Ross Greenwood speaks to Labor Member for Herbert Cathy O’Toole as
Two bodies have been found in a search for two men missing in flood-ravaged Townsville.
Ross Greenwood: Great to have your company on Money News right around Australia. Look, while all this stuff is going on with Royal Commission and so forth there has been clearly a tragedy of not only economic proportions but also of human proportions taking place in Townsville. As you might be well aware, the record flood waters have swept through Townsville as a result of originally, of course, opening the floodgates of the dams.
They’ve effectively had to do that because there was so much rain coming into the catchment areas and so the danger was that the dam would overflow anyway. With the amount of water that then fell, the rainfall, its just taken out so many houses, so many businesses. It’s not unusual you get flooding but seriously, this is on a different level. When I say, for example, overnight even there were 400 jobs for the SES in that area. People being trapped on the roof of their cars, all this type of thing.
In the meantime, the tragedy is that two men in their 20s have been found drowned in flood waters in Townsville. There is some suggestion about what their motives were for being there in the first place, but let’s try and just bring in a little bit of understanding on the ground about this. The Federal Labor member for Herbert is Cathy O’Toole. We normally speak with Cathy when it comes to things like Queensland Nickel and workers being sacked. In this case, it really is something that affects the overall community in that area. Cathy, many thanks for your time. Just what’s the latest? What are you seeing up there as you’re driving around? You’re getting around there?
Interview with: Cathy O’Toole, Member for Herbert
Cathy O’Toole: Hi, it’s been absolutely devastating. The water has come up and so many people have had massively severe flooding through their houses. It’s raining here now at the moment. I was evacuated from my own home. I was lucky we only had a garage and a shed that flooded. My mother who lives next door to me she’s 85, she’s had her house completely flooded and that’s the story for many, many people in this community. Can I say the Townvillian mob we get together and we support each other when times are tough and that’s exactly what has been happening here.
Ross Greenwood: I know certainly the Prime Minister was there today. This is not a political issue. That’s quite clear to anybody who’s looking at this but the political leadership support the fact that they’re seeing on the ground what needs to be done. Does that at least help the communities long-term, do you think?
Cathy O’Toole: Look, I think it does. I think the fact that people bother to come to town when there is a bent of this nature and we will see the opposition leader here. Can I say the Local Disaster Management Group here that’s chaired by the mayor, Jenny Hill, has been outstanding? The support from the ADF, the work of the police, the ambulance, the fire service, or health services. It has been extraordinary what’s happened here. The people who volunteered in evacuation centers they’ve done an extraordinary job. It’s just been a great all-around effort.
Ross Greenwood: I know that say, for example, a clean-up really can’t start until the flood waters subside. That might take some days still. Is there anything that’s been called for from the rest of the Australian community to help people get back on their feet? I guess it’s hard to work this out until you know what the insurance is going to cover and also what sort of a clean-up is required.
Cathy O’Toole: That’s exactly right. There is a website called GIVIT, G-I-V-I-T, where people can donate if they would like to help people. Of course, when you have an event of this magnitude, there will be people who don’t have insurance or people who are underinsured. There will be a lot of hardships felt by people in our community. In terms of on-the-ground support at the moment, the SES has done an extraordinary job. They have looked after over 2,000 calls. That is amazing. They have just been unbelievable.
There’s some volunteer help as well. The Salvation Army has been cooking for over 1000 people in shelters. It’s just been extraordinary.
Ross Greenwood: There’s still significant flood warnings around the place, but just one issue and this will come as part of the review no doubt. The role of the dams, the fact that new flood high water marks I gather now have to be established. This has impacts on insurance for households, for business. So there’s a really widespread community reaction to this that’s going to be required to see what sort of mitigation is required in the future to keep your communities in that area safe.
Cathy O’Toole: I’m sure that will be the case. Primarily that will fall to the state government I would imagine. The Local Disaster Management Group will be having an analysis of the efforts and what needs to be done, how things can be improved. I’m sure there’ll be opportunities for community to comment. Can I say, I was born in Townsville, I’ve lived here a number of decades and I have never seen anything like this. It’s been extraordinary and I’ve lived through every cyclone since I was here that I can remember.
Ross Greenwood: That certainly says plenty of the old timers in that area. I’m certain they’re saying exactly the same thing. The picture is quite horrendous to see and of course, the fact of the matter is that most people have stayed safe. That is a good thing but also loss of property is also something else. The Federal Labor member for Herbert in around that area of Townsville which has been so adversely affected. Cathy, it’s always great to have you on the program and I appreciate your time this evening.
Cathy O’Toole: Thank you very much, Ross.
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