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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 41520

Bega Fire Response Centre, NSW

Photo of Turnbull, Malcolm

Turnbull, Malcolm

Period of Service: 15/09/2015 to 24/08/2018

More information about Turnbull, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 19/03/2018

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 41520

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Mark Williams, the Incident Controller from the Rural Fire Service is doing a great job. Mark, you’re pulling together all the love and solidarity, the resilience of the community. Shocking fires here in Tathra, Kalaru, Karabar  has just been evacuated and what we’ve seen is, while there's been a great deal of damage to property, you believe about 70 homes destroyed?

MARK WILLIAMS, RURAL FIRE SERVICE INCIDENT CONTROLLER:

At this stage, yes.

PRIME MINISTER:

At this stage, but no lives lost and that's vitally important. You’ve just seen a number of families there who got out just in time. They’ve lost their homes, but they’re together.

Yani is there with her two beautiful daughters, Lucy and Alexandra and she got out just as the fire was coming up through the backyard. Just in time, but they’re here together in one piece. They will rebuild their home and it’s just a great credit to the firefighters, to the volunteers, the emergency workers. All of the community has pulled together and provided such great support.

We're here to provide our support, I'm going to ask Angus Taylor, who is here with Senator Jim Molan and Mike Kelly, the member for Eden-Monaro. Angus is the federal Minister for Emergency Services. He’s going to talk about the support that we provide, logistical support and also of course the financial support we provide, with the State Government, through the National Disaster Relief scheme. Angus, do you want to say a bit about that?

HON. ANGUS TAYLOR MP, MINISTER FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT AND CYBERSECURITY:

Thanks, Prime Minister and can I begin by saying, as someone who grew up just up the hill from here, that I know how tough this country can be. Can I pay tribute to the many firefighters who have contributed to getting this fire further under control. There's more work to do, but they are extraordinary people. Every rural Fire Brigade in this state and in this country is an extraordinary group of people. We have certainly seen that here.

Now, in the last couple of hours, working together with the State Government, we have activated the National Disaster Relief Assistance Scheme. That means that there will be support available, immediate support for those suffering from personal hardship. There will also be ongoing support for those who have lost their home and content and support for any public infrastructure that has been damaged.

So, this is a broad package of ‘category A and category B’ support, as it's called. We’ll be keeping an eye on whether there is a need for further assistance beyond that. There’s work going on now to see the level of damage and the nature of the damage that has occurred.

The most important thing is while homes can be replaced - and it is tragic to have lost 70 homes - lives can't. We’re lucky there have been no lives lost or serious injuries as a result of this.

So that assistance is available. It will be available from here through the State Government, working closely with the State Government. We’ll be keeping a close eye on making sure that people in this area, in Tathra, that tight-knit, small community of Tathra, gets the support that it needs.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good, thanks Angus. Now do you have questions?

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister there appears to be a malfunction in the emergency text message that was sent out and potentially the emergency warnings that were meant to be played on ABC radio. What do you have to say to this?

PRIME MINISTER:

We’ll certainly look into that, Mark Crosweller is the Director General of Emergency Management. Mark, what is your name? Freya has just raised the issue about text messages not being received, emergency text message advice. Are you familiar with this concern that’s been raised?

MARK CROSWELLER DIRECTOR GENERAL, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AUSTRALIA:

Look, it has been raised with me briefly Prime Minister. I can say that we‘ll work closely with the Rural Fire Service just to make sure protocols, processes were in place, technology was up and running. I do know from my former experience being in the RFS for some 27 years, this was an incredibly fast-moving fire. Erratic, difficult wind conditions, difficult conditions on the fire ground. My sense is the warnings came out in a timely way, but it’s a very, very confused operational environment.

JOURNALIST:

The Bureau of Meteorology would have known about just how extreme the fire danger was on that weekend, the fires were already burning. People in there say they were given 3 seconds notice to get out of their house. What do authorities have to say to these people?

MARK CROSWELLER:

Certainly because of the nature of the fire that moved through here – and we flew over it coming in - I can tell you from my 27 years of experience, there was spotting upon spotting. So the fire has moved incredibly rapidly and I think the fire services did an excellent job. I think the brigades did an excellent job. They were largely local brigades, they got in, did what they did.

As the Prime Minister has said and the Minister has said, nobody died and there's no injuries. That has to be the best measure. I can't stress enough, watching this from Canberra, with all my years experience, thinking if anything ignites today it is going to be challenging, it’s going to be.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, Richard Di Natale said that this fire was caused by government inaction on climate change. What did you have to say?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I'm disappointed that the Greens would try to politicise an event like this. I mean this has been shocking destruction of property, as we've just said. Thank heaven there have been no lives lost, but that's a great tribute to the community, to the firefighters, to all of that preparation and resilience.

But this is not the time to politicise a disaster like this.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, is there any impact from climate change in these sort of events?

PRIME MINISTER:

David, as you know very well, you can't attribute any particular event, whether it's a flood or fire or a drought or a storm, to climate change. We are the land of droughts and flooding rains. We're the land of bushfires. Nature hurls her worst at Australians, always will and always has, often unpredictably. We were just talking about the spotting. Mark was just making the point that I observed earlier; we saw from the air how the fire had not just leapt over a river, but had leapt over streets of houses, apparently without any damage and then landed on a group of houses which had been burned out. So, you can see how unpredictable it is.

But clearly this is an environment, we have an environment, which has extremes. Bushfires are part of Australia, as indeed are droughts and floods.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible] hazard reduction, there’s been a hesitancy to use it in this area, in Tathra in particular?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you’ve asked about hazard reduction in the Tathra area. That’s something you’d have to address to Mark from the Rural Fire Service, do you offer a view on that? Or Mick Kelly, one of you,   the locals?

HON DR MIKE KELLY AM, MP:

Well certainly we're always looking at hazard reduction in the area. The consultations I’ve had with RFS over the years, we try and do that in the appropriate months of the year. There’s always a program of hazard reduction. Of course, in certain circumstances there's just not much you can do and the weather conditions yesterday were extreme, very erratic, which is what caught so many people be surprise.

But today the focus has got to be on this community. Leave all these peripheral issues to one side, we’ve got some people to help here, you know, who have lost their homes. That will be the focus. I think we're all united across politics to get that job done. I'm grateful for the help Angus and I talked to Peter Dutton also this morning in getting that declaration done. We needed to do that quickly and we need to get that recovery assistance flowing and that is going to happen. So let's get these people looked after and then we can do all the lessons learned we like, after that.

PRIME MINISTER:

Terrific, thank you very much. Thanks, mate.

[ENDS]

Transcript 41520