Minister Shorten interviewed on Triple M Coffs Coast


SUBJECTS: Flooding

Steve Price, HOST: Bill Shorten is the Minster for the NDIS, but he is also the Federal Member for Maribyrnong, he joins us on the line. Good to talk to you again.


PRICE: I felt like I was in a parallel universe on Saturday. I drove out to Sunshine and, you know, the traffic was normal. There was- you could be forgiven thinking you were in a completely different country where in the Maribyrnong area, tragically, the Maribyrnong River has just taken over large slabs of your electorate.

SHORTEN: Yeah, this was the 1974 levels. I was speaking to constituents who lived through '74 - they thought it was either just the same, slightly less or slightly more so. it's been this one in 50-year flood - I just hope it stays a one in 50-year flood.

PRICE: I've seen some aerial photographs, and the debate about the wall around Flemington Racecourse is obviously up and running. Now, we're going to have a full investigation into that, but what you can see in those pictures, Mr Shorten, it does show that the track itself, the surrounds of the Flemington Racecourse seem protected from the floodwaters and it's funnelling downstream. Have you got a view on that?

SHORTEN: Well first of all, I'll just say at the outset, I don't know if the flood wall's presence backed water up and therefore spread elsewhere. I'd have to say, for full disclosure, on one hand, whilst I love racing, in 2006 when the wall was mooted to be built I did oppose it. And I said that talking to residents and other experts, they were concerned that the future flood wall might cause water to back up and be pushed elsewhere. Unfortunately, that debates now live because we've had that flood that some of us worried about 16 years ago. 

I don't know if there's a link. I do think that it has to be investigated for the respect of residents. Because, as you say, those aerial photos show pristine racetrack, and that's great. But having been through the muddy streets and flooded houses, I think for residents' peace of mind we need to get an explanation as to whether or not there was a link or not. 

And I would just say I'm not saying there is, but some of us were worried about it 16 years ago, and I think it's owed to those people going through the trauma and all the sporting clubs who, you know, don't have a fence around their properties, the community and the council who're going to have to pay for the infrastructure which has been trashed.

PRICE: I suspect you were right 16 years ago, but we will leave it there because neither you or I are water experts.


PRICE: And yes, we do love the Spring Carnival. And, you know, in your area you've got the Cox Plate coming up at Moonee Valley, then you've got Flemington next- the week after, so…

SHORTEN: Yeah, I love it. But- and the question comes down to is the one and 50-year flood- is the track more important than the people? Obviously, the people are more important. But having said that, I don't know if there's a link. But I think for the ongoing social licence of racing, we just- it's in everyone's interest to understand was the wall a net good, or did it have some negative?

PRICE: What was it like looking across the weekend at the impact of this on your community?

SHORTEN: Shocking, actually. I- anyone who lives in the Moonee Valley, Maribyrnong area uses that river. You jog along it, you have your family catch ups. It's a beautiful waterway. And you sort of objectively know, as you jog around the track or you ride your bike down there, that there are houses built on low land. 

But it was shocking to see the flood and the extent to it, and it was quite upsetting to just see people dragging out of their muddy water strewn houses their furniture, and furniture and carpet after a flood doesn't have the same value as beforehand. And the hard rubbish collections today on the streets of Maribyrnong will be busy, the trucks will be going all week. 

And it's just- I'm distressed for the people who have been affected. You know, there's- sure, I'm worried about Shepparton, and what was lovely in Echuca and Rochester and- they're still going through the peril. But I- and it was lovely talking to the residents of Maribyrnong. They said: oh well, people are doing it harder than us, but I worry if people haven't got insurance or couldn't get insurance or if under insured. 

We tend to, on sunny days, ensure to the cost of the premium, but on rainy days that economy mightn't always be there. The value of, you know - so it's difficult.

PRICE: Yeah, I was talking to a bloke at the South Melbourne Market yesterday, his son's got a restaurant on the banks of the Murray up at Echuca that's gone under. He could not- no insurance. They simply…


PRICE: …because it's a floodplain area you can't get insurance, or if you can you can't afford it.

SHORTEN: It's going to be tough for people. One of my jobs is I'm Minister for Government Services or Centrelink, so I just would use your show just to say to people who are either flood affected across Victoria or Tassie, or indeed know people who might be, there is a small, modest $1000 payment for adults and $400 for kids. If the flood waters have crossed the, you know, your house and got on to- above the floorboards, you're probably eligible. So do get online for Services Australia. We've got pretty hard working public servants - not all heroes wear uniforms. They're in Echuca, Rochester, Bendigo; they're in Shepparton, they're in Maribyrnong. 

Just- this is not- a lot of people are very proud, but- $1000 isn't going to compensate you, but it's going to help with those initial bills or if you've got some white goods you've got to replace, what have you. So people should check if they're eligible. And we've been pretty good in the last 48 hours of - that's not me blowing my own bugle, but the Service Australia payments are available now. There's not a lot of stuffing around, hopefully. 

You just- if you've got a photo of the damage done to your house or whatever. If you're affected and you can't get to work, there's defined local government areas in Tassie and Victoria, you can claim a modest payment if you can't work. It's like JobKeeper so it's not high, but they're two Government payments which are available at the federal level and you should ask about the state government. They've probably got some supports as well for people with the temporary emergency costs.

PRICE: I can't imagine what it would be like to have mud go through your whole house. It would just be shocking.

SHORTEN: Well, I was out the front of one house in Navigator Street or Clyde Street- down in Chifley Drive, anyway, and a lady came in and her mum was away, and the daughter came in and you could just see the- hear these wails of just distress and upset. You know, the fridge had floated and carpets, and it rose very quickly. 

And so you might gather your iPad, your dog and the kids, but you don't necessarily get the birth certificates or you don't necessarily grab the family wedding photos or the school reports. And it's not much in a big scheme of history, but to a family or to an individual, it's your connection with the past which can't be reproduced. So…

PRICE: Yeah, and I think we were all so surprised that it was Metro Melbourne. I mean, we hear about these things in regional Australia…


PRICE: …and we almost expect it but you don't expect it there.

SHORTEN: Yeah, well this was two or three kilometres from the GPO in Melbourne, you know, the general post office. So it was in the middle of town. You've seen the black and white photos and the pictures of 1974, but it's there again. No one's immune.

PRICE: No, they're not. Thanks for joining us. Always appreciate it, and we'll make sure we put out that information on where people can access some assistance.

SHORTEN: Good on ya. Thanks, Steve, bye.

PRICE: Good on ya. Bill Shorten there, Minister for the NDIS.