Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Victorian Bushfires – 2GB

Program: Radio 2GB

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JOURNALIST: we’ve got Jenny Macklin, the Federal Community Services Minister on the phone she’s phoned in. The Prime Minister today has announced the assistance package for those affected by the Victorian bushfires so Minister, thank you so much for your time this afternoon.

JENNY MACKLIN: My pleasure.

JOURNALIST: Well, this assistance package, the $1000 for adults and $400 for children, is that just the beginning of the process?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s really an emergency payment for those people who are in shocking circumstances down here in Victoria. The Prime Minister and I have just been to one of the relief centres that’s just been set up on the outskirts of Melbourne. There are hundreds of people there, many of them have lost everything and this $1000 is really just to help them get some emergency clothing, a toothbrush. It’s really just to provide immediate assistance.

JOURNALIST: Yes. How much communications and talks with the Victorian Government has there been on this?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, this is happening constantly. The Prime Minister and I went to the Victorian disaster relief centre this morning and the Premier was out with us at one of the relief centres as well this morning so that coordination is happening. The Commonwealth Disaster Plan has been activated, the Army is now providing bulldozers and other support crews and the Prime Minister has indicated that any support the Victorians need will be provided.

JOURNALIST: This has been a fire, I suppose, or a disaster where just the numbers of deaths or whatever don’t fully reflect the impacts it’s had on specific communities. Is there going to need to be help to rebuild communities?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s so true. There are communities where the majority of houses have been burnt down and the police still can’t get into some of them to get an assessment of just how bad the situation is. There are fires in many, many parts of Victoria and there’s going to be a need to rebuild, not just homes but schools, other community facilities and so that’s a very big task.

From a personal point of view we’re wanting to get our Commonwealth family liaison people into these communities and into the relief centres as quickly as possible. Having just spoken with many families in Whittlesea we need to provide that assistance as quickly as possible. People are devastated.

JOURNALIST: Yeah, we spoke to Jason Morrison our reporter in Whittlesea a little earlier so it’s become a hub, I suppose, you would say, an evacuation centre.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, just one of them because that’s where busloads of people were brought down from the mountain and have a safe place there for the time being. And it’s a place where people are also waiting to get news about their relatives that they haven’t been able to contact so they’re just waiting until the police can get into some of these communities.

JOURNALIST: I guess this is really the biggest response the Government has had since it came into office when it comes to emergency services, isn’t it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well it’s certainly one of the worst in terms of lives lost. It’s one of those horrific things that in Australia we can be dealing with this in Victoria and at the same time dealing with terrible floods in North Queensland, that’s the nature of our country.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that we have a good enough system in place, is it something that you’ve refined since the ALP came to power or were you happy with the mechanisms that were already existing under the Howard Government?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think the systems are in place. It’s not really about that, it’s about doing everything we possibly can, working together, of course people right across Parliament, the Prime Minister’s spoken with Federal members who have been affected whether they’re Government members or Opposition members it doesn’t matter at times like this.

JOURNALIST: Yeah, fair call on that regard. What about Australians and a fund? Has anything been set up that formally, formally by the Government where Australians can give?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes it has. The Prime Minister and the Premier spoke about that this morning. They’ve committed $ 5 million each to this fund and we hope to have the bank account number able to be put out on the radio air waves later today, that’s just being finalised.

JOURNALIST: But there will be something that if Australians want to give that they…

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s exactly…

JOURNALIST: …they can do that.

JENNY MACKLIN: …that’s exactly what we’re doing, we’re really understand that many Australians, not just people here in Victoria, right around the country, have been affected and want to contribute. And just having seen the great work the Red Cross are doing on the ground, if we can – help them financially but of course also help individuals.

JOURNALIST: Yes. What about the emotional cost, is that something that you’re very aware of?

JENNY MACKLIN: Very aware of. Of course just being with people who’ve been directly affected you can’t help but be affected yourself by their loss and they will certainly need counselling support and we’re trying to get our social workers from Centrelink out there as quickly as possible into these relief centres. But as the fire fighters have indicated we’ll also need to provide that counselling support especially in the local communities even if people haven’t lost everything themselves, they’ll know somebody who has and the fire fighters themselves will need counselling support. Some of them we met this morning were looking pretty devastated.

JOURNALIST: Yeah, I think they’ve seen some pretty horrific things from what we’ve been told.


COMPERE: Yeah. Minister, thank you so much for your time, appreciate it.

JENNY MACKLIN: No problem.

JOURNALIST: That’s the Federal Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin who’s been on the ground with the fire emergency in Victoria today and bank account details that she was talking about, we’ll give you those details as soon as we get them to hand.