Bill's Speeches

STATEMENT ON INDULGENCE: TASMANIAN FIRES AND QUEENSLAND FLOODS - HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA -TUESDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2019

 

 

I thank the Prime Minister for his words.
 
We live in a beautiful country, but it can be very brutal.
 
This summer has brought fires to Victoria, Western Australia and most severely in Tasmania.
 
And devastating floods in North Queensland, from Townsville and surging through Western Queensland. 
 
When I was at the Disaster Relief Centre in Townsville, I asked them to explain to me the volume of water which came through the Ross River Dam in those three days.
 
It was said that it was the equivalent in three days of all of Sydney Harbour rushing through.  
 
Thousands and thousands of homes were affected - the Member for Herbert’s home was among them, hermother's was flooded.
 
But like so many other residents, Cathy hasn’t been focused on herself.
 
She's been everywhere, helping with sandbags and helpingco-ordinate the volunteers.
 
I want to thank and commend everyone involved in the recovery effort. The emergency services personnel, the council workers lead by the resolute Mayor, Jenny Hill and her leadership team who turned out to help even though their own homes in many cases were underwater or damaged.
 
I acknowledge the work of Premier Palaszczuk.
 
And of course, we should acknowledge the members of the Australian Defence Force.
 
Townsville is a garrison town.
 
The locals see the ADF out and about more than most Australians.
 
But their calm and professional presence and performance amidst the swift rising waters, in the pitch-black night and sightings of crocodiles, was such a comfort and reassurance to those in trouble, and it should be a source of pride to all of us.
 
But perhaps the picture which moved me most about Townsville was the image of highway turned into a boat ramp.
 
And there, at the edge of the flood waters, were cars and boat trailers - no easy-feet, navigated to back up the tinnies and the boats into the water.
 
Literally tens and tens of boats there from locals just to help their fellow Townsvillians get out of trouble.
 
I can tell Australians that the Queenslanders I had the privilege to speak to, whether they were cleaning-up the local RSL or comforting friends in trouble. Their resilience, their cheerfulness represents the very best of our country.
 
AndMr Speaker, after these monsoonal rains, 800 properties from the outskirts of Townsville to Hughenden and Cloncurry and Julia Creek and Richmond - all the way to Winton are now in flood.
 
After years of unforgiving drought, the stock is now drowning, dying in bogs, or from pneumonia.
 
The devastation is overwhelming.
 
In the Member for Kennedy’s electorate, I know many farmers have lost everything and I know he would share their pain and sadness.
 
I saw on Channel 9, Jaye Hall, from Julia Creek in his electorate, simply say:
 
“This is the worst tragedy I’ve ever had”.  
 
But she went on to share the story of a note she received from her two children, Madison and Wyatt.
 
They wrote:
 
‘Dear mum, we are sorry about all of these cattle.
If there is anything we can do to help you, let us know.
We hope you start to feel better soon.
If we need more money you could take mine out of my bank and put it in yours.
We love you very much.’
 
Think of those words, from those two kids.
 
“If there is anything we can do to help, let us know”.
 
I want to congratulate Madison and Wyatt on summing up the mood of the nation.
 
Because that’s what we say to all the Queenslanders affected, as a parliament, as a nation:
 
If there is anything we can do to help, let us know.
 
And I want the insurance companies to hear that message, loud and clear.
 
After the floods, 13,560 claims have already been registered, and Australia is watching.
 
Whether it’s insurance or government payments or relief from bank loans, Queenslanders should just get the help they need, the compensation they have paid for – as soon as possible.
 
No excuses, no delays, no hiding behind the lawyer, just the right thing, done quickly.
 
And in terms of Australians visiting Townsville, give it a few weeks and then invest in the tourism of Townsville and the surrounding areas - that's a great way to help.
Of course,Mr Speaker, as we sit here, 486 remarkable people are fighting fires in Tasmania - on the ground and in the air.
 
175 have come from interstate, or New Zealand, to help a friend in need.
 
The scale of the task they confront is immense.
 
1,800kilometres of fire edge.
 
205,000 hectares burning or burned-out.
 
Homes and outbuildingslevelled.
 
And one of the great world wildernesses, a beautiful, distinctive part of our nation, reduced to ash in part.
 
And the economic consequences have also been grave.
 
The fire at Zeehan closed the roads and touristscancelled their bookings.
 
Small businesses in Strahan – the gateway to one of the world’s greatwildernesses, have lost thousands.

But again, there are things which always give us hope and heart.
 
At the Huonville Evacuation Centre, I met Lachie, he is 6year old, he's been helping make breakfast every morning, and that day was busy preparing lunch for, what he reckons, were 300 firefighters.
 
Sonya Lovell and her fantastic daughter Bronwyn who run the Que Sera Sera coffee cart, putting fuel in the tank for volunteers and emergency services personnel.
 
Julie Collins also shared a message with me that she received from one of her constituents, a heartfelt tribute to the kindness of herneighbours.
 
It goes like this:
 
“When it was frightening or eerily quiet, there was always someone there for us.
To house and water our sheep, to see if we needed somewhere for our dogs, a place to leave our cows and caravan, a meal or drinking water to share, some information, a kind word, or just to say:  ‘where are you’ and ‘stay safe’.
The Huon Valley is a truly tremendous community and I have never been more grateful and humbled than I am today.”
 
Mr Speaker, we are all grateful and humble by the spirit of our people.
 
And we are all humbled by their courage. 


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