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Qld Premier rejects PM’s national emergency push

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Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has rejected a push by the Prime Minister to declare a national emergency due to floods, saying it has come too late.

Scott Morrison had been planning to declare an emergency on Thursday, two weeks after the peak of major floods that killed 13 people and damaged thousand of homes and businesses in Queensland’s south-east.

But the Premier said the declaration would be pointless because the immediate crisis had passed. Disaster declarations in 17 Queensland local government areas will be lifted on Sunday.

“The time for that national emergency [declaration] was probably a week ago,” Ms Palaszczuk said on Thursday.

“We’ve actually gone past that. The floodwaters have gone down, they’ve subsided, and … those disaster declarations will be lifted on Sunday.”

A spokesperson for Mr Morrison’s office said if Ms Palaszczuk “needed the declaration a week ago, she could have requested it in any of the many conversations she, the Prime Minister and state and federal ministers have had during the crisis”.

“The Premier did not raise it once, and will need to explain to affected communities why they don’t need this declaration whereas the NSW Premier has welcomed the additional support,” the spokesperson told the ABC.

Mr Morrison was in south-east Queensland on Thursday to see the damage done by last week’s floods. Thursday’s visit included a street walk through some of the hardest hit areas – unlike Wednesday’s visit to Lismore, in northern NSW, where Mr Morrison avoided meeting angry locals.

Ms Palaszczuk added that Mr Morrison had been very good in offering ADF personnel to help the state government with its recovery efforts.

Meanwhile, Mr Morrison has defended a decision to deny 17 of Queensland’s 20 applications for Commonwealth flood mitigation funding.

The three projects that received federal funding were in the state’s far north and Gulf regions, rather than the heavily-populated south-east.

Mr Morrison said grants from the $5 billion fund weren’t unlimited, but flood mitigation works were ultimately a local and state government responsibility anyway.

“When it comes to particularly urban water management and things of that nature, these are responsibilities of local authorities and the state government,” he said.

“The question I could equally put to you is, ‘Why haven’t they funded them, why do state governments constantly come to the federal government to pay for things that are responsibilities of state governments’.”

Ms Palaszczuk said the 20 project applications, including an upgrade of the state’s flood warning system, were worth only $127 million in total – out of a $5 billion fund.

She couldn’t understand why the applications were knocked back when the state and federal governments usually worked cooperatively on disaster planning and mitigation.

“You can’t have a fund and not use it. So I honestly believe that if you’ve got the money there, let’s get it out the door,” she said.

Ms Palaszczuk and Mr Morrison were to hold talks on the recovery efforts later on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Ms Palaszczuk said the insurance claims on private cars, homes and businesses from Queensland’s floods had topped $1 billion.

Flood Recovery Coordinator Major-General Jake Ellwood said 4000 homes were moderately or severely damaged. Thousands more damage assessments are still to be done.

“It is significant, but it is great work that has been done to really start to understand the scale of this disaster,” he said.

More than 41,000 individuals and 344 businesses had also been paid $7 million in joint state and Commonwealth hardship grants as of Wednesday afternoon.

Ms Palaszczuk also said 169 farms had lost fencing, 117 properties had lost equipment and 53 per cent reported suffering a major or catastrophic impact from the deluge.

-with AAP

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