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Government should rethink priorities to deal with flood region

By Ben Hillier - posted Tuesday, 18 January 2011


Queensland has been in the grip of the worst floods in Australian history. Between Rockhampton and Brisbane and as far west as St George in the state’s south, floodwaters have devastated towns and entire regions.

In Brisbane 25,000 homes have been inundated; in Ipswich 2,000. The heart of Toowoomba was ripped out in flash flooding; Murphy’s Creek washed away; Grantham, where the force of water ripped houses from their foundations, has been declared a crime scene.

At the time of writing 15 people are confirmed dead and dozens more are missing. As the water recedes the grim task of looking for bodies is just beginning. Thousands of people have lost their homes, tens of thousands their jobs.

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The state’s health services will now be stretched to breaking point, as will social service providers. Thousands of kilometres of roads will be damaged, rail lines also. Critical infrastructure – water, sewage, telecommunications and electricity – has been damaged and still lies underwater; food crops are destroyed.

People throughout the affected regions have jumped to help their neighbours, donating their labour and their time to do whatever they can. More than 11,000 people from around the country have registered to volunteer to help with the cleanup, and by Wednesday morning more than $30 million dollars had been donated.

The state government and Brisbane council were reportedly warned more than a decade ago about the potential for areas of Brisbane to be inundated in the event of a major flood. They ignored the warnings, refused to act on recommendations and allowed developers to make millions selling properties that are now underwater.

They put profits before the lives and livelihoods of thousands of workers. The government now needs to do what is fair and right:

All those who have lost their homes need a guarantee that they will have another rebuilt at no cost. All those who have lost their jobs should continue to receive their full pay, or where that is not possible, should be guaranteed a job through the government. All those who were unemployed and wanting work should be given a full-time well-paid job assisting the clean up. That’s just for starters.

The government won't go close to it. It continues to commit itself to putting the budget into surplus. It should stay in deficit. If there are financial trade-offs, “sacrifices” to be made, let them be borne by those who can afford it:

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The Afghanistan war cost $1.2 billion last financial year - scrap it.

Gross operating profits of business totalled $248 billion over the last year - tax it.

The coal industry receives subsidies equivalent to around $1 billion per year - stop them.

Private schools will receive $28 billion in government funding between 2009 and 2012 alone - end it.

Put those savings and extra revenues into development projects that are desperately needed.

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This article first appeared in Socialist Alternative (www.sa.org.au) The Maritime Union of Australia – many of whose members have been affected by the floods – has set up a flood appeal fund:  BSB Number: 062-006
Account number: 1001 0464
CBA Swiftcode: CTBAAU2S
Bank Address: George Street, Haymarket, NSW, 2000
Reference for lodgement:  Flood Appeal



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About the Author

Ben Hillier is the editor of Socialist Alternative.

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

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