SUBJECTS: NSW Floods.
NATALIE BARR: Well, the weather emergency in Sydney is still causing chaos across the city. The deluge has swamped parts of Sydney's south and southwest, leaving low lying areas underwater. Thousands and thousands of residents were ordered to leave their homes as river levels rapidly rose. SES crews carried out more than 80 rescues yesterday alone, fielding 1,500 calls for help. For more, I'm joined by Deputy PM and Defence Minister Richard Marles. Good morning to you, Minister. The government has so far sent in up to 200 troops, I believe, and two helicopters to help with these rescues. You met with RAAF personnel last night there at the base. How are those efforts going on the ground?
ACTING PRIME MINISTER: Well, there are extensive efforts, as you said. So we've got 100 who are out there right now doing sandbagging, knocking on doors, implementing evacuation orders. As you said, an additional 100 have been made available from yesterday, so they'll be doing similar activities. We've got two Taipan helicopters that are ready to do search and rescue, and particularly nighttime search and rescue. I've just had a tour now of the floodwaters around Richmond in the Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers. And it is extensive, the amount of water which is out there. And these communities have experienced now the fourth flooding event in the last 18 months. So it's a community that has been particularly hard hit. And this is a major rain event.
BARR: Yeah, we’re standing here at Windsor and compared to this time yesterday, the river has gone up nearly two metres. We just know from being here before that so many more homes are going to be inundated. What help are you going to give these people?
ACTING PRIME MINISTER: Well, you're right. It's heartbreaking as you fly over the areas and you look at areas which, as you say, are not underwater now but are expected to go underwater. Last night, the New South Wales Government declared a natural disaster. That means that a whole lot of payments now are triggered which the government, the Federal Government and the State Government are supporting, that will provide loans to small businesses, to primary producers. This part of Sydney, as you know, is really part of the food bowl of the Greater Sydney area and they're being particularly hard hit in relation to what they do in terms of their primary produce. So we'll be providing support there as well. And we obviously stand ready to do more. There are more requests coming through the pipeline as this situation unfolds.
BARR: We all saw Lismore. We saw many people taking the rescues upon themselves. A discussion, for want of a better word, probably a kind word, about whether the ADF should be called in and when. This seems like they're called in faster. Was that a conscious effort?
ACTING PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely. We've been speaking very early on with the New South Wales Government, making sure that the ADF was ready to go straight away. So even before we had people active they were on standby ready to do that. And as we've said, we've got more resources there ready to go right now as the situation evolves. And I think there has been a much better degree of coordination with the New South Wales Government. I spoke with the Premier last night, and I know that the Prime Minister has also been on the phone to the Premier, and he’ll be – the Prime Minister will be – in this area over the next couple of days. But we've really been trying to be on the front foot from the moment that this situation started evolving, because the earlier you can get help out there, the more you can do.
BARR: So we won't be in a situation where we have a Federal Government saying no, we have to be asked to go in?
ACTING PRIME MINISTER: I mean, there are protocols in relation to being asked, but you can actually get on the front foot and have the conversation with the state government so that sort of issue doesn't get in the way. The point here has been we've been making contact from day one so that we can have the resources ready to go and be available. And that's exactly what has occurred. And I think there's been a huge benefit associated with that.
BARR: Okay. Richard Marles, I know it's a long clean up. We haven't even talked about damage, which is probably too early right now. It's just supporting those poor people who are suffering so much. We thank you very much for your time this morning.
ACTING PRIME MINISTER: Appreciate it, Nat.
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