By Tanya Plibersek

16 March 2022





SUBJECTS: QLD and NSW floods; Labor’s $440 million plan to help kids bounce back after COVID; Scott Morrison.
ANIKA WELLS, MEMBER FOR LILLEY: Good morning everyone, I'm Anika Wells, your federal member for Lilley. We're here today at Wavell State High and we are two weeks on from the Brisbane floods. I think people in Brisbane are feeling pretty anxious. They're anxious because we had the COVID pandemic, we got through that, then Delta hit, we got through that, and then Omicron hit, and then just when we were getting through that the Brisbane floods hit. For the floods, I think that was the breaking of the back for some people because the floods took their most prized possession, their home. And when you lose your home, you feel under attack and you start to worry about all the other pressures coming at you. So people are worried about those hip pocket pressures, and that's what we're talking about now, in the clean up and the rebuild. They're worried about their property values, if they're lucky enough to own their home. They're worried about where they'll get more rental accommodation from, whether they can get their hands on another car, what rising insurance costs are going to look like now. All of these things against a backdrop of supply chain concerns, rising cost of living, petrol prices skyrocketing, and Australian manufacturing coming to its demise. So I think the people in Brisbane feel pretty anxious about what's ahead and what's to come. And that makes this election incredibly important and a choice about whether or not Australians would pick a pathway to a future made in Australia, led by Anthony Albanese, or another wasted decade led by leader who refuses to hold a hose. That's the stark choice facing us in May, but today, two weeks on from the floods it's just really nice to be back in our schools who have kids back after cleanup and COVID, doing important programs like Beyond the Broncos, which is a mentoring program for First Nations students and our Brisbane Broncos learning really important leadership skills. And that was the workshop that Tanya Plibersek and I were lucky enough to participate in today. I'm so glad to have Labor's spokesperson for Education, Tanya Plibersek here with me. Because not only has it been a really tough time for us here on the northside in the past few weeks, every little opportunity we get to instil hope and instil leadership and instil community in our young people gives us the sense that there's a pathway back for us. So thanks so much for coming Tanya and I'll hand over to you

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Thank you so much Anika, it's so great to be here at Wavell High with you and with representatives from the Broncos, including Scott Prince, who've been working with the young people in this school on a fantastic mentoring program. Making sure the kids are going to school, making sure they're behaving when they're at school, making sure that they're setting high goals for themselves. We know kids have done it incredibly hard during the COVID lockdowns. We know kids have been doing it really tough over the last couple of years. They were hit pretty hard by COVID having to learn from home. Not being able to go out, missing their friends, missing their sporting opportunities. And so, Labor has a plan to ensure that we invest $440 million to help our kids bounce back from COVID-19. And for here, these kids who've suffered through the floods, to help them after the floods as well. Our plan would make sure that there were more opportunities for the kids. More school psychologists, more school social workers, but also more activities that help them with their wellbeing. And programs like this, where you've got terrific mentors working with young students to help them get on track, help them achieve their best, that's exactly the sort of investment we want to see for our kids future. We want them doing well at school, we want them learning how to read and write and do maths and science, but we also want them to become the leaders of the next generation. Thanks, any questions?

JOURNALIST: So, there are some without power and proper accommodation still after the floods and some are saying the Premier should still be doing more to help them. What do you say to that?

PLIBERSEK: l know Anika will want to add to this. One of the most incredible disappointments of the last few years is that we have a Prime Minister who wasn't there when Australians needed him during the bushfires, he wasn't there when Australians needed him when we were rolling out the COVID vaccines, and he hasn't been there for the floods. And the minute he gets called on it, he's looking for someone else to blame for the fact that he's let Australians down again. We know that the federal government has been sitting on a fund of close to $5 billion, $4.8 billion set aside to help communities protect themselves against floods, and with all of that money sitting there not a levy built, not a drain, not a culvert, not an emergency evacuation centre. None of that money spent that could have helped communities like this prepare for or mitigate against floods. We've also got a Prime Minister that has decided that the national disaster only starts at the border between Queensland and New South Wales. So all of the support that you would normally expect from a national government has been too slow in coming, if it's come at all. Anika do you want to add to that?

WELLS: I would say, just quickly, I've been on the ground every day since that Friday night when the rain started and I would observe two things about what people feel about Government's role in a natural disaster. Firstly, all the council workers who got called in from the mosquito team or the parks and rec team to fill sandbags that weekend said this is what happens when there are efficiency dividends and cutbacks in public services over years and years. It might be an efficiency dividend that helps one budget, but when we actually face a crisis, people want fully resourced public services, and that's what they didn't find these past two weeks. So people really want to see the public service and our public services better valued and better resourced. And I think the second thing, what Tanya touched on is absolutely correct, a $4.8 billion fund for future mitigation and emergency response to disasters is a great thing, we supported it. But it has accrued $800 million in interest. We could be taking $200 million out of that fund each year, without eroding the principle, to invest in disaster mitigation projects. $200 million every year could have been spent helping avert this disaster. It wasn't. The Prime Minister won't even take accountability for that. People can't understand why he won't. Why he won’t learn the lessons of the bushfires.

JOURNALIST: One more question, there's been accusations that Labor senators such as Penny Wong were bullying towards the late Kimberley Kitching. Does your party have a bullying problem?

PLIBERSEK: We've just lost a colleague too young, in really tragic circumstances. I'm really not going to get into these reports today. Thanks.