As the death toll in the NSW and Queensland floods soars to 17, Defence Minister Peter Dutton has defended the ADF response, comparing the situation to the aftermath of a cyclone.
“It is much more than a flood that we are experiencing in northern New South Wales and the surrounding remote towns in particular,” Mr Dutton told ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.
“It’s much more akin to a cyclone that has gone through there. There is absolutely devastation.”
While NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet concedes there should have better coordination on the ground, Mr Dutton said he was satisfied with the Defence response.
“The bravery exercised by these people, the work that they are doing on the ground is quite phenomenal,” Mr Dutton said.
He said the number of ADP personnel will surge to 5000 over the next few days and more will be supplied if needed.
“There has never been a question of the numbers of people, what we need on the ground,” he said.
Labor’s Defence spokesman Brendan O’Connor said there has been an enormous effort by emergency workers, professionals, volunteers, the ADF, private citizens who put their lives on the line to rescue others.
Flood mitigation essential
“I think people have really been quite remarkable,” he told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
“But I do believe we should have had more mitigation investment in place before these terrible events.”
He said a $4.8 billion emergency response fund was established three years ago, but not a cent had been spent yet on the construction of culverts, drainage systems, evacuation centres or anything like that.
Already flooded parts of NSW face the prospect of further heavy rain that could cause more flooding.
The Bureau of Meteorology warns some areas could receive up to 140mm of rain in six hours and dangerous flash flooding could follow.
Insurance claims had hit about $1.25 billion by the end of Friday, with the lion’s share – $1 billion – being submitted from Queensland, according to industry body, the Insurance Council of Australia.