15 June 2021
I rise tonight to speak on, among other matters, the circumstances inflicted on those in my home state as a result of last week’s weather events.
Sadly, in Victoria last week heavy rain and strong winds lashed my home state, taking both lives and livelihoods with it. Whilst most of Victoria was affected in some manner, none was more so than Gippsland, an area well known to most Australians owing to the devastating toll that bushfires have levied upon the region in recent times.
This time, though, it was flood that wreaked havoc upon a most idyllic corner of our country, known locally as ‘God’s country’. Rain falling at a level unseen in quite some time caused rivers and creeks to burst their banks, flooding towns right across the region.
In Traralgon, to the east of the Latrobe Valley, floodwaters have damaged dozens of homes and businesses, some irreparably. Whilst the rain may have, for the most part, subsided, an immense task still lays ahead for Gippslanders, and yet some are still yet to have electricity reconnected, to have communications restored or to be provided with ready access to safe drinking water.
Nonetheless, times like these, as devastating as they may be, provide the opportunity for Australians to display the mateship for which we have become famous. In particular I want to thank the emergency services personnel and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to assist those in need over recent times. Communities are not merely homes and shopping strips; there is much more to them than that, especially in regional Victoria.
A community is made up of the bonds between us, and it is in the willingness of those who lend their shoulder to the wheel that we see community in action. Without those in our communities serving their fellow neighbours, rescue and recovery would simply not be possible. I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has done their bit.
As the water subsides the people of Gippsland will need support from not just Victoria but right around the country so that they can get back on their feet, just as they did when those devastating fires hit around 18 months ago.
Houses need to be rebuilt, businesses need to be restocked and, most regrettably, loved ones need to be mourned. We must be there for them.
I welcome the recent announcement of the Victorian government that it will provide financial support to those in need. I also welcome the declaration made by the Insurance Council of Australia which will allow claims from people living in affected areas to be prioritised.
With the recovery bill estimated to be in excess of $1 billion, I hope the people of Gippsland can count on the federal government to do their bit to help Victorians recover from this devastating weather event.