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, thirteen lives were lost. 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. Homes and businesses have been destroyed; families have lost precious possessions collected over a lifetime; and the trauma will linger for ages – coming back every time it rains hard. When lows return many feel low again.
My community has been through this before. There was the famous 1974 deluge and then the 2011 floods also hit my community hard. Sadly, some families that were flooded in 2011 are again facing heart-breaking clean-up and rebuilding.
I know my community is resilient. I know they’ll pull through this and rebuild their homes and lives. But it’s tough. It’s challenging. It’s draining, much slower than the flood waters do.
I would like to thank the wonderful community groups in Moreton that immediately swung into action, setting up pop-up evacuation centres for families – where they could also take their pets; providing shelter, electricity to charge phones, meals and comfort.
Yeronga Community Centre
Wellers Hill Bowls Club
Corinda Bowls Club
The Clubhouse Moorooka
Dewars Refrigeration at Rocklea who allowed use of business facility to operate as a relief hub at Rocklea
Graceville presbyterian church
Tzu-Chi Buddhist Compassion relief Foundation
Archerfield Rotary Club
Lions Club of Ekibin
Parents from St Laurences
Yeronga Park Swimming Centre
Dunlop Park Memorial Swimming Pool
Oxley Senior Citizens
Lou Bromley (from Oxley)
Jackie Holyoake from Salisbury
Bangladesh Puja Cultural Society Inc Brisbane
Sundays Café (Anthony)
St Thomas Moore Facebook group
Rocklea Facebook group
Desley Griffiths from Sandlewood
And the many unnamed people who donated goods and food and turned up to help.
And Brisbane City Councillors Nicole Johnston and Steve Griffiths and state MP’s 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. It’s heartbreaking.
In 2011 when Prime Minister Julia Gillard ensured there were Centrelink workers on the ground almost immediately to help people apply for their disaster payments. I remember those commonwealth workers wearing teal shirts 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 Government Department in Moreton. The Morrison Government expected people from flooded in Chelmer and Graceville to row and drive to Chandler – 25 kilometres away. Three in Longman and none in Moreton/Griffith/Oxley/Rankin combined. 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. And I thank those Services Australia workers who have been so helpful.
In 2011 I remember vividly the ADF arriving to help – again almost immediately. The night of the flood in fact.
In 2022, it took many days before any ADF arrived in Moreton.
There was a stark contrast between the Commonwealth Government support for locals in Moreton in 2011 and 2022.
That’s disappointing. It’s a symptom of a bigger problem with this Government. They’re not there when we need them. They’re there for the photo-op, 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 tougher than in 2011.
Lauren from Oxley had no power for 6 days. Her back fence was damaged as it was used to evacuate other residents. Her house has mould from the water. Tools in a shed were destroyed. Lauren’s application for the Disaster Recovery Payment has been rejected twice.
David from Rocklea, who has four children and is a single income family, had three metres of water through his property. He is living at the flooded property - upstairs. David said he tried to tell his neighbours it was serious but there were no official warnings.
Yuri and his mother live at Rocklea. Yuri says the message to move out was too late. Yuri’s mother is staying at 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 6 to 12 months. The water reached the roofline. 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 that 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 TV for warnings but there were none, so they went to bed. Luckily one neighbour had to go to work early and set his alarm for 4am. When the alarm went off, he stepped out of his bed into a river of water. What a shock!
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 wasn’t there any warning.
The Queensland Government last year requested the Commonwealth to fund an upgrade to the Flood Warning Infrastructure Network as a priority. That request was refused.
The Government’s $4 billion Disaster Recovery and Mitigation Fund is sitting untouched, earning interest - $700,000 so far - 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. 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, and the one after that. Because we know that we are going to face more frequent and more severe disasters because of climate change.
It’s not the sticky dark mud, the stinking water or the smashed-up sodden piles of belongings on footpaths that stays with me in the aftermath of my community again facing flood. Those phenomena are memorable but what stays closest to my heart is how our community always comes together to help out others. This is what I hold dear. It's what inspires me to keep fighting for my community.