Lismore flood survivors took to the gates of Kirribilli House in Sydney this morning to express their anger over the Prime Minister’s handling of the climate-fuelled megafloods on the East Coast and his government’s failure to respond to the climate emergency.
The group had planned to dump a tip truck of flood-destroyed possessions outside the Prime Minister’s official residence but were stopped by police. Instead, survivors unloaded flood-damaged possessions from the truck, placing them at the front gate.
Lismore resident Kate Stroud was forced to shelter in her roof cavity for six hours before being rescued by a civilian on a jet ski during the flooding. She lost everything she owned.
“We’ve interrupted our clean-up and travelled more than 700 kilometres to the Prime Minister’s residence to hold him to account,” Stroud said.
“When Morrison came to Lismore, he was too cowardly to front the community outside his curated media stunt, because he knows that he’s again failed in a crisis and people are furious. This is our second major flooding event in 5 years. Myself and so many others in my community are traumatised by near-death experiences, the devastation of our town and the loss of all we own and the lives we have created.
Much of the anger has been directed at Morrison for what people see as political game-playing in his flood-support efforts. Financial support was initially offered to those who had been affected by the catastrophic floods in line with the Federal Government’s disaster payments of $1000.
However, that was increased to $3,000 for those who live in the Lismore, Richmond, and Clarence Valley LGAs. Those in Ballina, Byron, Tweed and Kyogle LGAs however could only claim a $1000 flood payment.
The discrepancy has been put down to the fact that the former LGAs sit in the National’s held seat of Page, while the latter LGAs are in the Labor-held seat of Richmond.
This lack of support for those who did not vote for the government at the previous election has already prompted on upper house Liberal MP to quit, with the Ballina Mayor Sharon Cadwallader also taking her concerns of favouritism to the Governor-General.
Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack announced she would leave Parliament last week, saying she was “outraged” by the lack of support and the government’s approach to funding.
“The idea that being a flood victim in a National Party-held seat makes you more worthy than a flood victim who is in the Richmond electorate … is probably the most unethical approach I have ever seen,” she said.
“The whole Northern Rivers should have been given funding according to their need, not according to their LGA, it’s unprecedented.”
I don’t think people are understanding the gravity of what has occurred here in Lismore. It’s not just water flowing through a town. The place has been decimated, every business closed, every house gutted. Please keep us in the news and in the governments face,
— Gillian Mitchell (@GilliMitch99) March 20, 2022
There is a range of financial support available through the NSW Government website from temporary accommodation housing support to demolition support.
It is however the Services Australia Special Supplement lump sum payment that has angered people.
While there are 40 LGs that are eligible for federal government disaster payments, only the three National-held LGAs in the Northern Rivers area was initially eligible for three times the $1,000 payment.
That has now been corrected, with an announcement coming from the Minister for Emergency Management, Bridget McKenzie, three days later that the Special Supplement disaster payment region would be expanded after furious backlash.
You can apply for the disaster relief grant here.
Residents Say It’s Not Enough and Climate Change Is Making It Worse
Lismore and Northern Rivers residents at the protest today have said that the financial and physical support they have received to help them recover from the disaster has been both lacking in quality and quantity.
Stround has said that “The disaster response was fatefully ill-prepared.”
She was also keen to note the connection between the worsening climate crisis and the flooding in the Northern Rivers.
“The most terrifying thing about the Morrison government’s failure is his ongoing funding and support for the coal and gas projects that are fueling these climate disasters,” she said.
“We’re here to demand that the Morrison government stops funding fossil fuel projects and redirects this funding to support flood and fire survivors and to build climate resilience in our communities.”
Another Lismore resident, Kudra Ricketts, who rescued neighbours from floodwaters and also lost all her possessions, also presses the point about climate disasters and government policy.
“Climate disasters, like the recent megafloods and the megafires only two years ago, are only the start of the climate emergency. If we do not stop funding fossil fuels and urgently transition to renewable energy, climate disasters will intensify beyond our ability to cope,” she said.
“It is our community today, but tomorrow it will be another. None of us are safe from climate catastrophe, and that’s what we wanted to show the Prime Minister by bringing it to his doorstep.
“The Morrison government says they care about our trauma and loss, but keep boasting about funding oil and gas expansion and have offered no credible plan to respond to this national crisis.”
Morrison, for his part, did make mention of climate change in possibly the most roundabout terms during his trip to Lismore in which he said that “We are dealing with a different climate to the one we are dealing with before.”
“I think is just an obvious fact in Australia is getting hard to live in because of these disasters.”
He did however shift the focus from Australian government policy to that of the rest of the world, appearing to claim that it doesn’t really matter what our country, the world’s largest exporter of coal does.
“I’ll tell you what’s not going to fix climate change … doing something in Australia and then in other developing countries their emissions continue to rise,” he said.
“The real challenge of addressing climate change is ensuring that we’re working with other countries in the region and particularly developing countries to ensure we have the technology.”
Morrison refused to meet with angry residents in Lismore and media coverage of his visit was blocked.