Doorstop Sunshine Butterflies

Michael McCormack: … region with Llew O'Brien, the Federal Member here. And of course we're at Sunshine Butterflies, a facility started by Leanne and Damien Walsh, mainly for their son, Curtis. But it's for all people who have a disability in and around this wonderful region of Queensland. Now, I've known Damien and Leanne for 33 years. Damien, once upon a time, coached The Rock Yerong Creek Football Club. That's AFL, to the 1986 Premiership. And I was a young reporter at The Daily Advertiser newspaper at the time. So it's many, many years but we've kept in contact. And I know how heartfelt and how passionate they are about everything that they've put their mind to. And of course, they've developed a wonderful amenity here, a great facility which is doing wonders for the community here in the Wide Bay region. And of course, we've just opened a new family central administration block, which is going to mean such a difference for the people here, for the facility here, which can only grow. Already, they employ more than 80 people, providing day care services and wonderful things for people to do during the day. And of course, there's 500 members who avail themselves of these services. So, as a disability provider, Damien and Leanne, I take my hat off to both of them; wonderful people providing a wonderful service for fantastic people here in the Wide Bay region. And I know how hard that Llew O'Brien fought for funding for this facility. I commend him for that. Llew O'Brien wears his heart very much on his sleeve and when he gets to Canberra, he's always advocating and campaigning for more funding, whether it's for infrastructure; whether it's for services such as this. No matter what it is, Llew O'Brien is in there campaigning hard for it and I commend him for that and I'm proud to call him a colleague and a friend.

Journalist: What do you think of the facility?

Michael McCormack: Oh look, it's fantastic. And it's been just a little while since I've caught up to Damien Walsh, but we've talked about footy, but most importantly we've talked about the services that they provide here. And I know, under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and I know under all the other service provisions that we have at the moment, that it's only going to go from strength to strength. I know they've got more than 500 people who use this facility each and every day. And how good is that? So they're giving people hope; they're giving people a reason to jump out of bed and come down and be with the very best care and support available. This is the centre for love. This is a centre providing such great hope and help to people in need. I commend Damien and Leanne. I know how passionate they are.

Of course, young Curtis is a member here too. And I know we've got a family central service here that we've opened today, that administration block, and it's all about family. It's all about family at the Sunshine butterflies. Well done to the Walsh's.

Journalist: Have you had a chance to look around the area? You're in Cooroibah. We've had some pretty big fires around here.

Michael McCormack: Well look, we have. It's my second visit here this week. And I was up here on Sunday looking at the fires, talking to local mayors, talking to, most importantly, local firefighters. And of course we were at a service centre when firefighters came back after being out at the fire front for 18 hours straight. And so we commend them for what they've done and what they're doing. I visited a little small business here a little earlier today, Helitack, that's providing a water drop from an amenity which is attached to a helicopter. And of course, that's one of- very few of these businesses right throughout the globe, actually. There's only about three of these businesses making those sorts of- that sort of kit, that sort of gear, which can drop so many thousands of litres onto a fire front. So there's a bit of Australian ingenuity. A little company working with about 13 employees, but working with their own expertise, their own hands to- and I know, they're going to be very much used in coming months and indeed in the years ahead. And we admire those companies and we try and give them all the support that they can because that's local ingenuity; Australian made business providing solutions to help battle these fires.

And it's going to be a difficult summer ahead. We know that. We commend those firefighters for what they're doing, and of course we again urge and encourage people who are in those fire-prone areas: if you do receive advice from an emergency service personnel to move and leave your area then please do so. Have a plan. Have a bag of clothes ready at hand. And if you're asked to leave home, do so. We can always rebuild homes; we can always rebuild property; we can't restore lives.

Journalist: Today, 23 former fire chiefs and emergency service chiefs came out to say that they tried to have a meeting with the PM in April to warn about the current fire conditions and discuss funding. Is what they were saying wrong?

Michael McCormack: What they asked for was a meeting with Government and they were offered a meeting with Minister Angus Taylor. They didn't want that meeting. I'm sure, when this fire situation is brought under control, and it will be, I'm sure Government will meet with them. I know the Prime Minister obviously wants to make sure that we take advice from every person, every expert, every authority. And of course, the pressure on Government to meet with every expert is immense. But yes, I'm sure we'll take that on board. They were offered a meeting with the Minister Taylor. They didn't want that particular meeting. And you know, for whatever reason, but that was their business so I understand that. The fact is, they've sought a meeting with the Prime Minister and I'm sure that the Prime Minister will certainly listen to those concerns.

Journalist: Why is the Federal Government so reluctant to discuss climate change during this fire emergency?

Michael McCormack: Well, we're not reluctant to discuss anything about climate change. The fact is, what the Greens have done by coming out and blaming the Prime Minister and blaming the Government for people losing their lives is, as I said earlier in the week, reprehensible. Now is not the time to point the finger of blame. And we've of course seen Senators, Greens Senators, make some outlandish, and I'm sure in the cold light of day they will feel very unfortunate remarks, about climate change and about fires and about who's to blame. Let's not forget that half of the fires generally caused and created over a summer period, and we're going to go into a very difficult summer period, are often caused by arsons.

Yes, the climate is changing. Yes, it is dry. Yes, we have had a severe drought. But for the Greens to come out and point the finger at the Prime Minister and others in the Government and say we are in some way responsible for people dying. Well, that's a bridge too far. I called it out, and I thought that was the right thing to do because the Prime Minister is not responsible for people dying, and nor are anybody in Government. These are unfortunate things that happen. We live in a nation where unfortunately we are very prone to fires, to floods, to droughts. And of course, Government, no matter what political persuasion, the government of the day is always doing its best to make sure that we combat those fires. And at the moment, the focus should be on those families who've lost homes, should be on those families who've lost loved ones. That's the important thing. The important thing is that we get behind our firefighters, our volunteers, and help put these fires out; not sitting in some far off place and pointing the finger of blame and accusing somebody of being in some way responsible for somebody dying. I mean that, that is disgusting. I called it out then. I don't take back my words. Yes, climate change is here. And yes, we are addressing it.

We went to the election on May 18 with a very clear plan to address the climate, the actions that we needed to take, and we're doing that. We're not going to close down entire businesses and entire industries just because the Greens think that that might be the thing that they want. The fact is, they've accused coal mining, and the resources sector generally, of causing- somehow causing these fires. What a load of rubbish. The fact is, the resources industry and coal, specifically, creates tens of thousands of jobs, tens of billions of dollars of exports and indeed provides much of our energy needs in this nation. Now, what would the Greens have us do? Shut down an industry which provides our power needs? Shut down an industry which in here, in Queensland, the state I'm in at the moment, provides for tens of thousands of jobs and indeed funds our hospitals and schools? That's the Greens' way of doing it. If they want to go and live back in the caves, well, they should be the first to go there. If they want to turn off their power at their homes, let them do it. The fact is, we have our lifestyle and our livelihoods courtesy, largely, of what the resources sector does for our economy and for our nation. And to go and then try and draw links between what the Prime Minister is doing, between what the coal sector is doing and what the resources sector is doing, and these dreadful tragic fires, well, I think that's a bridge too far.

Journalist: The fire chief has also called for more resourcing to help with these fire agencies and the current situation. Could the nation and states have been better prepared and resourced prior to this if they had met with the Government in April?

Michael McCormack: Well, I'm not going to start saying what we could and couldn't have done. I mean, the fact is, fighting fires and making sure that we're properly resourced is largely the responsibility of states. And we always go in, as a Federal Government, to help wherever and whenever we can and were asked. And we're doing that at the moment. We are making sure that we've got those immediate cash payments. We're making sure that people have shelter if they need it. The fact is, I commend what some State Governments have done as far as making sure that they've built the proper facilities, particularly in regional areas, to ensure that they have pushed firefighting services in some remote areas, and indeed resourced them with new trucks, with better pumps and the like. The fact is, fighting fires is the remit of State Governments. The Federal Government, yes of course it's there to help. And we've always done that and we've always made sure that, as a nation, we're as ready as we can be. These fires have been savage. In some areas, they have been unprecedented. The fact is we also have had a long, long drought. That hasn't helped conditions. And I think what we need to do now is focus on getting these fires out rather than playing the blame game.

Journalist: Just one more slightly different topic: as part of the national drone noise review, your Department recommended that the Federal Government not do anything to kerb drone noise despite the complaints and though the Federal Government has responsibility for aircraft noise. Are you taking the backlash from voters in the ACT and Queensland seriously?

Michael McCormack: Of course, we always take everything that's put to Government seriously. And the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, of course, is the body that's very much largely looking at this particular issue. And I would urge and encourage people, if they do have concerns about drones and the noise that they are making, to contact their local Federal Member. Indeed, to write to CASA. And we will obviously look at it, as we always do. I know we've had studies into drone noise, and there are rules and regulations around drones that need to be met. So if people feel as though those rules and regulations are not being met or if they feel they need to brush up on what indeed those rules and regulations are, then I encourage them to contact their local Federal Member, or indeed CASA.

Journalist: Just finally, promising to see some assets sent in from New Zealand to help with the fire situation here on the coast, from New Zealand.

Michael McCormack: Well that's the Anzac spirit, and well done to the New Zealanders for getting in and helping Australia. No greater friend than New Zealanders in times of need. We saw that at Gallipoli in 1915. We've seen it many times since. We fight together, whether it's obviously to ensure peace and stability in our world, or whether it's indeed to put out fires. Of course, when earthquakes and natural disasters happen in New Zealand, the first they rely on and call upon, always Australians. The same goes for our fires. Very pleased to see our Kiwi friends helping out. As I say, no better friends than our New Zealand friends. That's the Anzac spirit.