Minister Shorten doorstop interview at Maribyrnong Evacuation Centre with Mayor for Maribyrnong Anthony Tran and Member for Fraser Dan Mulino MP


SUBJECTS: Maribyrnong River flooding.

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Hi everyone and welcome to the Maribyrnong Evacuation Centre. With me is Daniel Mulino, the Federal MP who represents a lot of this area and Mayor Anthony Tran, the Mayor of Maribyrnong and Cuc Lam, local Councillor. 

This has been a very difficult experience for hundreds of residents of Maribyrnong. It's an incredibly tough time for people flooded in Tasmania and flooded in regional parts of the city. What is good though is that there's been no loss of life here. The SES, the police, the volunteer services and the council have been outstanding. 

The doorknocks started at 3:30 this morning. There's been some 60 rescues done, which is remarkable, it reflects well on the professionalism, and each rescue is not of a single person, the floodwaters rose very quickly. 

There has been, historically, the occasional flood in the Maribyrnong area, the last really big one was 1974. Since then, nothing like this has been seen so it's going to be a very difficult recovery time for the residents.

The good news is that, initially seemed as if the peak of the flood is now ebbing, but of course, it remains to be seen but that's what we think. The water rose very quickly this morning, but hopefully by five o'clock we will see the water declining again. 

Then of course in the next 24, 48 hours and beyond that, the adrenaline eases, the sense of emergency fades, the media move on but then there's recovery for hundreds of residents and many houses. 

Once there's floodwater across the floorboards of the house, mud is a terrible beast, it’s smelly, it contaminates carpets and it'll be difficult. There might be family heirlooms, when you're getting on your boat being rescued, and the SES has had three boats working all day from the early hours. You can't take the photo albums, the kids you know, the birth certificates, their school photos, the wedding photos, so when the threat recedes as we hope it does, then it becomes a difficult challenge for recovery. 

The state government is working very closely with the council, the Federal government, Emergency Minister Murray Watt and myself as Government Services Minister are waiting for communication from the state.

We hope that by Sunday, people who've suffered real hardship will be able to access a modest payment to help them keep their morale together, if nothing else. 

But I want to get Anthony Tran, the Mayor and Daniel Mulino Member of Parliament to say a bit more then we're happy to take questions. But to finish where we started, thanks to the SES, remarkable, remarkable, remarkable. And to the police and of course the residents and there’s plenty of good stories about residents looking after residents. The people of Maribyrnong are not arrogant. They don't think they live in the best part of Australia but there's probably no better part of Australia when the chips are down.

I’ll now hand over to Anthony and Daniel.

ANTHONY TRAN, MAYOR FOR MARIBYRNONG: Just touching on what Bill has said already. So most of the rescue started around 3:30 this morning, but the preparation work started yesterday. 

We've worked alongside the SES, we’ve worked alongside VicPol, starting around 5 to 6pm yesterday, to prepare ourselves, to prepare our community. So the way we've done that is obviously with Maribyrnong Community Centre. This is our relief centre at the moment, we've had sandbags prepared by our staff for residents who wanted to defend their homes and to try to fight out of this wave of floods but unfortunately, as you can see now, that just isn't the case. 

We've had rescues go on all day, as the Minister said we've had 60 rescues, but that’s 60 households and when you think about that, that’s two parents, two kids. That’s around 200 different residents that have been rescued at this point in time. 

I spoke to one of the SES members and they told me they rescued twelve people from one residential site. And that's, that is a substantial rescue. For us, this is a part of our recovery and to be honest, Maribyrnong residents have been so resilient. They've been so co-operative and most importantly, they've been willing to show the fight that I think a lot of us have in us. 

But I want to commend the work done by the SES, to John, especially to VicPol to and to all of the Council staff. Thank you so much. Your working the early hours has kept us safe and more important has kept residents safe. Zero casualties is something we can all be proud of. But there’s so much more to do. 

We're going to be here till the weekend comes and we had a recent chat with the Minister. He's offered to assist us in housing our residents so if those of you can't return home, come down to the relief centre, we will be able to find you alternative accommodation. 

Furthermore, if you can't access your medication, so if you have medication you need to take on a daily basis and you can't access it, still come down to the site. We'll be able to refer you to the relevant GPs and practitioners to get to the right medications so that you're ready to go as well. 

I might pass on to our Federal Member to continue on.

DAN MULINO MP, MEMBER FOR FRASER: Thanks, Anthony. This is a very difficult day for the community here in Maribyrnong. As Bill and Anthony have said, it's very confronting to drive down here and see water inundating our local parks and playgrounds. My daughter loves playing down at Coulson Gardens, so it's very confronting to see that now underwater and of course, it's incredibly sad and confronting to see dozens of houses inundated.

My heart goes out to the people, who while safe right now, I'm sure are going to have to deal with a lot when they go back to their houses. But as Bill and Anthony have said, while a very difficult day it's also a day when the community has come together.

I’ve talked to residents just in the centre there who told me stories about how a couple was evacuated very early this morning and they went out of their way to help an elderly neighbour to get out into safety and to find accommodation with friends and family.

Our residents are looking after each other, which is not surprising, but amazing to see. And then of course there's all of the volunteers. The SES are doing an amazing job out door knocking, it just shows how volunteering is the backbone of our community. And of course inside there in the relief centre, we have Red Cross and other organisations helping people. We also have local businesses who have donated clothes, food, toys for kids. 

So it's really everybody putting in and it's amazing to see so, my heart goes out to those who have lost so much but I just hope that we continue to be able to operate so as to keep people safe. Thanks. 

SHORTEN: Are there any questions?

JOURNALIST: I suppose the preparations last night… a few residents I spoke to this morning have said that they feel as though they weren't warned enough, that they only found out maybe 6am this morning that the flood could possibly impact their homes. I just wonder if you feel that there was perhaps not enough warning for some people in Maribyrnong?

TRAN: Yeah, so that's a really good question. So our preparation was based off modelling that we had received. And that modelling showed a lot slower rate of flow from up in the catchment, and we based our preparations off of that, but as you know, with natural disasters, nothing is certain. There's so many variables, and when it hit at around 3:30 this morning, the flowing rate was just so rapid and we had to act within that small timeframe. 

And I do acknowledge to those residents, that more could have been done. When you have such extraordinary circumstances with variables you can’t predict, just with the increase in flow, we acted as fast as we could and to be honest we did the most we can but as you said, there’s more to be done and we’ll continue to do much more than we can.

JOURNALIST: What will the Federal Government be doing to help people in this area?

SHORTEN: When the state government goes through the formal process of notifying the Feds, which is a pretty quick process, I should say. We are able to… the Emergency Services Minister federally will issue an instruction, an instrument. 

I can have social workers and counsellors and people to help with the payments for people here by Sunday. What that means is that we move into the recovery phase. Then what we can see is that people are probably eligible for, if they've suffered significant damage, as adults get $1,000 and children get $400 to help with that immediate clean up. 

If in the case that someone's lost employment, there's another set of payments available. But so far, at least in this part of the state, it's a residential issue. But there'll be federal public servants available to help people, from hopefully as early as Sunday, as soon as we get the relevant advice and information from the state government. 

JOURNALIST: So that’ll be the Disaster Relief Payments?


JOURNALIST: People have already flagged issues with insurance companies, saying their claims are invalid because the water is coming from the river rather than falling from the sky. What are your thoughts there?

SHORTEN: I think the insurance industry has come a long way from the Brisbane floods of 2011. Daniel and I worked on getting one definition of what a flood was in the past. A lot of insurance companies would say if it's sunny overhead, then you know it's not storm damage whereas if the flood comes from further up the catchment, I think it is actually related to the storm which happened up in the region. 

So I'm optimistic that if you have a policy which includes protection against flood, we're not in the dark ages anymore. I'm optimistic that insurance companies will behave appropriately and in best practice.

Of course if people are encountering difficulties with their insurance policies, contact us. I think another challenge will be if people are underinsured, or indeed if people are uninsured, that’s going to be a difficult set of circumstances. 

When things are good, when times are good, we tend to insure according to the price of the premium. When things are bad, we tend to claim for what we think things are really worth.

Sometimes they're two different universes. But the insurance industries have come a fair way in the last decade natural disasters. But of course if there are problems people should reach out to their local federal member of Parliament. 

All good? Thanks.