Australia — Jason Clare Minister for Defence on Queensland floods, Australian War Memorial

BOCKING: As we know, so much of the focus today is on Rock­hamp­ton, you only have to look at the front page of the Dai­ly Tele­graph, and there is the inun­da­tion for all to see, basi­cal­ly homes just appear­ing as dots ris­ing out of murky flood waters, flood­ing up to 400 homes as the Fitzroy Riv­er reach­es its peak.
Already almost 90 peo­ple camped out at evac­u­a­tion cen­tres, anoth­er 500 seek­ing shel­ter with friends and fam­i­ly, and emer­gency Cab­i­net meet­ings being held by the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment this morn­ing, the Defence Force pro­vid­ing its assis­tance, that we heard from the Colonel just before the news. The Act­ing Defence Min­is­ter at the moment is Jason Clare, he’s also a Labor MP in Sydney’s west, and I’m very pleased to say he’s on the line. Jason, good morn­ing.

CLARE: Oh, good morn­ing, Stu­art, how are you?

BOCKING: I’m well. Nice to be able to chat with you again, shame it’s in cir­cum­stances such as this. In terms of sup­plies for some of these towns and cities, gro­ceries and the like, how are we going there, giv­en the dif­fi­cul­ties in actu­al­ly access­ing some of these areas?

CLARE: Well, you’re right, things are real­ly tough up here for thou­sands of Queens­lan­ders, and per­haps tough­est in Rock­hamp­ton, where they’ve been almost cut off. The way to get food­stuffs and emer­gency equip­ment into Rock­hamp­ton is with our Her­cules air­craft, which fly from here in Bris­bane where I am, up to Mack­ay, and then they’re trucked in, and we’re truck­ing in some­thing like 50 tonnes of food­stuffs every day, things as basic as nap­pies and Weet Bix and pas­ta, or I think yes­ter­day it was some­thing like 40 crates of Long Life Milk, bat­ter­ies for torch­es, can­dles, those sorts of things. So the road, the north­ern road access­ing Rock­hamp­ton is still open, and we’ve been able to use our C130 air­craft to fly up to Mack­ay and then truck that in. The advice that I got this morn­ing is that that road is expect­ed to remain open, even as the flood peaks in Rock­hamp­ton today, so that’s a good thing.

BOCKING: It’s incred­i­ble. Have you based your­self in Bris­bane for the time being?

CLARE: Well, I’ve been here yes­ter­day, and here today, just so that I know exact­ly what’s going on. I’m going to head out to the Amber­ley Air Force Base this morn­ing, just to thank the Air Force offi­cers that are fly­ing the Her­cules up there into the Mack­ay and Rock­hamp­ton area, for the work that they’re doing. They’re doing some­thing like three to four sor­ties a day, so they’re spend­ing some­thing up to 16, 18 hours a day, fly­ing food up to the peo­ple of Rock­hamp­ton, so it’s an incred­i­ble task.

BOCKING: We’ve heard a lot about the assis­tance pack­ages avail­able, is mon­ey flow­ing already Jason, I mean I notice there was some­one say­ing the oth­er day that they were in des­per­ate need of mon­ey, and a local State MP just pro­vid­ed $50 out of their own pock­et, just because they need­ed funds, how quick­ly is that mon­ey going to flow for these peo­ple?

CLARE: Yeah, well it’s a good point, there’s two things that the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment can do, the first is get­ting Defence Force sup­port on the ground, and we’ve just spo­ken about that, and the sec­ond is finan­cial sup­port. We have made avail­able emer­gency funds, that peo­ple can get access to if they’ve been forced to leave their home, and my advice is that by con­tact­ing Cen­tre­link you can get that mon­ey put into your bank account straight away. And then the next stage of it is the recov­ery, and hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars that we’re going to have to inject into the local econ­o­my, fix­ing up the local roads, fix­ing up bridges, local schools and rail­ways, as we find what the impact of this flood has been, once the water even­tu­al­ly recedes.

BOCKING: Being based in Queens­land, and obvi­ous­ly see­ing those images a lit­tle clos­er, have you been astound­ed by the scale of what we’re deal­ing with here?

CLARE: Yeah, you made the point I think, when you spoke to Colonel Fos­ter a moment ago that we haven’t seen any­thing like this for a long, long time, and that’s true, you know, per­haps not since Cyclone Tracey has the Defence Force been so involved in a nat­ur­al dis­as­ter like this.

BOCKING: That’s right.

CLARE: Cyclone Lar­ry was big, and you’ll remem­ber that we had Gen­er­al Cos­grove involved there.

BOCKING: Yeah.

CLARE: The Defence Force, I’ve got to say, have got a lot of expe­ri­ence when it comes to deal­ing with nat­ur­al dis­as­ters. I was talk­ing to Angus Hous­ton, the Chief of the Defence Force yes­ter­day, about this, and he told me that he used to be a heli­copter pilot, and he spent a lot of his time in his youth in the ’80s and the ’90s, fly­ing Black Hawks, doing the same sorts of things that our pilots are doing today, and over the last few weeks, doing emer­gency food drop-offs, emer­gency med­ical drop-offs, things like insulin for peo­ple that have been iso­lat­ed, and mak­ing sure that we’re res­cu­ing peo­ple that need to be res­cued, before it’s too late.

BOCKING: Well it’s inter­est­ing as well, because in recent times obvi­ous­ly we’ve seen a lot of work done by the mil­i­tary over­seas, Indone­sia, Ban­da Aceh, in the wake of var­i­ous nat­ur­al dis­as­ters in parts of Asia, and we’re very grate­ful to (a) be able to pro­vide that, and (b) know that we’ve got the call on where we need it, but it’s not often we do need it, even after things like the New­cas­tle earth­quake, and var­i­ous things, but an event of this scale, it real­ly does bring the Defence Force into their own, does­n’t it?

CLARE: Yeah, it cer­tain­ly does, we’ve got a first class Defence Force, you see it in Afghanistan, where they’re fight­ing a dan­ger­ous and dif­fi­cult war, you see it in the peace­keep­ing work, that they’re doing in East Tim­or, and the Solomon Islands, but you also see it here at home, and you saw evi­dence of that only a cou­ple of years ago with the bush­fires, and we’re see­ing it again today on our TV screens, where we see them, whether it’s the Black Hawk heli­copters as I said, that have been res­cu­ing peo­ple, the big Her­cules that are deliv­er­ing food into Rock­hamp­ton today, and for as long as that’s need­ed, or whether it’s the Navy now, with bring­ing up Sea King heli­copters from Nowra today, up to Roma, because we think that the area St George is going to get flood­ed over the next few days, and we might have to do more emer­gency work in the St George area over the course of the next few days.

BOCKING: So what, they’re fly­ing up from HMAS Alba­tross, are they?

CLARE: They are.

BOCKING: Right.

CLARE: So Pre­mier Bligh has said, look, we need more sup­port, and our response has been, okay, get it up there.

BOCKING: Have you spo­ken to Barn­a­by Joyce, he’s a local of St George?

CLARE: No, I haven’t spo­ken to Barn­a­by, but you’re right, he’s a local of St George, he knows what’s need­ed, and I might pick up the phone to him, and say g’day, and say look, is there any­thing else that you think needs to be done?

BOCKING: Give him a buzz, yeah, he’d be a good man to get in touch with. Just quick­ly on anoth­er mat­ter, there are some reports the Aus­tralian War Memo­r­i­al has been strug­gling under severe finan­cial strain, do you know too much about that, is that right?

CLARE: Look, I’m not sure, what I do know is that the Prime Min­is­ter has asked the min­is­ter respon­si­ble, which is War­ren Snow­den, as well as Pen­ny Wong, who’s the Finance Min­is­ter, to have a look at this, and con­duct a review before the bud­get comes out in May.

BOCKING: Yeah, because we’ve got ANZAC Day com­ing up, the cen­te­nary of the Gal­lipoli Land­ing in a cou­ple of years time, and they’re talk­ing about severe job loss­es and the like, under a crip­pling finan­cial sit­u­a­tion, so it does­n’t sound good on the read­ing of it, for the Aus­tralian War Memo­r­i­al.

CLARE: You know, it is a very, very impor­tant place, and as you say, the cen­te­nary of World War I is com­ing up, I was — you might remem­ber, I was in Koko­da a cou­ple of years ago, tak­ing some kids from West­ern Syd­ney up there, to bet­ter under­stand the mean­ing of ANZAC, and I’ll be going with Scott Mor­ri­son up to San­dakan in Bor­neo in a cou­ple of months, to cel­e­brate this ANZAC Day, com­mem­o­rate this ANZAC Day, tak­ing young peo­ple from Syd­ney, so they under­stand the great­est mil­i­tary atroc­i­ty to hap­pen in Australia’s his­to­ry, and the War Memo­r­i­al plays a very, very impor­tant role for all Aus­tralians, in under­stand­ing our his­to­ry.

BOCKING: Yes, well we’ll cer­tain­ly chat again in the after­math of that, if not before. Appre­ci­ate your time, Jason, thanks so much.

CLARE: Yeah, my plea­sure, and Stu­art, can I just make a final point, to thank all of the Emer­gency Ser­vices work­ers, whether it’s the police, the firies, the ambos, the Defence Force peo­ple that we’ve spo­ken about, all the coun­cil work­ers, there’s hun­dreds and hun­dreds of them up here in Queens­land, and they’re doing a ter­rif­ic job for all of us.

BOCKING: Ter­rif­ic, wish you well, Jason, thanks so much.

CLARE: Thanks, Stu­art.

BOCKING: Yep, Act­ing Defence Min­is­ter, Jason Clare in Bris­bane this morn­ing with that res­cue effort well and tru­ly under­way, involv­ing all arms of our Defence Forces.

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →