Wednesday, 24 March 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister please update the House on how the Morrison government is delivering ongoing assistance to support communities impacted by devastating flooding, and how this assistance will help these communities to recover?
I thank the member for Reid for her question. As a fellow member in this House from New South Wales, she will also be—as will all members right across this chamber, but particularly those from New South Wales—very mindful of what's occurring right across our state. We also know that these very serious flood events and storm events have affected not just New South Wales but many other parts of the country—particularly South-East Queensland, where we're seeing the inland flooding now starting to impact. These are issues of great concern.
Earlier today I had the opportunity to take an aerial tour of the flood affected areas in the Hawkesbury and, straight after that, meet with those at RAAF Base Richmond who have been involved in directing and supporting the community efforts and operations out of RAAF Base Richmond, in the time I had available this morning. I'm looking forward to returning to not only these areas but many other areas when I have the opportunity, once parliament rises.
I was there this morning with the director-general of Emergency Management Australia, Joe Buffone, who is doing a very good job. We were able to address a number of issues while we were there. One of those was the matter raised by the minister for emergency management yesterday—that is, to confirm that the New South Wales government was moving on the urgent issue of supplies in North Richmond. We were advised this morning that barges were being used for that. The federal government, through the defence forces, has heavy lifting assets available, and they are available to New South Wales. They haven't been requested but they are there to support them, should they need that support.
When I was there, I could see the water almost literally lapping at the fence of RAAF Base Richmond. The expanse of water that went right across that region was quite devastating to see, as it was to see only the roofs of homes and outsheds and things like that. For the producers in that area, it was very clear that, when these waters subside—and they will, albeit it's happening all too slowly. As we went past Warragamba Dam, we could see the water continuing to surge out of the dam. It will be some time before those waters recede. But it highlighted the work that is ahead of us when it comes to the clean-up and the recovery. The defence operation Flood Assist has been put in place; other members, I'm sure, will have the opportunity to speak about those things. I saw ingenuity as farm machinery and other assets and other pieces of heavy equipment were moved to high ground in very short periods of time to limit the damage. But the damage will, indeed, be great, and the government will be supporting each step of the way as we go through the clean-up and recovery process in partnership with the New South Wales government.
I mention one other point: Services Australia, with 1,000 staff on emergency lines, has now processed payments totalling $13½ million, under the payment assistance there, to over 10,800 Australians. We will continue to work with all local members on the ground at every opportunity, both state and federal, to ensure that those communities get the support and assistance they need.
We certainly stand, everyone in this parliament, with the communities who are going through such distress, these flood affected communities. I would ask the Prime Minister—not formally—if he does travel back to that area that's been so affected, in Richmond and Hawkesbury, that he contact the local member there, Susan Templeman, who's on the ground working with those communities.
Honourable members interjecting—
I just need to say that an indulgence is granted to associate yourself with the remarks, not to add political commentary. I do give leeway. I gave leeway—
An honourable member interjecting—
I won't tolerate people interjecting while I address the House—full stop. That is why, on an issue like this, I didn't ask the Prime Minister to resume his seat when the time expired. I just want to make that clear—that indulgence is granted on the basis that there's a compact, that it's to associate yourself with the remarks. And if that occurs continually, you'll be finding that indulgence will be much rarer.