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ABC Rockhampton 6 February 2013

06 February 2013

TOPICS: Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments

Minister for Emergency Management


TOPICS: Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments

KALLEE BUCHANAN: Now to Mark Dreyfus. He's the Federal Attorney General and Minister for Emergency Management. Good morning, Mr Dreyfus.

MARK DREYFUS: Good morning, Kallee.

KALLEE BUCHANAN: Have you heard these kinds of stories from people in places like Stanwell, Jambin and Goovigen?

MARK DREYFUS: Of course. And we've been hearing stories like that from right across Australia. Five out of six states have been affected by flood and fire events in the last few weeks. But I've got very good news for Lee and all the other people in Stanwell, and that is that the Australian Government's Disaster Recovery payments have now been extended to people severely affected by flooding in the local government area of Rockhampton. Also in Somerset, down in south-east Queensland north of Ipswich, and in Clarence Valley in New South Wales. Stanwell is included in the announcement that I'm making today. I can clarify that. We're
still assessing the situation in Jambin which is in Banana Shire and I've requested some further information from Emergency Management Australia.

KALLEE BUCHANAN: Why has it taken so long?

MARK DREYFUS: It takes a while to assess. That's what Emergency Management Australia does. Our agency is there assessing damage right across Queensland and other states. It relies heavily on state government and local councils' assessments. And all of that has to be got in before Emergency Management Australia can make a decision. But I can assure those people in Jambin that have rung in, that that assessment is in progress. We are working as hard as we can. I've just come into the job and, certainly, I'm making it a

KALLEE BUCHANAN: When you're talking about a disaster that as you say, has affected five out of six states in some way or another, they're experiencing emergencies at the moment, is it overwhelming for Emergency Management Australia? Is that why you see declarations in places like Bundaberg happen so quickly but then take so long for somewhere like Stanwell?

MARK DREYFUS: There's now fifty-three local government areas in Queensland alone and fifteen in New South Wales that are eligible for various types of disaster assistance under the National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements. It does take time but I can say that our agency's learnt a great deal from the flood disaster, cyclone disasters in Queensland in 2011 and the lessons learned during those events are being put to good use now. I think you have seen a quick response. We've learned also how we can work best with the Queensland Government. I can say we're working shoulder to shoulder with the Queensland Government in the relief arrangements and helping people put their lives back together again.

KALLEE BUCHANAN: Do you accept that it's been a tough twelve days for the people of communities like Stanwell with no idea whether or not that assistance is coming?

MARK DREYFUS: They know that there is assistance coming, I think that's the main thing. And they know that the state, local and federal governments are all working to make sure that they can put their lives back together again. I did want to make a little bit of an announcement in relation to Stanwell, just to make it clear how they - people out there can make a claim, if I could Kallee.


MARK DREYFUS: The easiest way to lodge a claim for disaster payments is online, if that's possible, if they've got access to a computer. That's to go to the, which is the Department of Human Services. If they can't do that, they can call the Australian Government Information Line on 180 22 66 from eight in the morning until eight pm local time and that's seven days a week. They can also lodge a completed claim form in person at a Commonwealth Department of Human Services service centre.

KALLEE BUCHANAN: What kind of assistance will now be available for people in the Rockhampton Regional Council area now that you've made this declaration?

MARK DREYFUS: Eligible residents of the Rockhampton Council area can now claim Australian Government payments of a thousand dollars for each adult and four hundred dollars for each child. The point of those payments is to help individuals and families get back on their feet as they begin to recover. Of course, those disaster payments are already being provided to people who've been severely impacted in local government areas of Bundaberg, Fraser Coast, Gladstone, Gympie, Lockyer Valley, North Burnett.

KALLEE BUCHANAN: Will there be other disaster grants available for people to rebuild like we saw in 2011?

MARK DREYFUS: There's an assessment that needs to be made. But the first thing is to help people put their lives back on some kind of even keel. I mean, these are terrible disasters. We just heard then from Lee that people have had their whole life swept away and turned upside down by the flash flooding that occurred in that area. And the very first priority is to get people settled, get people back on their feet and then assessments can be made about what other forms of assistance are needed.

KALLEE BUCHANAN: You mentioned that the assistance for the Banana Shire and places like Jambin and Goovigen is happening. When will people in those locations know whether or not they'll be able to access this kind of assistance?

MARK DREYFUS: You've seen that we've been able to act in relation to the Rockhampton Council area so Stanwell are now covered. And we're working as hard as we can on assessing the situation in the Jambin area.

KALLEE BUCHANAN: But you expect that you will be able to declare it?

MARK DREYFUS: Well, I'm not going to give you the decision but I'm saying we're making the assessment as quickly as we possibly can. And I've got to say to you Kallee that unfortunately it's a sitting day here in the Federal Parliament and as sometimes happens on sitting days, the bells are ringing...


MARK DREYFUS: So I'm going to have to wind this up.

KALLEE BUCHANAN: I will let you go because I understand how important it is that you show up for every vote in the House. Thank you very much for your time, we appreciate it.

MARK DREYFUS: Thanks very much, Kallee.