House debates

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Questions without Notice

Australian Floods

2:47 pm

Photo of Lucy WicksLucy Wicks (Robertson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management. Will the minister please outline how the Morrison government's previous successes leading the recovery efforts during the North Queensland floods, the Black Summer bushfires and the drought will inform our recovery efforts from the devastating New South Wales and Queensland flood event?

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Robertson for her question and for her concern about the communities impacted by the current flooding events. While we cast our minds to the recovery efforts, the events of the last 24 hours are a tragic reminder of the dangers that lie there. The sun might be shining but it's still unsafe to go into those waters. No job, appointment, house or car is more important than your life. Please be patient, help is on the way. Up to 700 ADF personnel are spread across the eastern seaboard to support those communities in their recovery. There are five helicopters, also from the ADF, in support of those communities. In the next hour, I'll be signing an instrument to add another 26 New South Wales local government areas to the 34 where people are already eligible for assistance of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child and 13 weeks worth of income support for those who have had income taken away from them as a result of this event. We'll work through that as our immediate and initial support.

We have learnt so much from what has happened to this country over the last couple of years. Two years ago, nearly to the day, we had devastating floods in north-west Queensland—from Townsville out into the north-west. We lost half a million head of livestock. The cattle industry was decimated in 24 hours. Yet we stood up with the state government of Queensland and provided over $3.3 billion. We made sure those people knew we were there to support them not just in a physical sense but also in an emotional sense. In every tragedy we have faced as a nation, mental health has played a significant part in making sure we rebuild not just people's livelihoods but also their lives.

We have done this also with the enduring drought. It's important to understand that, while this rain event has been quite widespread, parts of central-west Queensland are still in drought, particularly in my electorate of Maranoa.

We'll continue to commit to those people with the nearly $11 billion put aside by the Australian taxpayers by supporting them through the national drought strategy—supporting them in the here and now—by making sure they have the dignity and respect of being able to put bread and butter on their table for their families and by supporting those communities that support them, because those communities also do it tough. When farmers don't have money, they don't spend in town, and we need to support them through these trying times.

We have looked to the future with the Future Drought Fund, with $100 billion being rolled out as we speak. This isn't my fund; this is a farmers' fund being led by Brent Finlay, the former NFF president, to make sure it goes to where it's needed to build resilience. The Bushfire Relief Fund, over $2.2 billion, of which $1.5 billion has gone out of the Commonwealth's pockets into the pockets of those who need it the most, the victims. We'll continue to roll out the last part of that, which is about long-term economic recovery, which communities decide. So no matter the disaster, the Australian government will stand shoulder to shoulder with those who have been impacted by the disasters.