, of greater Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Ipswich and Logan, who are now in the middle of their clean up. It is an incredibly out of touch comment, and that's why I'm calling on Scott Morrison to sack Shane Stone today. He has demonstrated that he is completely unfit for the job of heading up the national disaster resilience and recovery agency. If flood victims can't count on Scott Morrison's hand picked chair of his disaster agency to help them with their recovery than they know they're on their own. Scott Morrison and his government have a history of blaming other people when things go wrong. They never take responsibility for things that are their job. Flood recovery is a huge job of the federal government. They've got lots of money to throw around. Shane Stone has been sitting on what is now a $5 billion disaster fund set up by Scott Morrison and it hasn't built a single flood mitigation project in three years. So how about Shane Stone, Scott Morrison and other people in this government do their job rather than actually blame flood victims for the misfortune that's just happened to them over the last couple of weeks? Jason, did you want to add anything from a local perspective? And happy to take questions.
JASON HUNT, STATE MEMBER FOR CALOUNDRA: G’day everyone. Well, while the Prime Minister and his team is missing in action, the community here in Beerwah has swung into action, as they always do with these times. So what we've seen now is we've got a chorus of leaf blowers and chainsaws going in the background. That's the community clean up beginning off its own steam. And I'm delighted to say I was out here yesterday talking to some locals about what they're doing, some of the difficulties that they are facing and I'll be liaising with this group down here in this street in Beerwah and other streets around the region, to liaise between them and council to ensure that state and council collaborate as we normally do, in the most effective way to get the greatest number of assistance and the greatest amount of relief to the people, particularly in this this storm prone corridor, this Landsborough, Beerwah area, which was hit as recently as four years ago and we don't want to see a repeat of any of the administrative hiccups that might have occurred around then. We would like to see a nice, clean, fault free, seamless transition from the disaster to the disaster clean up. Thanks, everyone.
JOURNALIST: Ted O’Brien’s office said that the state government needs to actually get in touch with the federal government to initiate disaster payments. Do you know if the state government has reached out to the feds?
HUNT: I'm unaware of if the state government has made that. But I would encourage Mr. O'Brien to do as I did yesterday, and again today, and actually come out and just have a look. Okay, if he needs an email, that's great, but he could actually come out here and just have a look and get off his backside and start helping.
JOURNALIST: Apart from coming out for a look, what have you done for the residents?
HUNT: I met with the residents yesterday to find, to ask them exactly what they need. So I've come out and they've talked to me about particularly the disposal of green waste, and how they have trimmed in some of their yards. So the green waste is piling up out the front. So I've actually started a communication with council to talk about how that green waste, because that was the biggest concern that they had mentioned to me, until this morning when I spoke to another resident, but I'll get Murray to talk to that about some small business relief.
WATT: Yeah, the state, the Queensland State Government has now requested that the federal government pay this support for small businesses, farmers and other community groups. So now the ball is in the federal government's court. Every day that people in Queensland have to wait for this support is another day wasted. People urgently need this financial support. There are still businesses, farmers and other people without power, who are incurring costs to repair the damage. We can't let the clock keep ticking for the federal government to make these payments available.
WATT: There are certainly some situations in which major storms enable people to qualify for this kind of support as well. Essentially, what people have got to be able to show is that they suffered some substantial level of damage. I'm confident around Beerwah and other suburbs of the Sunshine Coast, people will be able to demonstrate that they have suffered severe damage as a result of the storms. So whether it be floods, storms, cyclones, bushfires, whatever kind of natural disaster people face, they need to know that their federal government is backing them in with real financial support. And that's why it's so important that we get that response from the federal government today.
JOURNALIST: What do you propose what exactly would help?
WATT: Well, I think there are different types of financial support that the federal government can provide. In some cases, that can be loans, in some cases that can be grants. And it's really up to us those individuals to work out what they need, what kind of support they need. So whether it be loans or grants, we just need to make sure that the federal government is putting its hands in its pocket, as it does after every disaster, not sort of just trying to blame state governments, blaming individuals for what's happened. We need Scott Morrison and his government to step up and stand with people here on the Sunshine Coast and further afield. Thanks.