Interview with Karl Stefanovic and Sarah Abo, Nine Today Show

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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5 July 2022

SUBJECTS: NSW Floods; Prime Minister’s visit to Ukraine.

KARL STEFANOVIC: The ADF is now being called upon to assist rescue teams in northwestern and southwestern Sydney as floodwaters rise around Liverpool and Milperra.

SARAH ABO: Acting Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles joins us now from Richmond. Good morning to you. Now we know it has been a wild and woolly past 24 hours in Sydney. You experienced some of that landing yesterday.

ACTING PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, well as we came in here last night, Sarah, at Airbase Richmond, it was pretty rough and ready as we came into land. The crew did an amazing job, but there has just been continual rain here. We're right in the middle of the Hawkesbury, but it's the same obviously across Sydney. And I think one of the really devastating things is that for the communities around Richmond, some of the people here have been experiencing literally their fourth flood event within the last [18] months. And the irony for me is I remember coming to this base just a couple of years ago when it was really ground zero for the bushfires. And so these communities just seem to be experiencing one disaster after another.

STEFANOVIC: I can't remember weather like it in New South Wales, you experienced this sort of thing, these cyclonic conditions in Far North Queensland, but it was sustained, it has been for a couple of days. I guess you're learning some lessons from the previous government. How many personnel have you got out and about ready to go and muscle in here to help people out?

ACTING PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, so there are right now 100 ADF personnel who are involved in things like sandbagging, knocking on doors in respect to evacuation orders. We've got a couple of helicopters which are standing ready to do, particularly, night search and rescue. As of yesterday, another 100 ADF personnel came online taking the total to 200, and there are further requests that we are looking at right now. So it's an evolving situation. That's just the ADF. There are obviously other agencies which will be coming online as well to provide support. But we've been very mindful, firstly of the need to coordinate with New South Wales, I spoke with Dom Perrottet last night and they're very pleased with the degree of coordination, but it's really important that we're on the front foot doing everything we can to support these communities, and that's happening.

ABO: And as you point out, this is the first time it's happening – fourth time it's happening – to these communities who are absolutely devastated. There's fatigue. But essentially there is this idea of going through the motions. Resilience New South Wales has come under fire for its handling of the Lismore disaster. This time round, are people getting the help they need?

ACTING PRIME MINISTER: Well, we've been trying to be on the front foot as much as possible and making sure that the coordination is happening with New South Wales from the get go. So I really believe that is happening. Last night the New South Wales government declared this as a situation of a natural disaster. And so on the basis of that, that triggers a range of payments and loans which are now available for small businesses, for primary producers, for people in situations of hardship. So that process is now underway as well. All of this is happening very quickly. I guess you're right, sadly, because of the frequency of this, we are learning the lessons and it does mean that we are in a position where we're getting this assistance out the door much quicker, which is obviously appreciated.

STEFANOVIC: I noticed yesterday, Albo – sorry, the Prime Minister rather, more respectfully – was leaving Ukraine – 
ACTING PRIME MINISTER: You can call him Albo.

STEFANOVIC: - as soon as he got across the border to Poland and he was tweeting about the flood emergency in New South Wales. Are you conscious, are you concerned about the optics of him not being here while there's a flood?

ACTING PRIME MINISTER: Well, I mean obviously, this hadn't happened before he left, and the Prime Minister has been in a war zone in an area which is of enormous importance to Australia, we're a very big supporter of Ukraine. We're one of the largest non-NATO supporters of Ukraine in the context of that conflict. And the issues at stake in Ukraine, albeit a long way from Australia, are very important to us here around supporting the global rules-based order. But I also know that as soon as Anthony was in a position to make contact, he did. He's spoken with the New South Wales Premier, he's spoken with Murray Watt, our Minister for Emergency Management, and he'll be on the ground here later in the week.

STEFANOVIC: All right, good. Deputy PM Richard Marles, appreciate it. See you Friday.



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