PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 17598

Transcript of press conference, Ipswich

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: 13/01/2011

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 17598

PM: Thanks very much and can I say it's an absolute privilege to be here today. I'm joined by our local member, Shane Newman, his electorate is called Blair and in current circumstances it's probably better to say that we are standing his patch here in Ipswich. I'm also joined by the local mayor Paul Pisasale and I thank him very much for all of the efforts that he and his team are going to.

And when I say it's absolute privilege to be here I really mean it, I've had the opportunity to just go through a major evacuation centre here and floodwaters can wash things away, but what they can't possibly take away is the spirit of Australia and Queensland that's just on display here. I've met people who are looking at photos of their houses, relatives have gone there and taken a photo and they're underwater and they're just digesting the news. I met a young girl who told me that nana was in hospital, but I've met people who are smiling and pulling together in the most difficult of circumstances, the overwhelming impression from going round is that people are there, they're together, they're very grateful for what the volunteers are doing and they're going to pull through this.

I just on the way out talked to a family, they've got flood waters in their house, but what they're saying is the main thing - we're all right, the kids are all right, we're all together and we're going to get through it. It really is just a fantastic Australian spirit, Queensland spirit here on display in Ipswich.And we know here and Brisbane and right around Queensland, so many people are still battling with flood waters. This is a major disaster, still doing a lot of damage, many people out of their homes, many people not sure what state their homes are in, many people separated from family and friends, many still anxiously waiting news of what may have happened with loved ones that they can't contact yet. So this disaster is still continuing but so is the spirit of pulling together.

I did want to take this opportunity to just explain some of the things that the Australian Defence Force is doing today to assist the people of Queensland and also some of the things that are happening with our Centrelink workers. In terms of the things that need to happen today that are really important to support the people of Queensland we have a company, an emergency company of soldiers that are working in the Lockyer Valley, they're working on the search efforts, that's around 120 soldiers and they do have with them bushmasters, which are vehicles that can go through some very heavy terrain. The focus of that work is search, that's very urgent work, very important work.

And then when we look more broadly in Queensland re-supply issues are obviously critical and you've got so many communities that are struggling. Struggling because they're cut off with flood waters, struggling because people are in evacuation centres and they need things.

And so in order to meet that need we have aircraft that are making runs today, we have swung into effect two C-17s, they're the really big aircraft that are capable of moving food and equipment around. They've made a run into Townsville today, two of those planes and they will now be used to bring some equipment from Townsville to Brisbane that may come into use and that's some of the vehicles that people may have seen in Defence Force footage. They're called LARCs and they can literally go on the ground then cross water and then go back on the ground. So they can be of use in these circumstances.

At the same time we've had one of the C-130s doing a re-supply run into Bundaberg. We've now increased the number of helicopters to 19, that means they can be doing search work, they can be ferrying people around as needed, people who need to get from place to place and they can certainly be used to assist with re-supply.

We're making available the Bushmasters, and heavy vehicles that the Defence Force has here in Queensland in Enoggera Barracks, that's in the order of more than a dozen Bushmasters and there are also trucks there, particularly those very heavy vehicles that can get through water and get through some very rough terrain.

At every stage of this unfolding disaster, the Australian Defence Force has been there, it's been increasing efforts as needed and those efforts are increasing today. Needs are changing over time and they'll continue to change as we move in to clean up and recovery they'll change again and of course the Australian Defence Force will continue to be there, working with the people of Queensland and supporting the Emergency Services personnel who are just doing such remarkable work.

I did also want to say just some things about Centrelink and then I'll be very happy to take some questions. Centrelink has faced real challenges in supporting people in Queensland and particularly south east Queensland, because the Centrelink headquarters like many CBD buildings in Brisbane has had flood issues itself and people cannot work in large numbers from that Centrelink headquarters, so that has been a challenge that Centrelink has had to work its way through. At the same time individual Centrelink staff have been confronted by their own personal challenges, a number of them are in flood areas, I mean they live in Brisbane, they live in Ipswich and they themselves are dealing with flood waters for themselves and their families.

We've also had Centrelink staff that we deployed to places like Dalby and Condamine to help the communities there and they now can't get back to their homes and their families even though their homes and their families are battling flood waters. So I should acknowledge and I think we all should acknowledge this has been a particularly challenging time for the staff of Centrelink and they're doing their best in very difficult circumstances.

They are quadrupling the number of people that they've got on the ground today so that there will be Centrelink staff in evacuation centres around Queensland, obviously in south east Queensland. Centrelink staff who will be available to work with the kind of people I've just met with to help them claIm initially the emergency payment, that's the first $1000 for adults and $400 for children, that's the emergency money we want to get into people's pockets. And then of course over time as people go into clean up and recovery there are other payments that people will be able to access, but getting that dollar into people's pockets when they're in circumstances like this is really important and that's why there'll be Centrelink staff in every evacuation centre.

At the same time the call number is operating, that's 180 22 66. We are now swinging in from other Federal Government agencies extra staff to work with the Centrelink staff, we've double the number of processing staff to 800, we've got call centre capacity working and to give you a flavour of the demand the call centre from right around Queensland took 15,000 calls yesterday. So we are talking about major demands being fielded and that tells us there are a lot of people who need emergency relief and that's why we've got the staff there taking their calls.

Already they've processed more than 20,000 payments, they've paid out, that's cash into people's pockets, more than $24 million, but the fact that they got 15,000 calls yesterday shows that there's a lot lot more to do and that's why we're backstopping Centrelink and why Centrelink is making more people available on the ground, even in circumstances where its head office in Brisbane has got its own CBD-style flood issues and individual staff members are confronting some of their own personal flooding challenges and problems.

So that's the view from what I've seen and had meetings about today, to make sure is in action for the people of Queensland, but I do just want to say and I'm going to be out meeting some more people here in Ipswich, talking to people in Queensland, the overwhelming sentiment you get is of people pulling together, volunteers coming together, people supporting each other, of people even in the darkest days looking on the bright side and trying to find a word of comfort for each other.

I do just want to conclude by saying congratulations to all the volunteers, I've met some today from Red Cross, the volunteers that we always rely on, SES all those volunteers, to young Kobi I met today, a young man who's just a young boy who's brought himself into the centre to help play with the kids that have houses that are flooded and are in the evacuation centre.

I mean it's remarkable to see that community spirit. I know people were sandbagging yesterday when I went to an evacuation centre in Brisbane yesterday that had so many volunteers that they were just asking some of them to sit and have a chat and so that again is the spirit of Queensland really on display and you're not going to see that taken away no matter how hard hit people are by this disaster.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister people who are still looking to help out in this situation and volunteer, especially here in Ipswich, what can they actually be doing?

PM: Well there are going to be all sorts of tasks for people, there are obviously things in evacuation centres, picking up supplies, we've seen people running in supplies while we've been here, making the food because feeding a lot of people takes a lot of effort, we all know that and that's going to need to be sustained for a period of time.

And we know that floodwaters subside, people are going to be out of their homes for a considerable period as clean-up happens and so it's not just about helping out in the first few days, it's going to be about helping out for weeks and months to come. And so it can't be the same set of volunteers who are doing it today, who are doing it continuously for months and months ahead, they're going to need other volunteers to swing in and give them a bit of relief.

JOURNALIST: The scale of this disaster is obviously enormous. We're hearing their personal stories today Prime Minister, what effect does that have on you?

PM: Look it really does just warm my heart, sometimes break my heart, to hear some of the personal stories. People who have been through circumstances, one woman we met in Bundaberg, flooded there, now she's in Ipswich, flooder here, amazing.

People who are just looking at the devastation in their homes and trying to think how they're going to deal with this and how they're going to come back from this. But everyone you see is basically saying, c'mon, someone else is worse off than me, so they're looking on the bright side of it.

I was in Brisbane yesterday, met a young boy called Noah, he was showing me that he rescued a caterpillar from the rising floodwaters, doing his bit, but when young Noah was showing me that caterpillar I thought well there are kids that age that have lost their lives in this, so young Noah's still there, helping the caterpillars out, I'm not an expert on how much assistance caterpillars need in times of flood, maybe they need a little bit to get to high ground, but the real tragedy is that we've lost some Australian lives and we've lost some young kids.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) large structure being steered down the Brisbane River this morning and under the Gateway Bridge?

PM: Yes I am, I've been this morning for the meeting of the emergency services personnel who meet and brief Anna, Premier Anna Bligh each morning, and they have talked about the work that they'd need to and it's been some pretty extraordinary work because of big structures floating down the Brisbane River. We've had some sizeable sections of walkways that came adrift then had to be maneuvered by tugboats so that they safely got down the river and out to sea and didn't do any major infrastructure damage along the way.

Our Defence Force has actually helped a little bit too, there have been some of the big structures in the Brisbane River, big boats, that have needed assistance with their mooring, there's been a continuing issue people would be aware of with the craft that's called The Island to make sure that it doesn't break its moorings and start catapulting down the river and doing damage, so the Defence Force has been helping with some of that work.

JOURNALIST: You've said since early on in this crisis that there will be Federal funds available, significant funds. Given how much it's escalated over the last couple of days, will there be needed a re-tweaking of the Budget even?

PM: We will do what we need to, to make sure that funds are available for the people of Queensland. This is an unfolding disaster now, people out of their homes, some people I met in this evacuation centre still don't know if their homes have been flooded. So this is still unfolding and we're in the immediate phase of responding to people's needs, that's why that emergency payment is there to respond to people's immediate needs and then there's going to be a (inaudible) building and I understand that as Prime Minister, and we're going to be working with the people of Queensland, brick by brick as we rebuild this State.

It's going to take many months, it's going to take a lot of dollars, and we're going to organise the Federal Budget so we can be there providing that assistance for the people of Queensland.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) Budget surplus?

PM: Look we are going to make the choices necessary to make sure we're supporting the people of Queensland, make sure we're bringing the Budget to surplus. Australians everyday of their lives make choices about how they're going to spend their own money and many of them have made choices in recent days to make a donation, so I think people understand about budgets and priorities and choices. We are going to make supporting the people of Queensland a priority.

JOURNALIST: Still back in 2012-13?

PM: We will bring the Budget back to surplus in 2012-13, but we are going to meet the needs of Queensland as well, we are going to organise the Federal Budget so we are meeting the needs of Queensland in extensive rebuilding, bridge by bridge, road by road, facility by facility. There's going to be a lot of work to do, we're going to meet the needs of the people of Queensland and we're going to rearrange everything in the Federal Budget so we can do, and we can bring the Budget to surplus in 2012-13.

Thank you.

Transcript 17598