The Times



Prime Minister interview with Ben Fordham

  • Written by Scott Morrison

BEN FORDHAM: Prime Minister, good morning to you. 


PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. 


FORDHAM: It can happen out of nowhere. I think back to one year ago today when you sent us into lockdown and here we are a year later, we're now dealing with a major flood event. It's cut off entire towns, submerged bridges and forced thousands from their homes. And we need to send a message to people this morning, if they're asked to leave, they need to leave.


PRIME MINISTER: That's exactly right. I mean, to be listening to those local authorities and agencies, they're doing a fantastic job, those in New South Wales and Queensland, I should stress. There's also flooding and storm events up in Queensland as well. And it's important that people listen very carefully to those local authorities, that volunteers are doing an extraordinary job. The state governments have this well in hand. We stand ready to assist and we'll wait for those requests, but be on the ready for that. But the payments are already in place for the affected areas on 180 22 66. That's the $1000 payment for adults and $400 for each child. And so those lines are open, they were open until 8pm last night so people can get that support. People were already doing that yesterday. But you're right, Ben, it's another testing time for our country and there have been a lot of them, and particularly in these areas that are affected by floods at the moment, particularly outside of Sydney. But in Sydney itself, what's happening at Warragamba and out there in Penrith and across the Hawkesbury. And our Member for Lindsay, Melissa McIntosh, she is there on the ground working with State Emergency Services. And it's a matter of pulling through together once again. 


FORDHAM: Have you got any news for us about the Defence Force helping out?


PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have had no requests at this point and we expect later today we will start getting requests for the recovery operations on the other side and so we're readying ourselves for that. We've had on standby helicopters and others to support the search and rescue, and that's been happening for the last few days. I've been taking briefings on this for several days now, working closely together with the New South Wales Government. The New South Wales Government has very, very good and significant resources and capable agencies to deal with the floods and they've got that in hand and should they need anything further then I have no doubt they will request and we'll move very quickly.


FORDHAM: I'll just repeat that number for people who want to access some of those emergency payments, 180 22 66, or go to au. When you think about what we've been through, drought, fires, coronavirus, and now floods, at least we’re the type of people who stand up when there's a battle on.


PRIME MINISTER: That's the case and it's important to stand together and focus on what needs to be done. And particularly right now, we're in the middle of a response to a very significant crisis. I mean, we’ve got one in 50 year floods, the worst since 1961, 1961 levels, I should say, for what we're seeing out there on the Nepean and the Hawkesbury. But elsewhere across the mid-north coast, we're one in 100 years. So these are very, very serious and very severe storms and floods and it's a very complex weather system too, Ben. We're seeing also a tropical moisture rain system from the Kimberley, that's now also impacting on northern South Australia, western New South Wales and the southern Northern Territory, causing inland flooding. So this is a very testing time but as always, we’ll come together. States and territories outside of New South Wales are also supporting New South Wales. Our Head of Emergency Management brings together all those Chiefs and did so on several occasions over the weekend and that means the resources from other states can be brought to bear where New South Wales needs them as well.


FORDHAM: Prime Minister, I'll keep our chat short this morning because I've got to keep up with the rolling coverage. 




FORDHAM: But I'll just ask you about one thing, and that is the House of Representatives today which will vote on whether to pursue a Royal Commission into the issue of veterans suicides. How will you be voting?


PRIME MINISTER: We won't be opposing that motion at all. I mean, we've always thought you need something better and more than a Royal Commission. I mean, what we need is a permanent arrangement and that's what we've put into the Parliament. We've put in legislation to provide for a permanent set of arrangements that have the powers of a Royal Commission to address veterans suicide and I'm sure that these two things can come together and we can come to some agreement over the course of this week. I want to do what's right for veterans, Ben. We put considerable resources, rightly into supporting veterans, whether it be on mental health. Just last year, $230 million a year, another $100 million put in last year's Budget. So we're addressing these issues. But Royal Commissions are fine, but they're only temporary. They're not a silver bullet. You need the permanent arrangements and support to address the root causes of these issues and that's what we're committed to doing. But we’ll work with the Parliament, but we're particularly keen to ensure that we can get support for this permanent commission, independent Commissioner that deals with these issues on an ongoing basis, not just on a once off.


FORDHAM: And just specifically on the vote on the Royal Commission, you will be supporting it?


PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, we won't be opposing that bill at all- that motion at all.


FORDHAM: We appreciate your time. Thanks for your time.




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