20 June 2023

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (17:25): In the grievance debate tonight I want to talk about disaster recovery and resilience and infrastructure issues in my electorate. Recently, I was pleased to hear that the Toogoolawah (Dingyarra Street) flood mitigation project in the Somerset region in my electorate had received funding through the $200 million inaugural round of the Albanese Labor government's new Disaster Ready Fund. The federal government and Somerset Regional Council are both contributing a million dollars towards the project, and the council will deliver the works.

The Somerset region endured devastating floods in 2011, 2013 and, most recently, 2022. It was also impacted by the 2019 Queensland bushfires. So this is welcome news for the region, particularly Toogoolawah, which was significantly affected during last year's floods. The section of the town around Dingyarra Street and Eskdale Road contained a high concentration of residents in properties that were flooded. This area is at great risk of inundation in the event of a future flood without appropriate flood reduction and mitigation measures in place. This overland flow reduction project will involve the construction of new drainage infrastructure, which will mitigate future flood impacts for surrounding properties and make the area significantly safer during floods, storms and other emergency events. This will not only provide much-needed relief to the local community but enhance the overall resilience of the region against the impact of future floods. It was good to go there recently and inspect the project site, with Mayor Graeme Lehmann, Deputy Mayor Helen Brieschke and other local councillors, while I was in town doing my mobile office at Toogoolawah Show. I want to thank the council for their funding contribution and their strong advocacy for the project.

Through the Disaster Ready Fund, the Albanese Labor government is investing $1 billion in Commonwealth funding over five years to build critical projects like this, which will lessen disaster risk, help to reduce recovery costs and strengthen community resilience across the country. The fund was a Labor election commitment and will deliver long-term mitigation funding to help communities recover from natural disasters and ensure Australia is better prepared for future emergencies. I know the first round was heavily oversubscribed, with more than 300 applications submitted across the states and territories, and unfortunately not all projects could be funded.

I was very disappointed that a project proposal for a Mount Crosby and Karana Downs community support centre in my electorate was unsuccessful. This was an application for $3 million under the fund to match the $3 million commitment of the Queensland Labor government, for a total of $6 million, to upgrade the Mount Crosby State School hall and facilities for use as an emergency relief hub during floods and other natural disasters, to support the Mount Crosby and Karana Downs area. This area was cut off in the 2011 and 2022 floods, so local residents dubbed it 'Mount Crosby' or 'Crosby Island'. It was severely impacted by the lack of food and medical supplies and was the subject of much media commentary on the fact that in Australia's third-largest city an area could be entirely cut off, with local people left to fend for themselves.

I estimate that in the 2022 floods, even though I've got Wivenhoe Dam, Somerset Dam, Lockyer Creek, Bremer River and Brisbane River in my electorate, about 30 per cent of my time was taken up in this area in assisting local organisations on local issues that were flood related—for example, Colleges Crossing Family Practice, who were trying to get people evacuated, trying to make sure medicines were available and trying to get food in to support local people, who rightly felt left behind and ignored by disaster management and government.

During this time, the school hall became an ad hoc and informal refuge and relief coordination centre for local residents. In fact, so dire was the situation that some local community gardens and food libraries were helping feed people, distributing food, vegetables and other edible plants via the school hall and elsewhere—people sharing food because they'd run out of food; people sharing medicines because they'd run out of medicine. This was in the third-biggest city in Australia.

The gap between what was happening on the ground and the feedback from senior people in government and emergency management was stark. I repeatedly was getting phone calls from people telling me about what was going on on the ground with this area of Brisbane entirely cut off. Ironically, and this is really bizarre, the first official food drop was received by helicopter after the road to Brisbane via Ugly Gully was actually opened, so people could drive to supermarkets and pharmacies in Brisbane to get much-needed relief.

Following the event, I've work closely with local residents and local stakeholders like the Karana Downs Region Disaster Community Support group on ways to better prepare for future events. One of the key proposals coming out of these consultations was to set up a community support centre at Mount Crosby State School campus. The proposal has the full support of the state school, who want to play a bigger role in the local community; the Queensland Department of Education; and the Queensland state minister as well as relevant agencies like State Emergency Services and the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. It has the support of local elected relatives at all levels of government, including myself; the state member for Moggill, Dr Christian Rowan; and Brisbane City Council Pullenvale Ward Councillor Greg Adermann. I pay tribute to both these gentlemen who've worked collaboratively and cooperatively in bipartisan work on this issue. We all provided letters of support for the DRF funding application.

The idea of this community hub is entirely consistent with the findings and recommendations of two major reviews in response to the 2022 floods in Queensland. The state government Inspector-General Emergency Management's review and the Brisbane City Council 2022 Flood Review, conducted by former Queensland Supreme Court Justice and Governor Paul de Jersey, recommended the Brisbane City Council should formalise the role of community hubs and their volunteers as an integral part of the community response to disaster events. This is backed up by a previous report after the 2011 floods which also recommended the same thing. The lesson was not learned by the Brisbane City Council and by governments at every other level.

I am not happy this project was not funded in round 1. I've made my views known to the minister, and I've discussed the issues with the minister. I look forward to seeing another application for this project in round 2. I will work together, in a cooperative, constructive way, with the minister's office and the Prime Minister's office and with locals, including the local councillor, the local state MP and local people. It is totally unacceptable that parts of Brisbane and people in this area could be treated in this way during the flood. This is a very important thing that needs to be undertaken. I urge the government to look at this in a future round. The funding is much-needed. This part of Brisbane gets cut off regularly, and three times, since 2022 floods, has it been cut off.

However, I am pleased that the government's October budget provided $7 million in local flood recovery resilience projects in my electorate. For example, there was $3 million to support the Ipswich City Council's flood recovery and resilience projects along the Bremer River and its creeks; $4 million to upgrade the Ipswich Showgrounds, including $2.5 million for general upgrades as part of the stage 3 redevelopment of the showgrounds; and a further $1.5 million under the Disaster Ready Fund to improve amenities at a local emergency relief centre. This will provide toilets, showers and privacy for locals in a purpose-built emergency relief centre, which will service the entire region, rather like what's being proposed at Mount Crosby-Karana Downs community support centre but on a much larger scale. This showground has been open 11 times in the last 12 years because of natural disasters.

During the 2022 floods, many Ipswich residents were forced from their homes when inundated with water and needed emergency accommodation and care at the showgrounds. So this is much-needed funding which will allow the Ipswich Showground buildings to be upgraded and to have amenities that people need until they can return to their homes. I thank the minister and I thank the government for that funding. Together, these projects will help futureproof and make Ipswich more resilient against the impacts of floods and natural disasters.

We also need to futureproof major roads and highways to ensure better connectivity across one of the fastest growing regions in the country, and that's why I'm urging the Queensland government to release the options in the business case for the Mount Crosby Road interchange on the Warrego Highway.

The first proposal on this was friendless. Finally, they have looked at another two options, and they will come up very shortly with a final proposal. I look forward to them releasing it, and I urge the Queensland government to release it urgently.

Finally, I look forward to the response on the Willowbank interchange. This has gone on for far too long. I cannot see any alternative other than to divert the Cunningham Highway south and to make sure only local traffic goes through the interchange to Willowbank, Rosewood and the RAAF base. I support the local community in a major upgrade of the Willowbank interchange.