Parliament - NSW & QLD Floods

Federation Chamber
30 March 2022

I pay tribute to the member for Page and the incredible work that he has done, looking after his local residents. This has placed incredible stress not only on him but on his staff as well. I think all members who have represented flooded communities know just how lucky we are to have our brilliant staff, with the incredible hours that they are putting in. It takes a toll on them. And today I want to start my remarks by recognising all of the collective efforts from our staff, who have been guiding and supporting our residents. I recognise the member for Page and the member for Richmond for their incredible service to their constituents, and I know the member for Richmond has returned to her electorate today to deal with even further flooding.

But my focus has been on the people in my electorate who have been absolutely devastated by the recent floods. I've helped people clear out their homes and businesses. When you've carried the last of a person's beloved belongings out onto the street and left them on the kerb to be picked up like trash, it becomes painfully clear that the $1,000 is just a mere drop in the ocean compared to what these people and families have lost.

This week, I came to Canberra with the goal of fighting for them, and advocating for them at every opportunity. I've just recently left question time, where I demanded to know from the Prime Minister why my local residents have been treated like second-class citizens compared to other citizens across Australia who have been equally flooded. They deserve more than they are getting from this government—a government that has decided, for whatever reason, that they are not as worthy of support as flood victims just over the border in New South Wales.

The real support for these people didn't come from the federal government; it came from our community. The response of locals to this crisis has made me incredibly proud to be the federal member for Oxley. Together, we did our best to make sure no-one was left behind, whether it was Tony from Middle Park Bakery keeping the free barbecues stocked with fresh bread or Big Pappa's Pizza at Camira offering free pizza for flood victims. People reached out a helping hand to those in need, without hesitation. Baby Give Back, a local charity based in my electorate, has ensured that families with children have had the resources to protect and nurture them throughout the past few weeks. People like Pastor Phil Kennedy from the Shiloh Church and his congregation packed hampers of donated goods for those who were living without power, and the Riverlife Baptist Church opened their doors to anyone who needed a place as the floodwaters rose. Just last week, Aaron from the Kerwick Hotel put on an afternoon of beers and celebration for the volunteers and flood victims who had stood side-by-side, rebuilding our community.

I do want to acknowledge again Thiess Mining, who set up a free barbecue at the Goodna recovery centre for flood victims and volunteers. Listen to these stats: 3,000 drinks; 6,000 litres of cleaning product; 3½ thousand hot meals; 150 kilograms of sausages—these were from one company, Thiess Mining. I want to thank the CEO, Michael Wright, for his generosity in ensuring that residents, particularly those in the Goodna part of my electorate, were looked after, and Phil Woods from Thiess Mining, who was there every day to ensure that the operations were running as smoothly as possible.

As I've said before, the crisis brought out the very best in our community, as locals stepped up to take on leadership roles to help their neighbours and to keep everyone's morale high. Dan, known in the Goodna community as 'Dan the Mill Street Man', set up a pop-up recovery hub on Mill Street, one of the most impacted streets in Goodna. People like Frank and Winghy made the devastating reality of the floods just that little bit more bearable with their can-do attitude and humour. I consider myself incredibly blessed to have worked alongside them in the recovery.

I also worked hand in hand with a fantastic team of local representatives. Our local state representatives, Lance McCallum, Jess Pugh and Charis Mullen, were all amazing advocates of flood affected communities throughout the crisis and were by my side every day. The Goodna-Ipswich City Council, made up of the fantastic mayor, Mayor Teresa Harding, the local councillors for the flood affected suburbs in my electorate, the deputy mayor, Councillor Nicole Jonic, and the brilliant Councillor Paul Tully, a councillor with over 40 years of local government experience, provided invaluable support to Goodna residents. These representatives were on the ground every single day.

When the floodwaters come, they're not blue or red; they're brown. This is not a political speech I'm giving today. It's simply a realisation that when the floodwaters rise or when natural disasters come, we have to come together as one community. That's also why today I want to recognise the LNP councillor for the Jamboree Ward in my electorate, Councillor Sarah Hutton, for her outstanding leadership. She was an incredible resource for the constituents in the Centenary Suburbs, and I pay tribute to all of her hard work.

There are of course too many businesses and people to mention, but I'm going to give it a go: Terry Slaughter from the Springfield Lakes IGA; the Pepper Lounge at Jindalee; St Alban's church and Anglicare Southern Queensland; the Buddhist Vihara at Goodna; White Lies Brewing; the 4074 Community & Beyond page; the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association; Orange Sky; Dr Cuong Bui AM and the Vietnamese community, Queensland chapter; the Pioneer baseball club; Springfield City Group, in particular Raynuha Sinnathamby, who I called when I was in desperate need of wheelbarrows and squeegees. They are the peak commodity during a flood. Forget diamonds and jewels; it is wheelbarrows and squeegees! In our time of need when we were desperate for wheelbarrows, I rang Raynuha Sinnathamby and said, 'Can you help me?' and, within an hour, 11 wheelbarrows turned up. Others included the Springfield Panthers rugby league football club; Wolston Park Centenary Cricket Club; Lyndons Pty Ltd; Storage Choice Sumner Park; 4 Voices; Oxley Uniting Church; Forest Lake Uniting Church; the Rotary Club of Jindalee; CWA Oxley; and Goodna Street Life and their amazing outreach team, particularly Helen Youngberry for not just all of her brilliant work during the flood crisis but her amazing efforts looking after those in need.

Of course, over the past few days we've seen even more rain across the electorate. While serious flooding has not eventuated, the sense of anxiety that locals felt was palpable, even all the way down here in Canberra. We're now living with the reality that these sorts of disasters can occur with alarming frequency, and every time it rains people now have to worry. We're seeing that play out all too clearly in New South Wales as we speak. The floodwaters are once again rising in Lismore and Byron Bay. This crisis will repeat itself, and the fact that we are talking about this even a month later is unimaginable. Yet, this is the reality for many of our brothers and sisters in the Northern Rivers.

My heart goes out to the communities that once again have had to flee their homes, unsure of when they'll be able to return or what they'll return to. But what this crisis shows is that we do need real investment, in a bipartisan way, in not only recovery but mitigation. It's unimaginable that, on the eve of an election, we aren't making this a central point of the major parties. It's something that I'll be advocating for inside my own party, to make sure that we are leading from the front, and I encourage members on the opposite to talk to your leadership, to talk to your party leaders. We need to find common solutions to deal with these unmitigated disasters. We want to make sure that disaster recovery and the rebuilding happens as quickly as possible. Australians know that they need solutions, and they need answers for these problems now. That's why I'm really pleased that a future Albanese Labor government will revamp the failed ERF to create the new Disaster Ready Fund—$200 million to be invested in disaster readiness to protect lives and livelihoods.

I do want to make this point: one of the most chilling aspects during the flood crisis was the intervention from Shane Stone. I was standing with residents in Goodna when I was alerted to the fact that Mr Stone made the irresponsible comment that if you live in a flood plain it's your fault. That is not acceptable. I did not hear at all from Mr Stone during the natural disaster. I'm not sure what his role is during recovery from natural disasters, but if these well-paid fat cats are going to sit from the sidelines on comfortable couches when people's homes are inundated let's have the discussion after not during the time of natural disaster.

Locals in my electorate have lost everything, and the poor people of northern New South Wales are once again seeing their homes go under water. We need solutions put on the table to mitigate and help rebuild as quickly as possible. I am hopeful that—whoever wins government—we will see real flood and disaster mitigation work happen so that people in my community will not have to experience the trauma of these floods again.

I'll finish on this note. Our community is stronger than ever before because of these floods. We never wanted them, but our community came together like never before. As the people's representative in the electorate of Oxley, I couldn't be prouder of the community that I represent.