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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 17596

Transcript of Joint Press Conference, Brisbane

Photo of Gillard, Julia

Gillard, Julia

Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013

More information about Gillard, Julia on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 12/01/2011

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 17596

PREMIER BLIGH: Well good morning. I welcome to Queensland the Prime Minister and Chief of Defence Angus Houston as two of our largest cities Ipswich and our capital city of Brisbane prepare and begin to experience the worst natural disaster in our history.

As our city prepares for that disaster we are also managing a number of major incidents in other areas of Queensland and I'd like to work through some of the issues that are unfolding in those towns and cities first and then go to the Brisbane and Ipswich area.

Today because of the clearing of the rain we will see a major search and rescue effort into the Lockyer Valley searching for those people who remain missing. Very sad news overnight with further missing notifications made to the Queensland Police and the number they are searching is over 90. We can confirm that at this stage we have no confirmations of further deaths but we do expect that our emergency search and rescue teams today may face a very difficult and emotional task as they search for a possibly find bodies in some of those isolated areas.

Our thoughts are with those works and particularly with those families who are continuing to hope and anxiously wait for news of their loved ones, we hope that they have good news at the end of today although we do stress that it may take several days of major search and rescue efforts given the damage in some of these areas, to properties and to local terrain.

The Coroner is moving to the Lockyer Valley today to assist with these efforts and we have 8 specialist counselling teams including people particularly trained in counselling children and grief counsellors and they will be locating across the towns in that valley today.

In other parts of regional Queensland we're continuing to see floodwaters rise, the town of Dalby still has 125 people in an evacuation centre although the water is now stable there. In Chinchilla we have a major flood incident occurring with waters continuing to rise and current advice is that Chinchilla is likely to experience a flood peak over and above what they experienced about 10 days ago.

The town of Condamine was completely evacuated yesterday evening for the second time in 10 days and they are likely to be out of their home again for a period of time. The towns of Goondiwindi and Texas are also facing rising waters, Goondiwindi is expected to be within potentially half a metre of its levy banks, that could see those levies collapse and we are keeping a very careful watch on Goondiwindi, this is a town of some 5000 people.

The town of Texas, a relatively small town of about 600 people, are also seeing waters rising and evacuations have started in Texas.

The good news is that the water in Rockhampton is falling, although very, very slowly, similarly the water in Gympie is falling, but that water from Gympie is now making its way to Maryborough and Maryborough can expect to see its waters rise and reach a peak tomorrow.

In Bundaberg we are also seeing some minor rises and some new flooding occurring in Bundaberg.

I give you all that information so that you can appreciate the scale of this incident and appreciate that our emergency teams are working across a number of areas, across an enormous part of Queensland. We also note that as we start to prepare here in the capital city, that many of these towns are experiencing this event for the second time. I think we need to draw inspiration from their resilience and draw inspiration and courage from the experiences they've had and are continuing to face.

If I can move now to Ipswich and Brisbane.

In Ipswich at 7:30am this morning the water had risen to 18.9 metres, there is some slightly good news in Ipswich and that is that the expected peak has been revised down from 22 metres to 20.5, however they experienced 20.7 in 1974, so we are in a 1974 flood situation in Ipswich. I stress that in making those 1974 comparisons, both the city of Ipswich and the city of Brisbane are vastly different places than they were in 1974, we have significantly population, we have more dense construction, we have people living in high rise units where in 1974 nothing existed. So many more people are expected to be affected by this event even though the waters levels may be relatively similar.

So for example in Ipswich today at that level we expected to peak today at 20.5, that we expect that that will inundate and affect 4000 properties in Ipswich, 1500 are currently affected by floodwaters. We have 10 evacuation centres operational in Ipswich and 1200 people in those evacuation centres, many more out of their homes and staying with friends and relatives.

The nearby towns of Toogoolawah and Esk are completely isolated. They're not necessarily experiencing floodwater but are completely isolated by cut roads and we'll be getting supplies into those towns as soon as possible.

Here in Brisbane the water is currently at around 3.1 metres and it is rising, we expect it to rise relatively slowly this morning but much more quickly after lunch this afternoon. By this afternoon we expect it to peak around 4.5 metres and rise to 5.5 metres tomorrow morning, Thursday morning. Sometime around 4am tomorrow morning we expect to see those waters peak around the 5.5 mark, in 1974 it peaked at 5.45. So by 4am tomorrow morning we expect Brisbane to be experiencing flooding of 1974 proportions and slightly higher.

We have an evacuation centre established at the RNA Showgrounds, there are currently 182 people registered to accommodate there overnight but of course we expect that number to swell significantly throughout the day.Those people who are unable to get to higher ground with friends or family, can I please encourage you to make early registration and early arrangements with the evacuation centres. The first centre is the RNA Showgrounds, from 8am this morning, the second centre was activated at the QE2 Stadium on the south side of Brisbane.

The Lord Mayor advises me he is speaking now with major churches to see whether it is possible to utilise church halls and other church facilities in local neighbourhoods should that be necessary.

We have the very significant issues arising on the Brisbane River. Many of you will have seen the images of pontoons and boats attached to pontoons floating down the river. We have salvage operations occurring to ensure that we don't see further damage caused by those floating objects running into businesses and homes. We have a very significant operation being undertaken right now across the river from the Regatta Hotel where a large barge, known as The Island, and many people in Brisbane will know that boat, it is at risk of coming loose of its moorings and there are an operation right now to secure that facility.

Throughout today there will be a number of critical issues that will be managed by our emergency teams. Firstly the Port of Brisbane is now closed and will only be open for emergency supplies under police and harbour authority's escort. Traffic management plans are being put into place, as we see power cut off in some areas, and I will talk a little bit about power in a moment, but as we see power cut off, we are likely to see some traffic lights out around the CBD parts of Brisbane. A very significant traffic plan is being put into place and police will be doing everything in their power to manage that today, but in a large capital city, I think you can all imagine the difficulties they will face.

This is likely to be a significant problem with roads cutting from localised flooding and traffic lights out. One of the biggest messages I send to people in the city of Brisbane today and Ipswich is do not travel if you do not have. It is a danger to the rest of the population to have people out travelling unnecessarily. What that will do is take police and emergency resources off the front line where they are needed to protect and save lives. Please, this incident is not a tourist event. This is a deeply serious natural disaster, stay in your homes, do not travel unless it is absolutely necessary.

The second message is for those who haven't already done so, find a friend in high places. There are many parts of Brisbane that will not be affected. Brisbane is a very hilly city, many of us have friends and family living on those hills. Please if you are not going to be affected, reach out to a neighbour, reach out to a friend or a family member. We will ensure everything is being done to evacuate people to official evacuation centres but this could last for several days and I can assure you that you would rather be, if possible, with family than in one of these centres.

The water we are preparing for is a worst case scenario in Brisbane. We anticipate some 2,100 streets will be affected, that19,700 residences are likely to experience flooding across their entire property. We expect a further 3,500 commercial properties to similarly experience flood water across the entire property.

This is a very significant event, it will create enormous disruption and dislocation.

We are already seeing the beginning of this flood, the Brisbane River has broken its banks at Yeronga, near the Corso. We are seeing flooding starting this morning in places like Milton, Toowong, Jindalee, the Graceville area and we are likely to see more and more as the day progresses.

The fact that this is peaking tomorrow does not mean we won't see very dangerous situations emerging right now.

I think we've all woken up in Brisbane to a very surreal experience. The sky is blue, we are facing an almost perfect Queensland summer day. We can take no comfort from that blue sky. The water and rain have already done their damage, they are in the catchment and they are on their way down our river system. So please do not think, do not take any comfort from the fact we've got blue sky here this morning.

Can I just conclude by acknowledging that everybody out there, no doubt, is experiencing this as a quite scary and frightening event. Can I say that I know in my bones that Queenslanders are up to this and that we can take it and I know that because I know we have the best people on our front line. They are coming from all over Australia, from other states, SES, emergency workers, police, from New Zealand and from the Australian Defence Force.

I know it because we've enormous resources that are now deployed here in the South-East and in other parts of Queensland, including a massive boost from the Defence Forces and the Prime Minister will outline that in more detail.

I also know that we are very strong and that we have enormous community spirit. This event will test us as it is testing people in regional Queensland; they have prevailed and the people here in the South-East will equally prevail.

Ladies and gentlemen please keep updated throughout the day, this is a rapidly moving event. I thank everybody to date for their marvellous effort. We've got, I think, the hardest times are still ahead of us.

If I can invite the Prime Minister to join me and to make some comments. Prime Minister, thank you for being in Queensland today.

PM: Thank you. Thank you very much to the Premier for that introduction and can I say to the Premier, it's been a genuine privilege to attend the State Disaster Management Committee meeting this morning and to hear directly what great work is being done by emergency service personnel right throughout Queensland.

I'm here today with the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, with our minister, Joseph Ludwig who will concentrate on Queensland flood recovery. I'm joined by the Chief of the Defence Force, by my national security adviser and by the head of Emergency Management Australia.

And we have come to Queensland today to be in Brisbane to very visibly say that we are working with the people of Queensland shoulder to shoulder as they face this flood crisis.

Throughout the days of this flood crisis, the Australian Defence Force has done great work to support the people of Queensland. They have been out there each day as floodwaters have threatened. As the crisis has changed in its dimensions, we have stepped up Australian Defence Force efforts and we are taking a further step up today. We are bringing to bear an additional seven helicopters, that will mean that there are 15 helicopters available throughout Queensland and one of the biggest sources of work for those helicopters will be the very difficult, very urgent and occasionally heartbreaking task of search and rescue in the Lockyer Valley.

We are also ensuring that we have more C-130 aircraft available. These are the aircraft capable of carrying food and supplies in order to resupply parts of Queensland, townships in Queensland, that have become isolated and need food and supplies brought in by air.

We will continue to work with the people of Queensland through the Australian Defence Force. We have several hundred Australian Defence Force personnel on a notice ready to move, and during the course of the day more and more personnel will join the efforts in Brisbane to assist with tasks like sandbagging.

I understand that across Queensland and particularly in Ipswich and Brisbane today, there would be many frightened people anxious about what is going to happen next. To those people, I would say that the Australian Defence Force will be there providing support to the magnificent emergency personnel in Queensland, to be working with them, to support Queenslanders through this crisis.

And of course we know that there are many Australians who are waiting very anxiously for news of loved ones who haven't been located since the wall of water hit Toowoomba and moved through the Lockyer Valley. That's why such a priority is being put on making helicopters available for the search and rescue task

At the same time, we will continuing to support the people of Queensland with emergency payments and, of course, at the appropriate time, when flood waters enable people to go back to their homes, with grants to assist with recovery and rebuilding for families, for small businesses and primary producers.

But my task today is to give some information to those who might be leaving their homes now, who are evacuating now, and who need emergency assistance. This is the first initial payment available with later payments down the track when people are in recovery mode.

In South-East Queensland today, Centrelink offices are not staffed. Just like other major employers, the Commonwealth has enabled Centrelink staff, many of whom live in flood-affected areas themselves in Brisbane and Ipswich, to make appropriate arrangements for themselves and their family and to make sure they are not moving through streets and causing the kind of traffic and issues that the Premier referred to.

Therefore, the best way of people getting Centrelink assistance today is to ring 180 22 66 in order to access emergency payments and support. We will also be having people in recovery centres, for example, there are Centrelink staff in the recovery centre in Ipswich.

1,000 Centrelink staff are focusing on Queensland flood efforts and making sure that they are getting appropriate information to the people of Queensland. The system is working well, we have made around 10,000 emergency payments, that's $17 million that has got into people's pockets as the first initial payment to help people through and, as I say, there are later payments when people are looking to replace household contents, going back to their small business or their farm, engaging in clean-up and rebuilding.

I also want to alert people to the fact there are income support arrangements. There will obviously be people who cannot go about their ordinary work, employees who can't reach work, small business operators whose businesses are flooded and cannot be operated, primary producers who cannot get their goods to market. As I announced on Monday, there are special income support payments available for people in those circumstances and once again, they should access that 180 22 66 number.

Premier, can I say to you and through you to the people of Queensland, Queensland has already faced some dark days and there are dark days still ahead but Australia is standing with you, working with Queensland to help Queensland through this crisis and we will be there shoulder to shoulder not only for the days ahead but for the many months of recovery and rebuilding to come.

And Premier through you, can I also say a very big thanks to all of the emergency services personnel, to all of the volunteers, to all of the people in local communities, the local mayors, the local councillors who are doing such a good job to lead their communities during a very difficult period and difficult time. I've seen firsthand today at the committee meeting I've just attended, the professionalism and determination of the emergency services personnel of Queensland. It really is very heart warming to see it and my thanks go to everyone who is making a contribution.

JOURNALIST: Premier in Brisbane and Ipswich in particular, what are the worst affected areas at the moment?

In the Brisbane area the areas that we've started to see the first flooding are in the Jindalee reach of the river, in the Milton and Toowong areas and in the South Brisbane and Yeronga reach of the river, but this is rapidly changing. You can expect to see more and more suburbs join that list very quickly over the next couple of hours, and I'm sorry I can't give you a similar list for Ipswich but I can say in Ipswich we have 1,500 homes, so very significant sections of Ipswich, we're still getting final reports in from them. Can I just say that people in Ipswich last night really saw the water come up quite dramatically and there's more to come and that is what is what people in Brisbane will experience over the next 24 to 48 hours.

JOURNALIST: Can you confirm reports that there's been any looting in Ipswich and whether anyone has been forcibly evacuated (inaudible)

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER STEWART: Certainly we've dealt with a couple of instance of stealing in the Ipswich and another area in Gatton and Lockyer Valleys. We're following up on those but police have responded to those.

BLIGH: Sorry I should say, I understand there was one incident where police powers were used last night to protect the safety of one individual.

JOURNALIST: How long are you expecting the water levels to stick around Brisbane?The current advice is that the water levels, once they peak at about 4am tomorrow could last at around that level at least until Saturday before they start going down. But there will be many people for whom it doesn't go down enough for them to either access their home or their street for more days after that. So as these rise reasonably quickly, they will move on but it will take several days. That's why it's important not to be travelling around at the moment. If you decide to go off to the shops or to your workplace unnecessarily, you may find yourself there for many days. The best place to be at the moment is at home.

JOURNALIST: The Commissioner earlier said earlier there were a couple of families stranded on rooftops out at Lowood and there was an emergency rescue operation happening out there. Is there any update on that?

BLIGH: We have successfully rescued 8 people from roof tops in the Lowood area, I understand that involved a couple of families. A number of people off I think two or three roofs. So there was rapid rising water in Lowood last night around 3am and people got to safety on rooftops; early morning rescues have seen all of those people rescued safely.

I might just give one update because I've had a number of inquiries and my office has had a number of people ringing in. I think the heart of many Australians were very touched and concerned by images on Monday night of a family sitting on top of a white car and the car appeared to be sinking in the Toowoomba incident. I can advise that involved a mother and a father and a child. The mother and child have been located and are safe. The father is unfortunately one of those on the missing person list. So for all of those people who have been particularly concerned about that family, that was heartrending images and a great feeling of helplessness I think for everybody who saw it. I'm very relieved that the mother and child are safe, but as I said we are still searching for the father in that case.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister what else are you going to be doing today, and are you staying up here indefinitely?

PM: Look I will be staying in Brisbane for a period of time. Today I am intending to be briefed by our Commander Luke Foster, who is commanding Queensland Operation Flood Assist for us. I will travel to Enoggera in order to talk to him and meet directly with Defence Force personnel. Obviously I would like to get out and about too, meeting the people of Queensland and talking to them as they deal with this flood situation. In terms of where that is possible, obviously we'll be working with Queensland and taking the necessary advice. To echo what the Premier is saying, obviously none of us want to distract from emergency efforts that are underway now, but I do want to be our speaking to people on the ground. I found in the visiting that I've done so far in Queensland that you always learn something from talking to people and their direct experience and then I can feed it back in to make sure that our government systems are responding directly to their needs.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) commit to flood mitigation funding for Queensland, perhaps an expansion of the Wivenhoe Dam, which obviously isn't quite big enough, and perhaps the Bureau of Meteorology who said yesterday that they're not up to scratch to identify what -

PREMIER BLIGH: Can I just comment on that because I was at that press conference, that is not what the Bureau of Meteorology said. What the Bureau of Meteorology said was that currently available technology is not capable of resolution to the degree that would enable an event like that to have been pin pointed. So I think it's very important to understand, our Bureau of Meteorology has world class, most cutting edge equipment, but the technology available, science is not quite at that stage yet. Science may well get there and protect us better in future, but it's not there yet.

JOURNALIST: Have you had an opportunity yet to sit back just for a moment and sort of cut yourself away from all the briefings that you get? Your electorate is going to severely impacted here, maybe even your home, have you had a chance to sit back and feel the emotion of what your residents and friends are probably going to be feeling?

PREMIER BLIGH: Along with many other people in Queensland my family is not immune to these experiences. My mother's house is in one of the low lying streets of West End, my brother and my sons evacuated her yesterday, she's now at my house and I'm very happy about that. So that's certainly a peace of mind for me and it's a reminder to me that there are thousands of other people going through exactly that experience.

My constituents will be severely impacted; the suburbs of East Brisbane, Norman Park, South Brisbane will all be flooded. We also have parts if Brisbane that weren't, that look completely different than they did in 1974, Southbank did not exist, we will have major areas of the city flooding in ways that we will find hard to predict and experience. So I can honestly to people, I do know what it's like to be out there worrying about your own family. This is a frightening time, but if we're all calm, if we all stick together, if we all reach out to each other, then I am absolutely confident that together with our emergency personnel and the army that we will prevail in this event.

JOURNALIST: There are reports that there are several children stuck in a child care centre out at Withcott and a couple of babies are there. Emergency Service hasn't got any closer to rescuing those children?

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER STEWART: No, certainly there is no flood activity in the Withcott area at the moment. I think what you're referring to -

JOURNALIST: Are the roads cut off?

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER STEWART: Certainly that is the case, the roads system out in the Lockyer Valley is tenuous to say the least and we're doing everything we can to address all of the calls for assistance we have.

JOURNALIST: Are there any emergency rescue operations currently underway that you can detail, like people standing on the roofs in Lowood, is there anything that you can explain to us now?

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER STEWART: Certainly there are situations that are situations happening right now in the Ipswich and Brisbane areas. I don't have particulars of those, but I do know that we're responding to multiple calls for assistance, as are all emergency service personnel.

JOURNALIST: Premier, you've told people to think about moving very early, but there's always going to be people that just simply won't until the water starts coming up in their homes. What's your advice to them, just to leave behind and get yourself out, forget about all those possessions?

PREMIER BLIGH: Without any double, we need to put human life first and there is every possibility that people will have very little time if they don't make early preparation. If you start to see water in your yard, get out, take your family and get to safety. This water could rise very, very quickly. We will have additional flood boats out and about rescuing people and getting people to safety. We have additional personnel arriving from other States today. But we need to make sure that we're working with them. We shouldn't be deliberately testing them, we should be doing everything in our own power to protect ourselves and leaving our emergency people to deal with the absolute extreme cases.

JOURNALIST: You said the Island may break away, can you also confirm reports that the Oxley's restaurant may sink and also the Wesley Hospital may need to be evacuated.

PREMIER BLIGH: Yes I can confirm Oxley's wharf restaurant is likely to sink some time likely to sink today. Salvage efforts were being made yesterday, but in the interest of safety those efforts have now stopped and it is nothing further can be done for that restaurant. And it is likely - it is however moored to the banks of the river with very strong steel cables.What is happening is those cables are pulling the restaurant down into the river. So it is very likely we will see that restaurant sink t into the river sometime today or overnight.

But it is on to the river bank and my understanding is it is likely to stay there. So the restaurant will be lost but we be don't expect to see it break but we will be monitoring that very carefully. In relation to the Wesley Hospital, there is no expectation that the Wesley Hospital will experience flooding, obviously because it's on quite a high hill.

Current work is being done just to ensure that the flooding is not likely to isolate that hospital. Obviously hospitals need to be places where we can get supplies and doctors in and out of and medical staff easily. So there is some work being done at the moment just to guarantee that we can continue to get road links into the Wesley Hospital in every possible scenario.

It's not possible to entirely rule out some evacuation of critical parents but that would be an absolute last resort, frankly because obviously that would have its own risks for those. So that is an unlikely but remote possibility.

JOURNALIST: Can you say what damage may be caused if the Island does break away from where it's situated at the moment?

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER STEWART:Certainly the options that are open to us is to allow the Island to sink actually and that is not a bad option as long as it stays in place and obviously the maritime experts are looking at and that's exactly the same with the Oxley Wharf restaurant. It is actually safer to have it in place sunk and to be able to repatriate it later

JOURNALIST: There were reports that Suncorp Stadium might be on fire after a transformer shorted out. Do you know anything about that?

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER STEWART: No, I can comment on that, I have no knowledge yet.

PREMIER BLIGH: Sorry, the one other issue I meant to raise which I think is important is I think understands that electricity and water do not mix and Energex will systemically throughout this event be having to shut down power in some parts of the city. They will only do to protect your lives, but it will cause inconvenience and it will make a difficult job of enduring this event more difficult.

And I understand that that is going to try people's patience, but you will only have your power disconnected if it is imperative to save your life and to protect you and your property from what might otherwise be catastrophic electrical events.

So you will be advised by Energex, Energex will be doing updates about areas of the city that will be cut off from electricity and obviously as soon as waters subside they will be reconnected as quickly as possible.

Many part of the CBD are being disconnected today, these are large buildings and they have substations in them, small substations generally in a lot of those large high rise CBD buildings and some of those substations located in basements will flood today and flood quickly and we need to disconnect that power so that means the whole buildings will be without power, so again, people should going to work without checking and going into the city because many of those buildings will be shut down.

JOURNALIST: Premier, the weather is so unpredictable, what are your plans for the rest of the day, are you based here or are you planning to be out and about?

PREMIER BLIGH: It's important, I think, for myself and our senior emergency people to be based here at Disaster Co-ordination Centre and be monitoring events, not only here in Brisbane, but across a very large area region of Queensland. As you heard from my earlier report, as massive as the event in Brisbane may be, we have equally significant events in places throughout regional Queensland, escalating situations in Chinchilla, in Texas, in, in Goondiwindi, so we will be monitoring those today as well.

Like the Prime Minister I will be looking for the first reasonable and available opportunity to be out talking to people who have affected by this flood. But I think Queenslanders want make sure that the person in charge is in charge today that's where I intend to be.

JOURNALIST: Are there any plans to plans to open any more evacuation centres around Brisbane?

PREMIER BLIGH: The Lord Mayor advises me that the two mayor evacuation centres for Brisbane will be the RNA Showgrounds and the QE2 Stadium, but he is equally now working as I speak with a number of major churches in around the Brisbane area, all of whom have facilities such as halls, in local communities often ground where smaller evacuation facilities may be set up, so that process is happening now.

I should say that happened spontaneous overnight in Ipswich. There are official evacuation centres in Ipswich but spontaneously local communities have got together, opened up a local church hall, took their sleeping bags down and kept everybody safe, so I thank them for their, for showing a bit in ingenuity there and that's made a big difference to the effort in Ipswich

JOURNALIST: Premier, can I just ask, the staff that are coming forward today are they volunteering to help out or are you asking them to and this isn't their primary role as the defence of nation, so how are they responding to going out and helping people?

CDF HOUSTON: Our people are always very very pleased to assist in any disaster response situation, particularly when there's a major emergency such as this. We obviously have permanent people, we also have a large number of reservists who will be involved and as we go forward you will see more and more soldiers out there doing the hard yards and they give their work very willingly, they see it as a very important part of their function as a member of the Defence Force. And I must say I am very very proud of everything they've done thus far and we will be there for the long haul and we will assist as much as we can in the days and weeks ahead. Thank you.

PREMIER BLIGH: Can I also, Angus Houston's comments that the Prime Minister and I were in Theodore the other day with Major General Mick Slater. Mick Slater and I were talking to a number of Defence personnel who were there and he asked them to put up their hand if they were on leave and every hand went up: So these were people who were otherwise on leave and they had come back off leave and were there willingly and very enthusiastically helping in Theodore.

Can I just add that while we are managing an immediate emergency response in a number of places here in South East and the South West, we know there are number of towns who are now over their flood experience and moving very much into the recovery and rebuilding phase. Can I say to all of those towns, Major General Mick Slater and his duties remain with his focus on them. So as Brisbane experiences this, the recovery and rebuilding process, under the leadership of Major General Mick Slater, continues full steam ahead. So we are not delaying that or being diverted by these events in Brisbane. Mick Slate has been already this week out in places like Bundaberg and Emerald and will continue to do so.

The rebuilding effort is happening alongside the emergency effort here in the South East. So to regional Queensland, nothing is being delayed because of these events here in Brisbane. We are looking continuously to rebuild regional Queensland as soon as humanly possible.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what assistance will be the Government give for flood mitigation and preventing this sort of disaster happening again?

PM: Well our assistance obviously flows in various stages as the flood hits people and then we move into the recovery stage. Under our Natural Disaster Relief arrangements, what we do, firstly, we provide the emergency payments that I've referred to, then we provide assistance to households, to small businesses, to primary producers, households to deal with the loss of household content and effects, small businesses and primary producers to provide clean-up money and then concessional loans so they can get back on their feet.

Apart from that we've triggered the income support arrangements that I spoke about earlier. And then we move of course to dealing with the infrastructure damage that flood waters have done. We aren't in a position for all parts of Queensland to assess that yet.

We can start doing assessments as flood waters subside and we can see what's happened to roads, to bridges, to essential community infrastructure.

Under our arrangements we can move to better what was there before, they are not simply replacement arrangements, we can provide better than was there before. So for example if we were rebuilding a levee, then there might be a need to make that at a better state in order to resist flood waters.

But all of those assessment are going to have to be done as flood waters subside. It's going to be a major major task, assessing that infrastructure and recovery need. I am pleased that we were able to make Mick Slater available to lead the recovery work here of course, a very senior and distinguished member of our Australian Defence Force.

We will continue as we move to that phase of infrastructure r building to be working in partnership with the Queensland Government and with local government so that we can get the infrastructure back up and in appropriate state for the people of Queensland. That's why I say the task of Federal Government is to stand shoulder to shoulder in these difficult days. But also for the many many months of recovery and rebuilding to come.

JOURNALIST: Premier, will you be expanding Wivenhoe Dam and do you require Federal assistance for that?

PREMIER BLIGH: I think it would be helpful for me to give you some information to understand the enormity of what is on our back door step by way of water. In 1974, when there was no dam and no dam wall, the inflowing into that catchment area and down the Brisbane River were about 1.5 million litres of water. What is now coming through dam is 2.5 million litres of water. Obviously at the end of this event we will do a significant review of Wivenhoe capacity, but I think we need to be realistic about whether any dam could hold back all of 2.5 million litres of water.

What we do know is that dam wall was not there, 2.5 million litres would be coming through Brisbane. So we already have a very significant mitigation effect for this event from the Wivenhoe Dam. We will be looking to assess the capability and performance of the Wivenhoe Dam after this event. We will similarly be looking at sensible, practical flood mitigation across the State.

But I should make point that a number of the river systems that have flooded here in Queensland already have large dams on those rivers. The Emerald flood, for example, the Fairbairn dam is on the system. In the Burnett, the Paradise Dam is there, it was built in 2005. Here in Brisbane, the Wivenhoe Dam and two on the system that went into the St George area.

So there are dams on these river systems. Dams do floods. Dams can help mitigate and minimise some of the impact that might have happened without them. But a dam cannot stop the sort of flood that is coming across the plains the Lockyer Valley and the catchment area into the Wivenhoe system.

JOURNALIST: Premier, apologies if you've already answered this question, but last week there was an estimate of around 200,000 people affected by this flood crisis. Now it's obviously affecting both the south-west and south-east, do you have an update on the numbers? Would it be close to a million do you think?

BLIGH: Clearly we'll have to do updates and I'm sorry I don't have that figure just yet, we've still got unfolding circumstances. But in Brisbane for example the current modelling predicts 19,700 homes affected. If you took an average of three people in each house, that's directly affected with their properties completely flooded, you're starting to get some very big numbers; similar sorts of 4,000 homes in Ipswich. But when we say affected we also have places where they don't have floodwaters but they are completely cut off. They have not been able to leave the town in some cases now for two and a half weeks and we've been flying supplies, medical supplies and food into them. So these floods have an effect whether they're in your backyard coming through your floorboards or whether you are just isolated and unable to leave your town.

So we will certainly be looking at updating those numbers but the other point I would make is that all of the modelling made earlier, the city of Brisbane and the city of Ipswich are just vastly different than they were in 1974. The city of Brisbane is a major capital, home to more than a million people in the direct area, so there is going to be a very big effect.

JOURNALIST: Premier it's only early but is the water responding to those computer models that the projections are based on? Is it doing exactly what the computer thought it would?

BLIGH: To date the predictions are proving to be very accurate, particularly about river levels. The hydrologists predicted that Ipswich would get to somewhere between 18 and 19 metres around midnight last night, it got to about 17.5 and by 4am this morning it was 18.9, and so within a couple of hours they're very high levels of precision. In terms of where the flood water is going, the early flood water seems to be going according to prediction but we really have to see I think this afternoon as it starts to increase the pace at which it moves. And if you're never anywhere any of the coloured lines on those maps, even if you're not directly in that area, you should be ready to take precautions and be ready to move if you need to.

JOURNALIST: There's been examples of panic buying, does that sort of concern you when so much of the rescue response is so well organised with evacuation centres being set up? And secondly when you have so many organisations and people pitching in a working together, how do you react when you hear reports of looting?

BLIGH: Look the people of Brisbane and Ipswich have had a relatively short amount of time to prepare for this event and if they've gone out and stocked up their homes with groceries then that was exactly the right thing to. The last thing we want is supermarkets full of food and people completely isolated without food and unable to access it. So for many people going out yesterday and stocking up their food supplies, getting their prescriptions filled et cetera was a very prudent preparation to make.

So I would necessarily assume that because supermarket shelves are empty that people have been irresponsible or panic buying. It is appropriate in these events, shops are likely to be closed for many days. People may not have floodwater in their own homes but may be cut off from getting out of their neighbourhood and getting to supplies.

So if people have got enough supplies in their home then we don't need to use emergency resources and send the SES or other people in by flood boat to supply them. So it's actually smart thinking and as I said I am happy if there's empty supermarket shelves, it means right now that people have grocery supplies in their homes.

In relation to looting, look I don't think there's any word bad enough for the people who do these sorts of things. These people are out of their home in the most dire of circumstances. They've had to flee in the middle of the night. They've had little to take with them and whatever is left in their homes I want that there when they get home. So anybody who sees any of this sort of activity, please report to it the police. Police are out and about patrolling and they will be in the days to come to prevent this sort of activity. I think the entire community reacts with disgust when we see people take advantage of those people who are suffering this event.

JOURNALIST: Premier we've heard about the possible outbreak of disease following these floods. Has preparation been put into place for this?

BLIGH: Across Queensland we've had a very major supply operation over the last week of additional Tetanus shots, Hepatitis B and supplies of mosquito repellent because obviously in some parts we're worried about mosquito borne diseases.

So these supplies have been out there, doctors and health centres and clinics have been ensuring that people who are involved in the clean-up are assisted to know what they should be doing; obviously it's things like rubber gloves as well.

I should say that as the clean-up starts people should going into muddy, wet areas in thongs, it can mean you're going to be standing on glass and metal and often it's those cuts after a flood that make people more at risk of serious infection.

To date while we have seen some of those sorts of incidents they've been relatively minor, we haven't seen any large scale public health issues. So the one other message that I did want to get out and if you guys can help that would be great.

It seems completely ridiculous that I would be saying to people in this circumstance that we should conserve water. We have massive amounts of water flowing past our doorsteps, however it is possible that our water treatment plants could be affected by this flood and we may see some issues around drinking water in days to come. So people should be conserving water so that those water treatment plants that are working can continue to supply the volumes that we need. Those people who can get bottled in we will be able to get supplies of bottled water through the ADF.

So it's not any reason to panic, but now's not time, as crazy as it sounds, now is not a time to be wasting water because we don't quite know what might happen with our water supply as water treatment plants become affected. We have more than one water treatment plant in Brisbane, they won't all be affected, but we might have a limiting of supply in the days after. So please don't go drawing on that water supply any more than you need to, as strange as that might seem.

PM: Can I, just to add two factual things just prompted by the various questions. The Federal Government has triggered our health incident centre so that will obviously work alongside Queensland on any necessary public health response. And as the Premier said lots of people did go and stock up the groceries yesterday, that meant a lot of people were therefore using ATMs, and there have been reports of ATMs that are out of cash.

We're aware of those reports and the Reserve Bank will be working with our banking system with obviously the individual banks to ensure that there are cash supplies, but it is possible that people could go to a location today where they normally go to access cash and find that the ATM doesn't have cash for them, and if they needed to access cash then obviously they may have to look at another ATM to do that. But the Reserve Bank will be working with our banks on ensuring that cash supply is maintained.

BLIGH: Ok folks, thank you very much. We will do another 2 hourly update at 11:30am in this room.

Thank you.

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