TRANSCRIPT - Australia Today With Steve Price


Subjects: Queensland/NSW Floods, Ukraine, Prime Minister COVID diagnosis

STEVE PRICE: The Assistant Attorney General, Federal Assistant Attorney General is Queensland LNP Senator Amanda Stoker. As a Queenslander, how've you felt watching what happened to Brisbane over the last three or four days, Senator?

AMANDA STOKER: Hi Steve. It's been heartbreaking. It's only 11 years since we've been through all of this, and it's really sad to see beautiful homes filled with water, mud everywhere, muck everywhere and kids who are busting to go to school finding themselves disrupted from being able to do so. But, as is always the case with Queenslanders, we look after each other, we get on with it, and we're in clean-up mode, noting that we've got rain expected for tomorrow and we may not be out of the woods yet.

STEVE PRICE: We've been having a discussion with Amy Drew in our Brisbane newsroom, and Natasha and I here, about- it was 2011 when the Brisbane river last flooded, and there was- we saw the damage that occurred then. The debate over the Wivenhoe Dam release of water. My friend Hedley Thomas has been campaigning strongly in The Australian about what went right and wrong with that release of water. Ten years on, it's happened again - doesn't there need to be a very spirited debate in Queensland about sorting out what's happening up-river to prevent this happening every decade?

AMANDA STOKER: I think it goes to an even broader point, and that is that the Wivenhoe Dam is being used for water storage when it was built for flood mitigation, and you keep water levels at a very different point depending on the purpose for which you're using it. If this was a state where you could build dams easily, where the red tape and the green tape and the obstruction of this do-nothing state government wasn't always in the way, then we could have water storage in plenty of other places so that Wivenhoe could be used according to the purpose for which it is built, flood mitigation. And that goes to the heart of it. We need to be a state that's prepared to build dams. Now, the Federal Government's put plenty of money up to build dams around this state, to build water infrastructure, to be a state that plans ahead, but unfortunately our state government is so beholden to extreme green movements that they won't touch it, and that goes to the essence of things. We've got to get real here; are we into the virtue signalling, or are we into doing what's necessary to get the fundamentals right?

STEVE PRICE: When the Premier dodged question after question from Hedley the other day at that media conference, she just did not want to address it. Now, she used the fact we're still in the middle of an emergency to say, let's have that discussion later. But someone ought to point out to the Premier that the discussion was had back in 2011. There was a Royal Commission, and there were solutions that were proffered up that have not been taken up. So she can't stay there as Premier of Queensland if every 10 years she's going to allow the sort of damage that's been occurred here, the insurance costs that people have got to pay, businesses being ruined, the city being disrupted for day after day after day. Why is she not held more closely to account for these things?

AMANDA STOKER: Well, ultimately, it's got to be Queenslanders that do that. And people like me do our very best to make sure that people understand just how much the inertia and the ideological zeal of this group is not just harming us in a crisis, although that's when it really becomes noticeable, it also harms us every day. It stops us from being able to, for instance, become the food bowl of the world, because agriculture is constrained by its access to water. It stops us from having the kind of economic development in our regional and remote areas that can drastically lift the standard of living for people who are Indigenous, living in those communities. They deserve the opportunity to aspire to have the jobs that they want to be able to build their communities. But they can't have that without the infrastructure that's needed to get it happening. We need to make sure that as a state we demand more than just coasting along, business as usual, hope for the best and cross our fingers, as the attitude of our state government.

STEVE PRICE: I note yesterday the Prime Minister, pre-the announcement that he's got COVID, made an announcement about $70 million worth of lethal weapons that Australia will make available to Ukraine. And we all feel for what's going on there at the moment. The Russian invasion is absolutely horrendous, it's violent, it's illegal. That must've come as good news for you to be able to be part of a government that's going to help Ukraine in that way?

AMANDA STOKER: Look, what I like about the Morrison Government, is that they are prepared to do as they say and say as they do. When we say that we're prepared to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with governments that respect the rule of law, that respect their citizens, that don't engage in war crimes - and we're not exactly setting the bar real high here, right? Then we're prepared to back it in by our actions. And so by providing $70 million in lethal military assistance, as well as a range of non-lethal military equipment and medical supplies and other assistance as required from the Ukrainian government, we are saying it is really important for the good guys in the international order to stick together. It is really important for western democracies to stand up for the things that they know are conducive to peace and prosperity worldwide. That's how we learn from history, and we're prepared to walk that talk.

STEVE PRICE: Have you had COVID yet?

AMANDA STOKER: No I haven't, actually, but the poor PM has.

STEVE PRICE: I saw that, he's laid up. He's going to be out of action for a week.

AMANDA STOKER: Well, he'll still be working from home. He'll still be doing all of his duties and making sure that the national response to the floods, the national defence approach to the Ukraine situation is in hand, and he will also continue to oversee and chair the National Security Committees and the Expenditure Review Committees. So he'll still be hard at work, but he'll be doing it from isolation, he'll be doing it from home, just like we all have to do in these COVID times. We need to isolate to make sure that we take care of the people around us who might have vulnerabilities. So in that-

STEVE PRICE: -Well, it's great- sorry.

AMANDA STOKER: And of course - sorry, he's also going to be supported by his team on the ground, so nothing will be anything but in hand over the next few days.

STEVE PRICE: Well, it was great to catch up. Thanks a lot, Senator, have a good day.

AMANDA STOKER: Good on you, Steve.