Monday May 29, 2023

PM to travel to flood-ravaged Sydney



The federal government is considering more requests from NSW to support flood-affected communities ahead of a visit later this week by the prime minister.

Anthony Albanese is due to arrive in Canberra late on Tuesday after attending a NATO leaders summit in Spain and making side trips to France and Ukraine.

The prime minister was briefed by phone soon after clearing war-torn Ukraine on Monday AEST on the situation in NSW, where tens of thousands have been evacuated and thousands of homes deluged.

Mr Albanese also spoke to NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, who has declared a natural disaster triggering the release of a range of payments and loans for individuals and businesses.

“He will be on the ground here later in the week,” Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles, who was speaking from flood-affected Richmond in northwest Sydney, told Nine Network on Tuesday.

Mr Albanese is expected to tour the region, possibly with Mr Perrottet, in the next 24 to 36 hours.

Opposition frontbencher and Nationals leader David Littleproud told Nine NSW must be given all the resources it needs to help people.

Asked about the “optics” of Mr Albanese being overseas when the crisis began on Sunday, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the prime minister had been in contact over the issue.

“But … there’s been a lot of work that’s been necessary amongst our international partners because a lot of those relationships were run down,” Mr Chalmers told Nine.

“This important work on the international stage hasn’t prevented us from advancing our agenda here at home.”

The federal government has so far committed 200 defence personnel to help with the emergency, along with two helicopters, after a request by the NSW government.

“There are further requests that we are looking at right now, so it is an evolving situation,” Mr Marles said.

“We have been very mindful, firstly, of the need to coordinate with NSW.”

Mr Marles said he spoke on Monday night with Mr Perrottet who was “very pleased with the degree of coordination”.

For many of the communities affected, this is the fourth damaging flood event in less than 18 months.

Scores of evacuation orders and warnings have been declared, mostly northwest of Sydney, where major flooding is occurring along the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers.

The NSW disaster funds will be funnelled to people in 23 local government areas in Greater Sydney and surrounding regions.

Federal emergency management minister Murray Watt said the flooding event had not yet reached the threshold to be declared a national emergency.

“We certainly saw that through the Northern Rivers floods (in NSW in March) but at this point, the advice to me is that it hasn’t reached that level,” Senator Watt told ABC television.


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