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The next wave: after the floods have subsided

By Allan McConnell - posted Friday, 14 January 2011


Those leaders most visible and highest up the hierarchy are easy, if often unfair targets. Julia Gillard and Anna Bligh are the two most visible faces of the disaster response. There is little to suggest at the present time that they have performed poorly, but it would not surprise me if there are moves to contrast them - one as the hero and one as the villain.

4. Who should pay for reconstruction - not just of houses and infrastructures, but of lives and livelihoods? There is no magical formula to answer this question. It is a political and economic issue, to be fought over in the months to come. 

We have three sets of issues to contend with here in the wake of the Queensland floods. They refer to the balance between commonwealth and state funding, public vs. private sector, and public sector vs. community and family self-sufficiency.

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Disasters rarely result in any dramatic shifts in balances of power, income inequalities and so on. Those with more power and resources before a disaster strikes, are generally best placed to shape the terms of reconstruction.

5. How can "reminders" of tragedy be used to revitalise, rather than drag down? The aftermath of the floods are certain to generate new issues, from food availability/prices, to international perceptions of Queensland as a tourist destination. Farmers, tourist chiefs and governments, will have to work hard in order to demonstrate that "every cloud has a silver lining", and that the state and its communities have been strengthened and revitalised by overcoming adversity.

Nowhere is this issue starker than in the tales of individuals and families who have lost everything. We can only imagine what they are going through, and feel awed at the stories already emerging of their stoicism and resilience in the face of huge losses.

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About the Author

Professor Allan McConnell teaches in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. He specialises in public policy and the politics of crises and disasters.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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