Wednesday, 30 March 2022
Statements on Indulgence
New South Wales: Floods, Queensland: Floods
On Sunday 27 March it was wet in my community. We'd had a lot of rain over the previous week, with heavy falls forecast over the next 24 hours. We're used to floods. Most homes are built above the one-in-100-year levels of 12.2 metres. Shops have their flood plans. Everyone moves their stock, their machinery, to flood-free levels. Everyone was preparing. We know how to do floods. The Bureau of Meteorology, as people were going to bed, were predicting a peak of 11.5 metres. That's under the 12.2-metre record levels. People were confident they were prepared and safe in their houses. In the early morning hours, people started to get awoken by water coming into their houses. The flood level had been revised to 14.5 metres, three metres higher than when people were going to bed. This is 2.3 metres higher than we'd ever seen before. We did not have a flood happening; we had a natural disaster happening which we had never seen or experienced before, all in the dark of night.
The immediate crisis was that thousands of people were at risk of drowning in their homes. People were scrambling into roof cavities and onto roofs. It was a desperate situation. Then they arrived, instinctively, intuitively: over 200 local heroes got into their tinnies, kayaks and jet skis and started rescuing people and saving their neighbours' lives. Make no mistake: they were putting themselves at great risk. This was a swollen, angry river. The storm was still raging, and rain was falling heavily. But out they went, saving person after person, family after family. Four fatalities happened that day, all tragic. It was a miracle there were so few.
Besides the 200 local heroes, the SES and other first responders like the police, Fire and Rescue and others all did amazing things. I made urgent calls before daybreak to get ADF support to help with evacuations. They arrived that morning and assisted, which was crucial. Evacuation centres instantaneously sprang up. Around 10,000 people were going to be homeless by the end of the day. Lismore, Coraki, Woodburn, Broadwater and Wardell all have this same story—heroes saving lives, heroes setting up evacuation centres. Some of the evacuation centres had no outside support for days as they were stranded by floodwaters. Hundreds of people I could name here right now deserve recognition for what they did, and I'm going to ensure they all do get the recognition they deserve.
Three to four days later, on the Thursday, the floodwaters started to recede, to the point where supplies started to arrive into our towns. The ADF could get in with their larger equipment to help with the clean-up—over 4,000 of them—and we thank them. Also, the floodwaters receding revealed the devastation. This wasn't going to be a clean-up; this was going to be a rebuild. People had lost everything in their homes and businesses. Places in supposedly flood-free areas were wiped out. People weren't going to open their businesses in days; it was going to be weeks and months. People who had homes flooded will not be going back into their homes for weeks, if not months.
As a government we declared category A, B and D disaster in record time. Many packages have been announced to help families, business and farmers. Financial support has started—over $1 billion already—but much, much more still needs to come.
The clean-up, after four weeks, even with 4,000 ADF helpers, is only 50 per cent complete. We are all traumatised. No-one is sleeping properly. Those who nearly drowned are having nightmares. Those who saved them are having nightmares. Mental health services are arriving, and we will need them—and more. Financial packages will encourage some to restart; some will decide not to.
Over $200 million has already been announced, to do flood modelling and work on flood mitigation. We can never flood-proof our town, but we can and must do more on flood mitigation for us to rebuild with confidence.
Sadly, overnight we have been flooded again. The levy has been overtopped and we will be going to 12 metres today. This has triggered more trauma in my community for those who nearly drowned and those who saved them just four weeks ago, reliving the flooding rains and the evacuations again.
I love my town. We will come back, but it is going to take us time. We are going to have to help our neighbours and our friends to stand again, one day at a time.
I pay tribute to the member for Page and the incredible work that he has done, looking after his local residents. This has placed incredible stress not only on him but on his staff as well. I think all members who have represented flooded communities know just how lucky we are to have our brilliant staff, with the incredible hours that they are putting in. It takes a toll on them. And today I want to start my remarks by recognising all of the collective efforts from our staff, who have been guiding and supporting our residents. I recognise the member for Page and the member for Richmond for their incredible service to their constituents, and I know the member for Richmond has returned to her electorate today to deal with even further flooding.
But my focus has been on the people in my electorate who have been absolutely devastated by the recent floods. I've helped people clear out their homes and businesses. When you've carried the last of a person's beloved belongings out onto the street and left them on the kerb to be picked up like trash, it becomes painfully clear that the $1,000 is just a mere drop in the ocean compared to what these people and families have lost.
This week, I came to Canberra with the goal of fighting for them, and advocating for them at every opportunity. I've just recently left question time, where I demanded to know from the Prime Minister why my local residents have been treated like second-class citizens compared to other citizens across Australia who have been equally flooded. They deserve more than they are getting from this government—a government that has decided, for whatever reason, that they are not as worthy of support as flood victims just over the border in New South Wales.
The real support for these people didn't come from the federal government; it came from our community. The response of locals to this crisis has made me incredibly proud to be the federal member for Oxley. Together, we did our best to make sure no-one was left behind, whether it was Tony from Middle Park Bakery keeping the free barbecues stocked with fresh bread or Big Pappa's Pizza at Camira offering free pizza for flood victims. People reached out a helping hand to those in need, without hesitation. Baby Give Back, a local charity based in my electorate, has ensured that families with children have had the resources to protect and nurture them throughout the past few weeks. People like Pastor Phil Kennedy from the Shiloh Church and his congregation packed hampers of donated goods for those who were living without power, and the Riverlife Baptist Church opened their doors to anyone who needed a place as the floodwaters rose. Just last week, Aaron from the Kerwick Hotel put on an afternoon of beers and celebration for the volunteers and flood victims who had stood side-by-side, rebuilding our community.
I do want to acknowledge again Thiess Mining, who set up a free barbecue at the Goodna recovery centre for flood victims and volunteers. Listen to these stats: 3,000 drinks; 6,000 litres of cleaning product; 3½ thousand hot meals; 150 kilograms of sausages—these were from one company, Thiess Mining. I want to thank the CEO, Michael Wright, for his generosity in ensuring that residents, particularly those in the Goodna part of my electorate, were looked after, and Phil Woods from Thiess Mining, who was there every day to ensure that the operations were running as smoothly as possible.
As I've said before, the crisis brought out the very best in our community, as locals stepped up to take on leadership roles to help their neighbours and to keep everyone's morale high. Dan, known in the Goodna community as 'Dan the Mill Street Man', set up a pop-up recovery hub on Mill Street, one of the most impacted streets in Goodna. People like Frank and Winghy made the devastating reality of the floods just that little bit more bearable with their can-do attitude and humour. I consider myself incredibly blessed to have worked alongside them in the recovery.
I also worked hand in hand with a fantastic team of local representatives. Our local state representatives, Lance McCallum, Jess Pugh and Charis Mullen, were all amazing advocates of flood affected communities throughout the crisis and were by my side every day. The Goodna-Ipswich City Council, made up of the fantastic mayor, Mayor Teresa Harding, the local councillors for the flood affected suburbs in my electorate, the deputy mayor, Councillor Nicole Jonic, and the brilliant Councillor Paul Tully, a councillor with over 40 years of local government experience, provided invaluable support to Goodna residents. These representatives were on the ground every single day.
When the floodwaters come, they're not blue or red; they're brown. This is not a political speech I'm giving today. It's simply a realisation that when the floodwaters rise or when natural disasters come, we have to come together as one community. That's also why today I want to recognise the LNP councillor for the Jamboree Ward in my electorate, Councillor Sarah Hutton, for her outstanding leadership. She was an incredible resource for the constituents in the Centenary Suburbs, and I pay tribute to all of her hard work.
There are of course too many businesses and people to mention, but I'm going to give it a go: Terry Slaughter from the Springfield Lakes IGA; the Pepper Lounge at Jindalee; St Alban's church and Anglicare Southern Queensland; the Buddhist Vihara at Goodna; White Lies Brewing; the 4074 Community & Beyond page; the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association; Orange Sky; Dr Cuong Bui AM and the Vietnamese community, Queensland chapter; the Pioneer baseball club; Springfield City Group, in particular Raynuha Sinnathamby, who I called when I was in desperate need of wheelbarrows and squeegees. They are the peak commodity during a flood. Forget diamonds and jewels; it is wheelbarrows and squeegees! In our time of need when we were desperate for wheelbarrows, I rang Raynuha Sinnathamby and said, 'Can you help me?' and, within an hour, 11 wheelbarrows turned up. Others included the Springfield Panthers rugby league football club; Wolston Park Centenary Cricket Club; Lyndons Pty Ltd; Storage Choice Sumner Park; 4 Voices; Oxley Uniting Church; Forest Lake Uniting Church; the Rotary Club of Jindalee; CWA Oxley; and Goodna Street Life and their amazing outreach team, particularly Helen Youngberry for not just all of her brilliant work during the flood crisis but her amazing efforts looking after those in need.
Of course, over the past few days we've seen even more rain across the electorate. While serious flooding has not eventuated, the sense of anxiety that locals felt was palpable, even all the way down here in Canberra. We're now living with the reality that these sorts of disasters can occur with alarming frequency, and every time it rains people now have to worry. We're seeing that play out all too clearly in New South Wales as we speak. The floodwaters are once again rising in Lismore and Byron Bay. This crisis will repeat itself, and the fact that we are talking about this even a month later is unimaginable. Yet, this is the reality for many of our brothers and sisters in the Northern Rivers.
My heart goes out to the communities that once again have had to flee their homes, unsure of when they'll be able to return or what they'll return to. But what this crisis shows is that we do need real investment, in a bipartisan way, in not only recovery but mitigation. It's unimaginable that, on the eve of an election, we aren't making this a central point of the major parties. It's something that I'll be advocating for inside my own party, to make sure that we are leading from the front, and I encourage members on the opposite to talk to your leadership, to talk to your party leaders. We need to find common solutions to deal with these unmitigated disasters. We want to make sure that disaster recovery and the rebuilding happens as quickly as possible. Australians know that they need solutions, and they need answers for these problems now. That's why I'm really pleased that a future Albanese Labor government will revamp the failed ERF to create the new Disaster Ready Fund—$200 million to be invested in disaster readiness to protect lives and livelihoods.
I do want to make this point: one of the most chilling aspects during the flood crisis was the intervention from Shane Stone. I was standing with residents in Goodna when I was alerted to the fact that Mr Stone made the irresponsible comment that if you live in a flood plain it's your fault. That is not acceptable. I did not hear at all from Mr Stone during the natural disaster. I'm not sure what his role is during recovery from natural disasters, but if these well-paid fat cats are going to sit from the sidelines on comfortable couches when people's homes are inundated let's have the discussion after not during the time of natural disaster.
Locals in my electorate have lost everything, and the poor people of northern New South Wales are once again seeing their homes go under water. We need solutions put on the table to mitigate and help rebuild as quickly as possible. I am hopeful that—whoever wins government—we will see real flood and disaster mitigation work happen so that people in my community will not have to experience the trauma of these floods again.
I'll finish on this note. Our community is stronger than ever before because of these floods. We never wanted them, but our community came together like never before. As the people's representative in the electorate of Oxley, I couldn't be prouder of the community that I represent.
I commend the member for Oxley for his words, for his advocacy for his constituency, and I observe the passion he had for Frank, a constituent in his electorate who has lost his house. He mentioned him in question time today. He read the thank you list like a Melbourne Cup caller because he had so many of them. I know that he's passionate about his electorate and he's grateful for the work done by so many people. They do it without wanting recognition. They do it without wanting acknowledgement. They do it because they love their fellow human beings. They do it for strangers. That's the Australian way. Thank you, Member for Oxley, for those words.
I acknowledge too the former member for Maranoa, who has just joined us in the chamber, and his work with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, an institution in this country that has saved many, many lives in regional Australia. I acknowledge the former member for Maranoa Bruce Scott for his work post-parliament. Indeed, he was a fine member of parliament, but what he's done post-parliament is something to be admired and respected. Thank you, Bruce.
The devastation, destruction and despair we've witnessed in South-East Queensland and, particularly, the Northern Rivers in northern New South Wales as a result of the recent floods is almost indescribable. During my time as Deputy Prime Minister, I vividly recall having toured flood ravaged areas across this nation. The heart-wrenching images stay with you. The loss of life, livestock, pets, homes and livelihoods is unfathomable, all at the hands of Mother Nature.
Even more recently, in my own electorate of Riverina, I joined the Prime Minister and New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet to survey damage to properties, homes and businesses in the Central West of New South Wales, when floods flowed through Forbes, Bedgerabong and other neighbouring areas. I know, from speaking with farmers and small-business owners who were hit hard by those floods, that the losses incurred are more than just bricks and mortar. It's the toll the loss has on those people's ability to want to keep going and the hit to their resilience, the hit to their pride.
But, like those people who the member of Oxley thanked, these are tough Australians. These are Australians who are not afraid to get in and have a go. They're not going to let a flood deter them from doing what they do for their own families, for their own communities and for those strangers they might have a chance meeting with at a time of disaster. Humans can only take so much, but they get back up when they get knocked down, and they get back up again and again. It's like that song with the words, 'I get knocked down but I get up again.'
It was in times of disaster faced by my own communities that we saw a flourishing of grassroots support, this neighbourly support that we see all so often in Australians. Whether it's floods, as we've experienced recently, or bushfires, no matter what calamity strikes, you can be sure that you can rely on your neighbours in the worst of times. Of course, you can also rely on those wonderful first responders: police, ambulance, fire officers, state emergency services. They are just magnificent people. They help to save livestock. They save property and they assist with the recovery and clean-up. They save human lives. The same power and the human spirit that I witnessed in my electorate, we're seeing again and again at the moment in the Northern Rivers and in Queensland.
I commend the member Page for his speech just before the member for Oxley and for his advocacy. I commend the state member, Janelle Saffin, as well for what she has done. She's a former member of this place. I also commend the member for Richmond, with whom I drove yesterday to parliament and we had a good chat. I phoned her during the height of the crisis to see how she was faring. I've got a high regard for her and I've got a huge amount of respect for the member for Page. I saw him at his best when the crisis was at its worst. I commend him, the member for Richmond and other members, and I certainly commend the newly minted New South Wales Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience, Steph Cooke, the member for Cootamundra. She has taken on that role after fulfilling a role in regional health. Dealing with COVID was very hard, and she's gone from dealing with that to dealing with this crisis. She's holding up well and doing a good job, and I know she'll continue to do that for and on behalf of regional constituents.
It's important we reflect on the impact of the floods and how, as a nation and as a community, we band together to support those who have been impacted as they face the fear of what might lie ahead in the days to come and again are on alert with more flood warnings being issued overnight. We stand by our colleagues and we stand by those people who are in harm's way. We've all witnessed the inspiring images through the media coverage: the nightly television bulletins with people on their jet skis and in their tinnies saving others. We've also got the Australian Defence Force. How magnificent are our ADF personnel who come to the aid of those people, and we thank them. Seeing people rescuing others from rooftops in their tinnies or their kayaks, moving livestock or providing warm meals and support is quite heartwarming, and it goes to the Australian way.
It does alarm me, it does concern me, that some use this as political opportunism. I appreciate that they're devastated, but to then go and dump household rubbish at Kirribilli, I do wonder about their motives. I appreciate that climate change is something that is very near and dear to people's hearts, but I do wonder about the motivation of those people when, in these worst of times, they use that as a means to make a political point. We can be better than that and we need to be better than that.
I commend those people who work in government departments for getting the assistance out the door as quickly as they could. Yes, there'll always be criticism. Yes, because of computer systems and other bureaucratic processes, sometimes some people do slip through the cracks. Rest assured, I know that if those people feel that they have missed out, there are avenues by which they can get that much needed assistance. Thank you to those public servants who do what they can to adjust as quickly as possible and amend those people's assistance measures, if they have missed out.
It also goes to the heart of mitigation, and that is why I am a supporter of making sure that we build the levee banks in the right place and making sure that we build water infrastructure in the right place, not just to help communities stricken by floods over and over again but, indeed, to ensure that we store the water so that we can grow agriculture. There's a win-win here; there's a double-bonus here. I look at Wyangala dam—not that this is the right motion to be pushing water infrastructure to grow agriculture—and raising the Wyangala dam wall would help Forbes, which has been flooded many, many times over the past 100 years. Indeed, we want, at all costs and efforts, to avoid these unnecessary floods because the right infrastructure in the right places could help those communities right now.
In closing, we cannot stop Mother Nature, but we can work together to support each other in these times of darkness and despair, because it's the generosity of community and human spirit which shines through in these times of natural disasters. At the worst of times you see the best in people; you truly do, whether it's the SES or whether it's strangers you may never bump into again who help people out. I can't thank them enough. The government stands by and is willing and ready to assist those impacted by the devastating floods now and into the future, as the floodwaters recede—and hopefully they are receding and we won't see, as some might suggest, future downpours like those affecting the poor communities in and around Lismore. Again, I commend the member for Page for his courage in sticking up for his constituents.
I commend you, Deputy Speaker Falinski, for your Red Cross badge. I rise to speak on indulgence in response to the Prime Minister's statement on the recent floods in South-East Queensland and northern New South Wales. The catastrophic floods that enveloped South-East Queensland and northern New South Wales in February and March have been described as one of Australia's worst-ever natural disasters. In Queensland alone, 13 lives were lost, and I send my sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives. Twelve suburbs in my electorate of Moreton were inundated in late February. About 2,200 homes had water over their floorboards, numerous businesses have been destroyed or have had havoc wreaked upon them, families have lost precious possessions collected over a lifetime, and the trauma will linger for ages, coming back every time it rains hard, as it has again this week. When lows return many will feel low again.
My community has been through this before. There was the famous 1974 deluge, and then, in my time as an MP, the 2011 floods hit my community very hard. Sadly, some families that were flooded way back in 2011 are again facing heartbreak, clean-up and rebuilding. I know my community is resilient; I know they'll pull through this and rebuild their homes and their lives, but it's tough, it's challenging and it's draining. In fact, it's much slower than the floodwaters are draining away in some cases. I'd like to thank the wonderful community groups in Moreton who immediately swung into action. They learnt from 2011. They set up pop-up evacuation centres for families—places where they could also take their pets, which can be a challenge. They provided shelter, they provided electricity to charge phones—crucial in this digital age—they provided meals, they provided comfort and they provided a helping hand.
I'll mention some of those groups who stepped up: the Yeronga Community Centre, who did incredible work; Wellers Hill Bowls Club, before they were sadly shut down by the Brisbane City Council; the Corinda Bowls Club; The Clubhouse at Moorooka; Dewar's Refrigeration at Rocklea, who was just a business who allowed the use of their business facility, their business site, to operate as a relief hub; the Graceville Presbyterian Church; the Tzu Chi Buddhist Compassion Relief Foundation, who I particularly call out because they literally handed over cheques or money to people, as well as other forms of support; Moorooka Lions; the Archerfield Rotary Club; the Lions Club of Ekibin; parents and students from St Laurence's who pitched in; Yeronga Park swimming centre; Dunlop Park Memorial Swimming Pool; the Oxley Senior Citizens; Lou Bromley from Oxley; Jackie Holyoake from Salisbury; Life Church; Synergy Education; Bangladesh Puja Cultural Society Inc. of Brisbane; Orange Sky; Sundays Cafe—thank you, Anthony; St Thomas More Facebook group; Rocklea Facebook group; Lyne Rowe; Desley Griffiths from Sandlewood; and so many other unnamed people who donated goods, food and money and turned up to help. I especially acknowledge the elected representatives, Brisbane City councillors Nicole Johnston and Steve Griffiths, and state MPs Mark Bailey, Jess Pugh and Peter Russo.
Dealing with any crisis is tough. Dealing with a flood is really challenging. It's dirty, it's smelly and it's heartbreaking. In 2011, when Prime Minister Julia Gillard ensured that there were Centrelink workers on the ground almost immediately, like the next day, to help people apply for their disaster payments, it was crucial to turning people's lives around. I remember those Commonwealth workers, wearing their teal shirts—this was before Independents ran in elections, I guess!—and helping locals to access payments right there, right then.
Disappointingly, in 2022, that wasn't the case. It took five days to get anyone from a Morrison government department into Moreton. The Morrison government actually expected people from flooded Chelmer and Graceville to somehow row and drive to Chandler, 25 kilometres away. I'll point out that there are three Centrelink sites in Longman. Taking nothing from the people of Longman, but there are none in Moreton, Griffiths, Oxley or Rankin. All of those four seats are represented by Labor people. It was only after much lobbying from me that finally Services Australia workers were sent into some of the community centres in Moreton to help on a face-to-face basis, because—guess what?—internet towers were down and phones weren't charged. I do thank those Services Australia workers, many of whom I met. They've been so helpful to my community.
In 2011, I vividly remember the ADF arriving to help almost immediately—the night of the flood, in fact. I remember reservists and all sorts were out there the night of the flood. In 2022, it took many days before any ADF personnel arrived in Moreton. In fact, on my journey throughout Moreton, I noted a stark contrast between the Commonwealth government support for locals in 2011 and in 2022. That's disappointing. It's a symptom of a bigger problem with this coalition government. They are not there when we need them. They are there for the photo-op with a broom, but when it comes to giving genuine support they're missing in action.
Many locals have been disappointed to not be given the financial support they thought would be forthcoming. The minister makes the rules about who is eligible for the disaster recovery payment. In 2022, the eligibility rules were much tougher than in 2011. Lauren from Rocklea had no power for six days, which meant all her food was gone, her back fence was damaged as it was used to evacuate other residents, her house has mould from the water and tools in her shed were destroyed. But Lauren's application for the disaster recovery payment has been rejected twice. David, again from Rocklea, has four children. Theirs is a single-income family. He's had three metres of water through his property. They're living upstairs in the flooded property. David said he had tried to tell his neighbours it was serious, but there were no official warnings. Yuri and his mother also live in Rocklea. Yuri says the message to move out was too late. I know, because I live in Moorooka, next to Rocklea, and we got it late on the Sunday night. Yuri's mother is staying on the property in a tent and is worried about more rain. Lacey from Oxley will not be able to move back to her house for six to 12 months. The water reached the roof line. She is living with other family members. Felicity and Keith are long-term residents of Chelmer. They were previously flooded in 2011. They want to raise their home so they don't get flooded again.
The residents of Inskip Street, Rocklea, watched the waters rising up on Saturday night. They looked on the internet and the TV for warnings but there were none, so they went to bed. Luckily one neighbour had to go to work early and had set his alarm for 4 am. When the alarm went off, he stepped out of his bed into a river of water. In 2022, there was no warning. Out on the street, the water was rising fast. Cars were submerged. Residents tried to save what they could. What the residents of Inskip Street can't understand is why there wasn't any warning until late on the Sunday night.
The Queensland government, last year, requested the Commonwealth fund an upgrade to the flood warning infrastructure network as a priority, a request that was refused. The government's $4 billion disaster recovery mitigation recovery fund is sitting untouched, earning interest but not doing anything for disaster recovery or mitigation. Not one cent has been spent from the fund. Australians are going through really tough times. We've had the pandemic, we've had fires and we've had floods. They have faced disaster after disaster, and they deserve a government that will support them, a government that will make sure that we are prepared for the next flood—because it is coming—and the one after that and the one after that. We know that we are going to face more frequent and more severe disasters because of climate change. There! I said the words: climate change. They are not difficult words to face; it's the reality.
It's not the sticky, dark mud, the stinking water or the smashed up and sodden piles of belongings of people's lives stacked on footpaths that stay with me in the aftermath of my community again facing a flood situation. Those phenomena are memorable, but what stays closest to my heart is how our community always comes together to help out others. That is what I hold dear. The people of Moreton were magnificent in all 12 suburbs that were inundated. That's what inspires me to keep fighting for them.
I rise today to speak about some of our heroes of the 2022 floods in the electorate of Ryan. I was in my community in the 2011 flood event as well. It was difficult to see many of the same people who had gone through the earlier flood event going through it again in 2022. The electorate is diverse and people were affected in different ways. The communities of Moggill, Bellbowrie, Pullenvale and Brookfield were cut off by floodwater for a number of days. People in Fig Tree Pocket, Indooroopilly, St Lucia, Toowong and Auchenflower were inundated by the river as well as by the rising creek levels. People in The Gap, and further afield in Mitchelton, were inundated by fast flowing creek water while the rain was falling.
No matter how residents were affected, they have shown tremendous spirit and resilience. It has been a sincere pleasure, during my time as the member for Ryan, to be able to join them in their community spirit as they seek to rally around those residents who have been badly affected by the flood. In doing so, I want to pay testament to some of those community members who went above and beyond the call of duty for their fellow residents during the flood. I put out the call to the community to ask them to nominate people who had particularly assisted them but perhaps hadn't sought any credit. Of course, they don't do it for the recognition, but they rightly deserve it all the same. These were people who saw a need and, rather than waiting for somebody else to do it, simply pitched in and got it done themselves. So I would like to acknowledge a few of those.
First of all, there is Damian Reynoldson. He is described by his neighbours as a family man and a quiet achiever. He has a friendly and compassionate nature, with many practical skills. With the support of his wife, Christie, Damian became known as 'the Witton Island hero.' His skills supported and enabled many in the flood-affected Witton Road-Twigg Street area to deal with the challenges thrown at them. For a time, as you can imagine from the name 'Witton Island hero', their little part of the world, those two streets, became an island cut off from the rest of the community, with floodwaters all around them. Moving furniture; getting essential supplies by boat; cleaning with pressure cleaners, shovels and brooms; and providing portable generators for power—the list goes on and on. These were some of the things that Damian was able to procure and assist his fellow residents with. Congratulations and thank you, Damian, the hero of Witton Island.
Now to Anthony 'Herbie' Herbert. Herbie mobilised the blue and green army of GPS players, juniors and their parents to pitch in and help residents affected by the Enoggera Creek flooding. Herbie's fellow residents said he 'seemed to be everywhere'. He was carting around possessions out on the footpath, manning hoses, emptying pools of their mud—he told me he became quite an expert at this, unfortunately—and reassuring people that this was the worst part and, from now on, it was going to get better because they were all working together to chip in, piece by piece. He was there from first light until well after dark each day and until the job was done. So, well done to Herbie and all of those GPS players who went out to assist their community.
And now to Shane Ehrhardt. Will lives on Macquarie Street in St Lucia, which is notorious for flooding. His property was flooded on the Sunday, leaving him no way to leave. But, thankfully, his apartment was still above the waterline when he went to bed that night. On Monday morning, with the water still rising towards his apartment, he had no choice but to evacuate. But the SES, as you can imagine, was busy helping others whose homes were currently being flooded. So Will and his family had a few hours of nervous waiting, watching the water continuing to rise and feeling helpless. Will's work colleague Shane suddenly appeared, coming to the rescue on their back stairs. He was climbing out of his own kayak that he had paddled to the apartment, holding a thermos of coffee. Will said that he had to hold tears back as he saw Shane. While Will and his family prepared their belongings to paddle out, Shane, not content with the rescue that he was already undertaking, popped out to rescue a pregnant woman and her partner who had called for help. After Shane came back and took Will and his family to safety, he then calmly got back into his kayak and paddled off. Shane ended up spending about five continuous hours on the Monday finding strangers in Macquarie Street in St Lucia who needed help, leading them and their belongings onto the kayak and paddling them out. Will said, 'Shane is a private person and would die if he knew I was writing about him here.' Well, goodness knows what Shane thinks of me reading him into Hansard! Will said: 'I bet he didn't even tell most of his friends what he did that day. He is my hero and probably a hero to many who met him for the first time in his kayak and will never see him again. Thank you, Shane.'
Nathan Purcell is a young electrician with a new business, but he didn't hesitate to jump in by helping neighbours in his area to clean up or by doing countless electricity checks so that people could plug in gernies and fridges. Residents would mention a friend down the road who had lost power, and Nathan would be there within five minutes to check the electricity so that they could get their power back on and they could get back on with their lives and the clean-up. Thank you for your efforts, Nathan.
Brad Colliss, the owner of the local Bellbowrie fruit shop, kayaked across a cut off road to his own shop to open it up, even though the shopping centre itself had lost power. Customers who didn't have cash on them—there was no power so there was no EFTPOS—were told they could pay later, or, if they were struggling with the flood, to just take the food that was there. This spurred on an incredible sense of community spirit that saw people paying it forward and leaving extra money to help others. Wendy nominated Brad and said: 'I know in the scheme of things this is only a small event while people lost their homes, but it certainly contributed to people's good mental health in sad times.' Well done Brad, and thank you for giving away your product.
Dan 'The Tinnie Man' Hill acquired the name The Tinny Man because he spent a number of days using his own tinnie and his own fuel to ferry stranded community members across Moggill Road when it was cut off. His efforts reunited families, got people to important medical appointments, got essential hospital workers to their shifts and delivered essential medicines and supplies. When I met Dan out on Moggill Road, at the time we was taking aged-care workers across in his tinny, so they could cook and care for those at the RSL home at Pinjarra Hills who had been cut off by the flood.
Likewise, I would like to thank the SES western group and all of the SES workers in the Ryan electorate. The 40 volunteers of the SES western group based in Toowong completed over 1,100 hours of service to the local community between them during the flooding event. Members assisted and volunteered their time for initial sandbagging and flood mitigation response, completed temporary repairs and evacuated residents who had been inundated—all while their own depot was going underwater. It was an absolutely extraordinary effort.
These are just a few of the local 2022 flood heroes who have been nominated by their own community—by those they helped—because their efforts just meant so much to so many people, and I am so very proud of our community. I know what the community went through was horrible and will stay with people for a long time. But it should also stay with us that those residents rallied around each other and pitched in where they could.
Likewise, I would like to thank the ADF and those members of the Defence Force who came out of Gallipoli Barracks in the electorate of Ryan to help others, particularly with the clean-up around St Lucia, Auchenflower and Toowong. The way they turned up in such great numbers day after day, to break the back of some of the most gruelling work meant an awful lot. A lot of them were sacrificing time away from their families. A lot of them had their own homes affected by flood, but they put that to one side so they could do their job and help others. Such is the spirit of our ADF.
We know that the hardest time is not the flood; it's not even the initial clean-up, because there are a lot of people around then. We learnt that in 2011. The hardest time is when everybody has gone and residents, all of a sudden, find themselves by themselves with an uninhabitable home, trying to rebuild their lives. I want to remind them that we are here for them all the time if they need anything at all. There are plenty of people in our community willing to help. I encourage them to reach out, and I will stay in touch with them.
Communities in my electorate were also among those affected by the deluge and the floods at the end of February and the beginning of March this year. Homes and businesses in Hill End, West End, South Brisbane, Kangaroo Point, Norman Park, Coorparoo, Stones Corner, Hawthorn, Bulimba, Morningside and other areas were all affected by the rain bomb, as it's been called, and by the floods that followed. I want to take this opportunity to thank multiple organisations and individuals for their efforts during and after that weather event and those floods. I know that my fellow representatives would be equally grateful to all of these groups. Let me start with community centres, locally based charities and emergency relief organisations.
West End Community House (Community Plus) was a great place for people to get hot meals. Food was being exchanged there and we had services being provided there. Micah Projects is a terrific organisation. They supported a lot of people, including by setting up a temporary place of warmth and shelter where people could get food. They did that in cooperation with the Australian Hellenic Progress Association, the Greek community association, which has quite a famous hall. The Bee Gees once played there. The hall was used for emergency relief during the floods in West End. Orange Sky laundry were of help in the floods. Red Cross, the Salvos, Meals on Wheels and Foodbank, who are based in my electorate, did so much work during the floods. The same is true of FareShare, a big commercial kitchen which turns Foodbank food and other donated food into ready-made meals. A rapid response team turned out to support workers who were helping others with the floods and to support the community. Backbone, the arts organisation, the East Brisbane Bowls Club and the 'Save our Bowlo' campaign set up a temporary relief place at East Brisbane, which was also affected by floods, to assist people who needed a hot meal. There is a photo on my Instagram of Sally, who was serving meals on their first night there—and I've got to tell you the food smelled absolutely delicious. At the YMCA Cannon Hill Community Centre, at the former Cannon Hill bowlo, Wendy and Alison and the volunteers were helping with food exchange but also with things like collecting toiletries. They ran a toiletries donation service for people affected by the floods, which was really important.
There were also multiple residents groups. The Bulimba Community Centre, for example, helped out in the Bulimba community. Kurilpa Futures, on the Kurilpa Peninsula, did a lot of the initial volunteer coordination to make sure that people who needed help were connected with people who wanted to give it. The West End Community Association provided a sort of information exchange and clearinghouse for services.
I want to thank the workers in multiple government agencies in all spheres of government that provided support. That includes Services Australia—and another big shout-out to our local liaison, Frank, at Services Australia and Centrelink, and also to the executive, Michelle, who I spoke to on a number of occasions during the floods—Miyun, from the NRRA; and Andrew, the CEO of the Bureau of Meteorology, and all of his team, who were incredibly responsive and so helpful in getting ahead of us with all the information.
Those are all federal agencies, but there were plenty of other agencies as well. A big shout-out to Rhys, from Energex, who installed a new transformer down at Hill End. I was doorknocking—I was basically doing welfare checks during the floods—and residents were telling me that one of the problems with the electricity down at West End and Hill End was a transformer that was below the flood line. I harassed the state government about this and, next minute, Mick de Brenni, the minister, turned out the Energex guys to move that transformer. It was absolutely terrific to see them being so responsive. So I thank everyone from Energex. I thank everyone from Maritime Safety Queensland, who worked incredibly hard to look after the entire Brisbane River—and a shout-out to my good friend Matt, who works in MSQ. He was involved in getting that crane to safety—all Brisbane people know about that crane. I thank everyone at the Morningside sandbag depot. The team got up at three o'clock to come in from Ipswich, where they were also facing flooding, and other areas. They were lifting sandbags and helping the locals to look after the properties in the flood event. That was quite a big effort from them; it was just incredible. We had a great chat to Jerry in between forklift loads and sandbags. He said, 'Could you also just cook the barbecue?' We were very happy to do that. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the barbecue to work, first off.
I also want to add my thanks to the team at Buranda 'Guzies', Guzman y Gomez. I rolled in and said, 'Hey, could we have 20 different hot breakfasts, all with guacamole?' They dropped everything and got them out the door for us—at 6.30 am—to look after those depot workers. Thank you so much to everyone who travelled to Morningside to help the entire south of Brisbane with sandbags that day. It was incredible work from them and the people at 'Guzies'.
Thank you also to the ferry staff, the public transport staff, all the Brisbane City Council clean-up crew and the people managing waste. There was a lot of waste out of these floods because of the inundation of so many properties, particularly around West End but also through Hawthorne and other areas. I can only imagine what waste crews were dealing with. I thank Urban Utilities staff, who we had to call on when there were a range of problems with the Urban Utilities infrastructure in West End, where the basements of the big apartment buildings had been flooded. I thank the department of communities staff, departmental staff from various other departments' ministerial office staff, transport and traffic people, SEQ Water—all of these different agencies who are working to keep people safe.
I give a big shout-out to my own staff—who did everything from hauling sandbags to cooking barbecues to cleaning up community organisations to washing dishes—as well for all the help they provided. And, of course, I thank the Australian Defence Force, who were working so hard to help the clean-up. I want to say thank you to all the local businesses who supported. They made donations, food and provided phone charging. Avid Reader even had washing machines and dryers at their bookshop. It was quite incredible. But there are too many businesses to name. They were all so supportive. Insurance industry workers and the Insurance Council of Australia: thank you for your engagement with the locals.
Thank you to our wonderful local churches and other religious groups, some from further afield as well—you know who you are—who provided hot meals, a place to shelter, a place to charge the phone and, in some cases, financial support to people who are doing it tough.
Thank you to our locally based media organisations, who were a crucial instrument during these floods to keep people safe: ABC Brisbane, 4AAA 98.9 Indigenous radio, and Jan Bowman from the Westender who was keeping everyone informed through the flood event.
I want to give a shout-out to a couple of unions: the United Firefighters Union, who let us perch a barbecue on Montague Road so that we could give people some hot meals who hadn't had a hot meal in a couple of days, including some people who had been in really serious distress; and the Electrical Trades Union, for their campaign Operation Energise to get electricians to help flood-affected people all through the inner south-east.
I want to give a shout-out to the Bulimba RSL as well. They cooked a barbecue for people who'd been campaigning on the big volunteer questions down at Bulimba, Hawthorne and Balmoral. They brought together everyone from businesses to community groups to just locals helping out, fed them all a snag and had a yarn with them.
Thank you to all of our SES volunteers, who have been absolutely sterling. We all saw the grief that our community felt when an SES volunteer from further afield, from Lowood, died. I'm sure Mr Neumann, the member for Blair, who is here today, will mention it. Our hearts really went out to her family. I think every SES volunteer and everyone who drew on their help was reminded once more how valuable SES volunteers are to our community and how grateful we need to be for them.
I want to say thanks to all of the current and former MPs and counsellors who helped out in the area. I want to say thanks to community members—everyone; mums, dads, kids—who went and helped out at places like Eastern Suburbs Tigers that went under, like the Brisbane Jazz Club at Kangaroo Point, like the netball courts at the Metropolitan Districts Netball Association in Coorparoo, all of the many different organisations that required clean-up. People went and did everything they could to help them out.
I give a big shout-out to Labor Party volunteers as well who were helping us to make sure that we were cooking a barbecue, knocking on doors to do welfare checks, holding stalls to provide information about federal support that was available and other forms of support that were available, and even turning up with their camp batteries so people could charge their phones.
One of our local councillors, Kara Cook, now has a campaign going on back-flow devices. I encourage everyone who's concerned about back-flow devices to have a look at her social media. I'm also running a survey of my own to get feedback about what needs to be done better in future disasters, and I welcome everyone's feedback. A lot of people are now seeing, really up close and personal, the impacts of climate change and they want to see real action on climate change. I'm hearing from people on that.
I'm also hearing from people about how to respond to disasters and what they would like to see in the future: things like making sure there's no differential between different states when it comes to disaster payments and making sure we have Centrelink personnel in the field without having to have an argument about it, so just basic responses. I want to give a big shout-out to the Northern Rivers, who my community is also deeply concerned about.
To echo the words of the member for Griffiths in relation to the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, equally, whilst my community have suffered through the floods like hers has—and we were both on a call where we had a discussion with Services Australia about some of their lack of proactivity—we're equally concerned about the impact of the floods on northern New South Wales and we've had a number of great local community organisations provide support and services down there to assist. But I want to focus my statement today on my electorate of Forde and, more broadly, the city of Logan and also some of the northern parts of the Gold Coast, which in the context of what happened in Brisbane—and I have no doubt in the member for Blair's electorate as well, through Ipswich and Goodna—probably got somewhat overlooked in the scheme of things.
Across the city of Logan there were some 282 houses that we know of that were fully inundated. That's a much smaller number than the number in Blair or in Griffiths, but there were also a large number of properties impacted in some shape or form by this flood event. It's interesting to learn, having been out and spoken to a number of those property owners, particularly where they live on local creeks, like the community at Bayes Road, Logan Reserve, who are on Schmidts creek, that they got flooded twice. They got flooded first from Schmidts creek by the flash flooding from the heavy rain through Sunday and Sunday night. Later they got flooded again by the Logan River as the flood came down the Logan River.
The two main rivers through my electorate are the Logan and Albert rivers, and this time both had slightly different flood peaks from 2017. Fortunately, the Albert River's peak was a little bit lower than in 2017. There were still a number of homes along Halls Road, Luscombe, a home on Beaudesert-Beenleigh Road at Wolfdene and a couple of houses on Old Mill Road at Bannockburn that got impacted. But there were fewer properties that were impacted than in 2017. Fortunately, the water stayed out of the famous Yatala Pies, but unfortunately, the Beenleigh Yatala Motor Inn once again got flooded. They were quickly back on their feet because they've been particularly busy. A number of properties on Albert Street at Eagleby again got flooded by the Albert River, but, again, to a lesser extent than last time. I'll address the issues regarding flooding of properties a little later. On the Logan River, it was certainly a different story. The flood peak on the Logan River was some 65 centimetres above that of 2017, and a lot of houses that escaped the flooding in 2017 got impacted this time. Unfortunately, those that were impacted last time obviously suffered more badly than they did in 2017.
As we look across the electorate and the city of Logan, I have to speak about, as have others have, the tremendous work that has been done by our community. I was reflecting on this with a number of constituents while I was out and about helping clean up after the floods. What was great to see, after two years of lockdowns and people being largely isolated because of COVID, was that our community once again in a time of crisis got out of their homes and got involved to help those in our community in most need. I commend the team at Logan House Fire Support Network, led by Louie Naumovski, who did an enormous amount of work coordinating volunteers to clean up. A lot of information was provided to him through Logan City Council, and he would coordinate volunteers to go out and check properties, see what help they needed, arrange teams to go out and clean those properties, remove rubbish, all of those sorts of things. The work was done by Louie and his crew in conjunction with assistance from Volunteering Queensland, Logan City Council and a number of community organisations that I wish to mention today, because I think their work and their efforts in supporting our community deserve to be recognised. St John Ambulance Queensland allowed Shayne Western to spend two weeks with Louie, helping him to assist and coordinate the recovery effort. They were based, for the first little period, at the office of the state member for Waterford, Shannon Fentiman. Later they based themselves out of Logan River Tree Farm, which was very badly inundated. We had, on a couple of days, a very large team of people there—on one day 250 people—helping clean up the tree farm and recover as much as they possibly could.
Some of the other organisations that have been of tremendous support across our community to help this recovery effort include the IGA supermarkets at Loganholme and Loganlea; Nightlight; and Total Tools at Beenleigh, who are only a relatively new business. Louie rang me up one day and said: 'Bert, I need some high-pressure petrol-powered water cleaners.' I rang Total Tools and I spoke to Matt, and the team there jumped into action to provide the equipment we needed.
Other organisations include Kennards Hire at Beenleigh; Bakers Delight at the Logan Hyperdome; Earth Markets at the Logan Hyperdome, who were tremendous in providing food for the volunteers at the base headquarters at Logan River Tree Farm; Lighthouse Care, who provided us with emergency food kits to take to people and help them get through; Ray White at Daisy Hill; RE/MAX Revolution at Shailer Park; and Diggermate Mini Excavator Hire. There were a couple of days when we needed, at short notice, a bobcat or a mini excavator. We rang Diggermate, and they said: 'Yep, we've got one here. Can you come and pick it up? As long as you've got somebody with a ticket, come and pick it up and do what you need with it. If you need for a couple of days, fantastic.'
Other organisations include Spring Transport; Gotzinger Smallgoods; Southside Milk; Sunny Queen eggs; and Rural Fire Brigade units. I saw units from all over the Northern Gold Coast and all over Logan at various properties as I went around—helping people clean up, remove rubbish, hose their houses out. There were also the SES of Logan; the ADF; and the Logan and Gold Coast city councils. Beenleigh PCYC was a community recovery centre.
All of these organisations, whilst not solving the problem of people's houses being flooded, made the difficult situation people were in that little bit easier because they knew they had that help and support to try and start the journey of rebuilding their lives. Sadly, many of these people will not be back in their homes for 12 or 18 months. Some who have two-storey houses are fortunate enough that they can live upstairs, but they will not be able to use downstairs.
In my remaining time, I want to talk about one of the reflections out of this. I look at the flood event of 2017 and the flood event now of 2022. I lived in the area in my younger days and remember the impact of the floods in 1974, when there wasn't the population we have today. I look at the development that has occurred. We could have had a 1974 event, when we had flood levels nearly two metres higher than what we've had on the Logan River recently. One of the discussions I've started to have with Logan City Council and a number of the insurance companies is: how do we build back better and do it differently? That includes resumptions of some properties. Interestingly, some of the property owners I've spoken to are very open to the idea of their properties being resumed, at fair market value—what it was before the flood, not what it is now—so they can move on with their lives, and we can turn those areas into bushland or parkland for community benefit.
Equally, a number of people I have spoken to have said to me: 'Last time it cost the insurance company $250,000 or $300,000 to repair my home. Now it's going to cost more. We know building costs and everything have gone up.' They said, 'We can move the house from here, six metres up the block, and put it on stilts and just have an open carport underneath and it will be flood free.' They're the discussions we need to have. I think the insurance company should be open to those discussions because in the long term it is going to save their money.
I want to thank all of those institutions and all of the individuals involved. Thank you for the effort to help our community recover. We will continue to support you going forward.
On Friday evening, 25 February, I attended a Raemus Rover racing season launch at Yamanto. That evening I was at a workshop and the pounding, relentless rain made it difficult to hear anything. I kept on getting phone calls from the mayor of Ipswich and the mayor of Somerset. I constantly went back and forth to the meeting. The flood was upon us. The president of the RSL Raemus Rover racing organisation, Ian Baker, and his wife, Justine, were becoming concerned that they wouldn't be able to get back to Karalee. Their homes is on the Brisbane River, with creeks intersecting their street at either end. Karalee is akin to an island, surrounded by the Brisbane River on two sides and the Bremer River on the other.
My electorate of Blair has the Wivenhoe Dam, the Somerset Dam, the Brisbane River, the Bremer River, the Lockyer Creek, the Bundamba Creek and so many others. It's flood central. I drove home that evening through the back blocks of Yamanto, taking a circuitous route to avoid the flooded roads. In my 14-plus years as a federal MP, we have experienced three significant floods. I lived through the 1974 flood in my parents' house. It was eight feet over the roof. My family were evacuated. We saw military vehicles going down the street, providing support, relief and even vaccinations later on, which might be news to the minister for emergency management, who claimed the ADF hadn't been involved in such a domestic disaster even 20 years ago, let alone 50 years ago. In 2011 and 2013, it flooded again in our area. This is the fourth major flood in my lifetime.
On 25 February, disaster struck Coolana, a small community in the Somerset region of Blair. Merryl Dray, a 62-year-old SES volunteer, along with three other SES personnel, responded to a call from a local family. The family needed evacuation as floodwaters rose around them. On the way, the SES vehicle was swept off the road. The four occupants were able to climb out, but tragically Merryl was swept away. She was beloved by the Lowood SES group and by her family and her friends. She was well trained, with more than 520 hours of experience over 4½ years of service. This was a sad reminder of the dangers our emergency services personnel face every time they head out. My condolences go to Merryl's family—her immediate family, her extended family and her SES family—and all the SES volunteers around South-East Queensland, so many of whom knew her.
I want to thank our SES volunteers, our emergency services personnel, frontline workers, the police, the ADF, the rural fire brigades, the RSLs, the faith based organisations who helped out, the chambers of commerce and the small businesses who helped out—those clubs, unions and so many others who helped out to help people recover and to protect and serve the communities they love. It has been a difficult few years for frontline workers, with two years of uncertainty and disturbance as a result of COVID.
We got another rain bomb, as the Queensland Premier said. It hit South-East Queensland. In three days, we got over 80 percent of our annual rainfall. Intense rainfall broke riverbanks and claimed 13 lives in South-East Queensland. Homes, livelihoods and farms were destroyed. In my electorate, areas were cut off. Karana Downs and Mount Crosby are the only two Brisbane suburbs in my electorate. It is normal for the low-lying Colleges Crossing to flood, but the water normally recedes pretty quickly. They were cut off. They call themselves 'Crosby Island' and the rest of Australia 'the mainland'. They were cut off. All the ways for them to get out, all the bridges, were cut off everywhere. So for three days they were without food being delivered and they were cut off from any sort of medical treatment. I will come to that in a minute.
I want to congratulate Colleges Crossing medical practice and doctors Cath Hester and Tony Bayliss, who arranged emergency medical supply drops and kept the community and so many others informed. Vicky Mills of Karana Downs set up a food distribution centre. Like so many others, such as Councillor Cheryl Gaedtke in Somerset, Arthur Needham helped me in terms of information every day. I was cut off in Ipswich central and couldn't get out to many of these places. All these country towns in my electorate in the Somerset region were cut off. Arthur Needham kept me—
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Sitting suspended from 17:09 to 17:17
I want to thank the councillors and the council staff of the Ipswich City Council and the Somerset Regional Council. I want to thank, also, Mayor Graeme Lehmann and CEO Andrew Johnson of the Somerset Regional Council for keeping me apprised of what's going on in detail. I also thank Councillor Kate Kunzelmann for her regular updates from the Ipswich City Council.
The Somerset council gets cut off, and I want to praise the Somerset council for learning from mistakes made back in 2011. The Somerset council did a fantastic job, in my view, of building back better—building bridges and making roads better. So I want to thank them very much, because that's what you should be doing: building back better. They made sure that their infrastructure was better when they replaced and improved it after the 2011 flood. It was obvious in 2013 and even more obvious this time.
I also want to say thank you to some of the councillors up there in the Somerset council—who lead their communities, by the way—for making sure that people were cared for. I thank the RSLs up there and the Toogoolawah Show Society, who looked after people. The RSL in Kilcoy did a fantastic job.
There were problems. There was a situation where about 60 people were trapped by floods, east of the D'Aguilar Highway, east of Kilcoy, east of Kilcoy Creek, and there were issues in relation to that. These are lessons to be learned.
I want to thank longstanding principal Di Pedersen of the Mount Tarampa State School, who looked after about 12 other people there for three days during that time. After about three days, Di thought: 'We're running out of food from the tuckshop. We'd better call for help.' And she did a mighty job, by the way.
Ipswich had stranded residents in Karalee, and I know there are people in Karalee who feel they were forgotten. There are things that could have been done better, and there are many grievances people have about what went on. There was a slow response at times in terms of communication.
I want to thank Lyn Birnie and Marie Kavanagh for their great work in getting the school hall at Karalee open to the public as a place of refuge. I want to give great praise to Dave Cullen for keeping people informed, on radio. River 949 radio and West Bremer Radio did a fantastic job in keeping people informed. We had lots of hard-hit suburbs—hundreds of houses in places like Bundamba, North Booval, East Ipswich, Brassall, North Ipswich, Moores Pocket, Basin Pocket and so many other places. I visited many areas, and I walked the streets providing advice, support and care.
I want to thank my staff, too, who did a great job during the floods helping people living with the trauma they are going through. I'm still amazed by the people I met who were cleaning out their homes and dumping treasured items, photo albums and furniture, people like Francis Togia, at Diane Court in North Booval, or Lorraine Dunn and Kevin Enright, at Christine Court, also in North Booval. While Francis was busy preparing to rebuild his kids' bedroom under his house, Lorraine and Kevin, aged in their 70s and 80s, were not coming back, and that's what has happened for a lot of people—they're not coming back. For businesspeople in the heart of Ipswich, we've got issues in Marsden Parade, Limestone Street and Brisbane Street. We've got people like Noel and Janet Roberts, who have relocated their Ace Computer World over to Yamanto from Ipswich. We have issues there, and the council needs to have a look at that. There are flood issues, and it took a long time for people to get help.
I want to thank some local heroes, and there are so many of them: Bruce Robertson, for the great work he did at Brassall State School as principal, leading that community that was inundated, with one building almost destroyed, rebuilding to do and sewage in the playgrounds. I met 25-year-old Jordan Smith, who was doorknocking flood affected people in North Ipswich. I'd heard all about him. He was helping flood affected people, delivering sandwiches and water, helping people move heavy items and checking on their welfare. He'd been flooded when he was living in Rockhampton. He wanted to do his bit. Troy Dixon in North Booval did the same, driving around, providing food and drinks, supplying drinks on his front lawn, providing his laundry facilities for flood affected neighbours and offering a place to sleep for those who couldn't sleep in their homes. Troy and his neighbour Anna spent their entire pay cheques on food and drinks, while the public started dropping off items for them to help their neighbours. Troy was amazed that, even when people had lost everything, they kept on smiling. These are great heroes. They are fantastic people. There are so many I could name, but they're just a few. There are a lot of things we can learn.
I want to thank the Services Australia staff, but the flood eligibility when it comes to 'adversely affected' is too restrictive. The amounts need to be increased. The delivery of services needs to be quicker. The ADF need to be applied more quickly in my community. The Ipswich City Council needs to do better in terms of road closure signs, and why we only had one flood evacuation centre in Ipswich, at the showgrounds, is beyond me when you could have multiple centres in the Somerset region. We had multiple centres in the 2011 floods.
There are lots of things we can do better, but at every level of government this is the time to rebuild and support people. There is a time and place for review, and for hard questions of all of us, at every level of government, as to how we can improve situations, including voluntary buybacks in places. I thank the community who backed it, the clubs like the Karalee Tornadoes Rugby League Club, the Norths Tigers Rugby League Club and the Ipswich Knights Soccer Club. All of them, and so many others, were affected. We're with you, and we're going to back you and help you to recover.
It is shocking that just a couple of weeks ago we were devastated by the scenes from northern New South Wales, and today again we're seeing the footage of what's happened to Lismore. After those poor people have probably just started to get on top of the devastation of the last lot of floods, to be facing the same devastation again really is beyond words. It is beyond words to think about how difficult things must be in northern New South Wales at the moment. I want to send a particular message to those who have been evacuated and those who are struggling in Lismore, Byron Bay, Ballina and all of the towns surrounding those centres.
Of course, northern New South Wales is not the only part of Australia that's suffered devastating flooding in recent weeks, and I think all of us who are speaking in this debate would join in sending our heartfelt best wishes and support to every community that's been affected in Queensland and in New South Wales—in northern New South Wales, in Western Sydney and in other parts of Sydney. Even in my own electorate, in the centre of the biggest city in the country, we had some spot flooding, and we had families and businesses affected by that. So this is an incredibly widespread series of events. My heartfelt plea to all of those who continue to be affected is to stay safe, follow the advice of police and emergency services to stay out of floodwaters in particular, and look after each other.
I was in South-East Queensland with the member for Blair and the member for Moreton immediately after the worst flooding in their electorates. I have to say that it was confronting to walk through streets covered in mud, to walk onto the front lawns of homes covered in mud, and to walk into homes and see the watermark way above my head. In fact, in the homes that we were visiting, the water had completely filled the downstairs area and we were looking at watermarks upstairs. So these homes had been flooded above ceiling height. These families had just cleaned up from the last flood a few years ago and were just getting back on their feet, only to suffer this devastation again. It is incredible what human beings can endure in circumstances such as these.
I truly wish that more of the $4.8 billion fund that the government had set aside for disasters had been used. The Emergency Response Fund has now been in place for three disaster seasons and has gained $800 million in interest at a time when that money should have been used to build culverts, levees and emergency evacuation centres. It's clear what a lot of these communities need, and they're quite happy to tell you what they need: they need to stay safe and have a place to go when things get really bad. That this fund exists is beyond understanding. Apparently, it's like a term deposit: 'We're not going to touch it until we grow up.' I don't know what the problem is and why the rollout of this fund has been so slow, but it is completely unacceptable. Labor have said that, if we were in government, we would spend at least $200 million a year of a reconstituted fund on those projects, which would help keep communities safer, as opposed to the impacts we 've seen through these most recent disasters.
Local members, both government and opposition, have been working phenomenally hard in their communities to try and help them recover. I had the Human Services portfolio in 2011. I was ringing local members in Queensland, both LNP members and Labor members, and asking, 'Do you have the help you need?' Local members are phenomenally connected to their communities and arguing for what their communities need for recovery.
But I'm not sure if anybody's had quite the experience that my state colleague Janelle Saffin had. Her home has been completely destroyed and she had to swim for her life to get out of her flooded property. All members of parliament are working well in their communities, but Janelle, it seems, is lucky not to have lost her life. She is in the Lismore area. Having been in Lismore after past floods, I know the toll it takes on local communities who, let's face it, struggle at the best of times. People who are running small businesses in country towns like Lismore aren't living a life of luxury; they're working very hard every day. I know that these most recent two flood events, back-to-back, will really take their toll. I'm grateful to all of the people who are working hard in communities that have been flood affected. People in an official capacity are there— our emergency services personnel; our Defence personnel; and the public servants who are going up from the Department of Human Services and others agencies to help people get the payments that they need just to buy nappies, buy medicine, get their prescriptions filled. I am grateful to all of them for doing that work of helping people. There is also the example of volunteering that we see after natural disasters. Every single time, you see Australians turning up without question, with no thought for themselves, not stinting in their labour to help their neighbours. I saw this with the member for Blair and the member for Moreton when I was visiting their electorates. I ran into people I knew there. They were a long way from home and were covered in mud, literally hosing out people's homes—washing the mud out of lounge rooms. Thank you again to all of those volunteers as well.
I will finish by saying this. On that trip to Brisbane, one of the places that my colleague the member for Blair took me to was Ipswich State High School. It's a fantastic, brilliant high school that is brilliantly led. Their oval had been completely covered by the floods. Their school hall was in a pretty poor condition, and was even before the floods. I was really happy to announce, with the member for Blair, a $2 million investment in a new community sports hub for that school. These kinds of practical investments are really the things we will need to do to help communities rebuild, to help them reconnect with one another and to help them recover from what has been a really devastating incident, coming on the back of these natural disasters that seem to become more frequent and worse with the passage of time.