March 06, 2022


SUBJECTS: Morrison Government blocking disaster assistance for floodwaters below Queenslander-style houses; slow Federal response to Lismore floods; insurance; domestic violence funding; consent campaign.
MADONNA JARRETT, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BRISBANE: I'm Madonna Jarrett, Labor's candidate for the upcoming federal election. Over the last week, I've been out and about having a look at our community, but more than that, actually getting down and moving out sodden mattresses from people's houses, carrying softball nets, etc. just really helping out where we can. There's so much damage in the seat of Brisbane. People need a lot of financial help, whether it's individuals, households, sporting clubs, businesses, etc. And I think what we really need is for that to be as easy and simple as possible for people to claim. And with that, I'll hand over to Murray.
MURRAY WATT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DISASTER AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Thanks, Madonna, good to join you again in the federal electorate of Brisbane where I know you've been working really hard over the last few days with homeowners, sports clubs and all sorts of groups to help them recover. The reason we're here today in Milton is to really shine a spotlight on an absurd irregularity that the federal government has imposed when it comes to disaster payments that will affect thousand of Queenslanders and people in northern New South Wales. Before I go into that, I of course want to acknowledge, again, that we still face pretty difficult weather conditions here in southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales over the next couple of days with the expectation of more severe storms, so people do need to remain safe. We don't know what's going to happen in terms of rainfall and we know that the catchments are really full already so people really do need to be safe over the next couple of days.
Just before I deal with Queensland I also want to acknowledge what continues to go on in Lismore in particular and northern New South Wales as a whole. Yesterday, I was pointing out that locals in Lismore were identifying a total absence of federal government support and presence in northern New South Wales to help with the recovery. And today, the Lismore Mayor has echoed those calls for much greater government presence and assistance to help with the recovery. Lismore is a warzone at the moment. There is rubbish piling up everywhere. I've been in regular contact with the state Labor MP down there, as well as Justin Elliott, the federal member for Richmond. Telecommunications are almost non existent. People are having trouble getting food. There's an enormous clean up job with rubbish all through the streets. And we still haven't seen any real presence from the army or any other federal government agency, let alone a federal government minister on the ground, directing traffic, getting this recovery up and running. So it's got to happen urgently in northern New South Wales.
Here in Queensland we're obviously a bit further advanced when it comes to the recovery. Given that the floods and the storms hit us that little bit earlier then northern New South Wales. What we've learned in the last couple of days is that the federal government is imposing some absurd rules when it comes to the disaster assistance that they will provide to people in many of the suburbs within Brisbane, and also in northern New South Wales. One of the rules that the federal government has imposed relates to Queenslander style homes. And as you look around suburbs like this in Milton, there are thousands of those homes. Queenslander homes are an iconic Queensland institution. So many people live in them because of the ventilation they provide, the character they provide. I live in one myself, although it’s a pretty modest one I must say. And we know the benefits of living in those houses, especially when it comes to floods. But what we've learned from the federal government is that if floodwaters enter the interior of your Queenslander style home, then you will qualify for disaster assistance. But if the flood waters come up to your floorboards, you won't. So again look around here in Milton or anywhere else in southeast Queensland and even into new northern New South Wales. There are thousands of these types of homes, which fortunately were spared floodwaters coming above their floorboards into their house. But all around where we look, we can see white goods, we can see furniture all over the streets because floodwaters came rushing through the downstairs unenclosed areas of Queenslander homes, and people will not qualify for disaster assistance. That is ridiculous. People have lost thousands of dollars in their fridges, their washing machines, their furniture, and they should be entitled to the disaster assistance rather than have some bureaucratic technicality that is blocking that assistance from being provided. Now we know Scott Morrison has a reputation for being the Prime Minister for Sydney. And it seems that that's again on display here because he just doesn't understand Queenslander style homes let alone Queenslanders. It's about time Scott Morrison realise that he's got to govern for the entire country and adapt his assistance for individual circumstances in different parts of the country. And people who've lost everything in these floodwaters in Queensland deserve every bit of assistance that they should be getting. I'll leave it at that but happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Have you heard about the insurance issues or anything like that at this stage?
WATT: Yeah, look, we're starting to hear some bits and pieces about insurance but I think it's probably a little bit early for people to be encountering those issues. I met last week with the Insurance Council of Australia's CEO, and a number of my Federal Labor colleagues did as well, to open up a dialogue to make sure that people are treated fairly by insurers. We haven't had too many instances as yet of people having their insurance claims knocked back. But that inevitably does occur after disasters and all I can ask is that insurers do treat people compassionately, as those claim claims start to roll through.
JOURNALIST: What's your reaction to the federal government's new $189 million package for prevention and early intervention in family domestic and sexual violence?
WATT: Well, of course, any funding that the Morrison government is prepared to put in to these sorts of matters, domestic violence, women's safety, is of course a good thing. And it's something that Labor has been calling for a very long time. And not just Labor, many domestic violence groups, and I think women in general in Australia have been wanting to see much greater support from the Morrison government for these important safety issues. It's again, it's a case of too little too late from the Morrison government. How many scandals have we seen, just this term alone, involving ministers in the Morrison government, let alone the broader community and we haven't seen action from the Morrison government. So it seems that they only ever wait until they're five minutes to an election before we actually start seeing the kind of investment that women all around Australia deserve and expect from their federal government.
JOURNALIST: What about their ad campaigns? Their previous one was unusual. What do you think?
WATT: Yeah, again, the consent campaign that the government is planning to announce today is a good thing. But again, it should have happened a long time ago. And it really is a shame that it sort of takes Scott Morrison being shamed into these things by the likes of Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins, and women all around the country before they actually do anything. These issues have been alive in our community for a very long time. This government is approaching nearly a decade in power and it's only with five minutes to midnight before an election that they actually bother to make any announcements. This consent campaign, I was reading this morning, won't start till August. It won't happen until after the election. This government has had nearly 10 years to do something about these issues, but they only ever act when it's coming up to an election.