Tuesday 11 August 2020
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Australian PM - 1 month ago

Statement On Indulgence - Natural Disasters

Mr Morrison: (Cook—Prime Minister) (14:00): I rise on indulgence to update the House on the storms and the bushfires. The storms were in New South Wales, of course, and the bushfires are in Queensland. As we know, Sydney and other parts of New South Wales are mopping up after a major storm—one of the worst in Sydney s memory. The storm system that moved across greater Sydney yesterday brought about 200 millimetres of rain, more than one month s average in a single day, as well as damaging winds, hail, severe thunderstorms and hazardous surf. Roads were closed due to flash flooding, fallen trees and landslides, and in Western Sydney a number of vehicles were trapped in floodwaters. There were blackouts and school closures as well. In total, 18 floodwater rescues took place, with the New South Wales SES receiving 2,063 requests for assistance. The Central Coast, and I know that the member for Robertson would be concerned here, and the south coast region, so the same for the member for Gilmore, were also hit by this system. Three deaths have been attributed to the storms. This is a terrible tragedy. One of those deaths was an SES volunteer who was responding to the storms—out there helping others when he lost his life. He was a volunteer with a young family. It is truly heartbreaking and our thoughts are with his family at this terrible time for them. Nine people have also been injured, including two police officers—again, selflessly serving and out there for all of us. I have spoken with Premier Berejiklian and conveyed the Commonwealth s willingness to assist as and when is needed. There has been no formal request for assistance from New South Wales at this time, and I want to commend the New South Wales State Emergency Services and other authorities for the tremendous work they ve done in supporting their citizens. While these events have unfolded in New South Wales, Queenslanders have been facing challenges of a very different kind. Major bushfires are burning—more than 105 active bushfires and grassfires—and extreme conditions are expected to continue in the northern and eastern parts of the state over the next seven days. The Bureau of Meteorology has assessed that the current conditions are easing, which is welcome. However, they remain concerned, as winds are set to increase this afternoon. As well, forecasts are for severe to extreme heatwave conditions from Cooktown to Gladstone and extending into Central and north-western Queensland over the next seven days. Emergency warnings are current for fires burning at Deepwater and seven watch-and-act fires are burning across the state, and also one advanced fire. I should also say that there is an emergency warning at Captain Creek. Evacuation centres are open at Rockhampton Showgrounds, the Central Queensland University at Rockhampton, Miriam Vale, Gladstone and Sarina. To those Australians in these areas, or who face similar warnings in the days ahead, I simply say this: please take the advice you are given. You can rebuild a home, but you cannot rebuild a lost family. It s now time to listen, to stay calm and to put those you love first. I commend the response of Queensland authorities. That tremendous response is being bolstered by support from around the country—New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria and Western Australia. Tasmania is also in the process of sending assistance. Their contribution is being coordinated out of the State Disaster Coordination Centre in Brisbane. I can report that I have continued to keep in contact with Premier Palaszczuk and that the Commonwealth disaster assistance plan has been activated. This is the formal mechanism which creates an open channel between the Queensland state government and the Commonwealth for Queensland to seek assistance in any range of areas from the Commonwealth. The ADF are providing support, as required, and stand ready to respond to any request that is put to them, according to their capabilities, from the Queensland government. That includes, currently, the refuelling of firefighting aircraft out of Amberley. In the last 24 hours we have responded to a call for such assistance, from the Queensland government to help the Gladstone local government area, and this is what we will continue to do in the days and in the months ahead. Earlier today the Deputy Prime Minister and I, with the Assistant Minister for Home Affairs, attended the Crisis Coordination Centre here in Canberra, where we were further briefed on both of these situations. Our emergency services around Australia are doing tremendous work. Our state governments are doing a tremendous job, whether in Queensland or in New South Wales. I commend Premier Palaszczuk and Premier Berejiklian on the work of both of their governments. The members for Capricornia and Flynn are not here they are with their communities in Queensland, as is Senator Canavan. They attended the local disaster management meeting in Rockhampton overnight. They are a vital conduit between the Commonwealth and these communities. I know there are other members here in the chamber who represent these communities, like the member for Leichhardt, the member for Wide Bay and other members. They, I know, will be keen to get back to their communities. Everyone is lending a hand and stepping up. Mates are helping mates. They re stepping up, they re reaching out and they re helping and comforting those in need. That s the Australian way. I conclude with these remarks. This is going to be a tough summer ahead for all of us. This is the brief and the warning we ve already seen from Emergency Management Australia. There is currently material being prepared by Emergency Management Australia that will be available to all members which will assist them in working with their communities to ensure that they can provide any role they can in supporting their communities to prepare for the summer season ahead of us. It may well be that more homes will come under threat, and we pray they will not be that more hectares could be ravaged, and we pray that that won t and that more lives could be affected, and we ll pray and do everything we can within our power to ensure that that does not occur. To those affected already: on behalf of this parliament, I offer our thoughts, our prayers and the support of 25 million people who will stand with you for as long as it takes.

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