Mr BUCHHOLZ (Wright) (4.25 pm)—On behalf of the people of Wright I offer my condolence. I will tell you a quick story about Darren and Sue Steinhart, just to give you a bit of an idea how quickly the water came up. Sue went down into the laundry to check the washing. There was about an inch of water under her feet and she thought the washing machine had shit itself. So she opened the back door and found an inch of water through the backyard. There was a wheelie bin sitting out the back with three pumpkins on it. She picked each of the pumpkins up because the wheelie bin was starting to float away. By the time she picked up the third pumpkin the water was up to her knees. She rushed back into the house and grabbed the kids out of the second bedroom and got them out the window and up onto the carport roof whilst her husband was in the fourth bedroom trying to break the window to get the last child out, which he did. By the time they had got the window open—Steiny had cut his arm— and had got the kids out, the water was up to their chests and they had got up on top of the carport. By the time they got on top of the carport the water was lapping the gutters of the carport so they got on top of the roof. They sat there for eight hours before they were all saved. To get an idea of the time frame of getting the kids on to the roof I asked Sue, ‘How long did it take?’ She said, ‘As long as it took me to tell you that story.’ Rob and Jim Wilkin, a couple of brothers from Grantham, whom I will be mentioning for honours awards, had the peace of mind in this torrent to hook their small tinnie to the back of a Toyota LandCruiser to try to get out in front of this massive wall of water that was coming. Their vehicle was engulfed. They got out on top of the roof and into the tinnie. The boat was starting to get engulfed but they took the tinnie back into the township and plucked 16 people; they saved them all.
But there were people in the community who were not able to be saved. I would just like to mention each of them, for those mothers, fathers, grandparents, sisters, brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts, friends, partners and loved ones. We honour and will always remember 52-year-old Selwyn Schefe and six-year-old Kate Schefe from Murphys Creek, 31-year-old Llync- Chiann Clarke-Jibson from Grantham, 12-year-old Garry and five-year-old Jocelyn Jibson from Grantham, 88-year-old Jean Gurr from Grantham, 65-yearold Pauline Magner from Grantham, 88-year-old Merv Knight from Helidon, 25-year-old Joshua Ross from Grantham, 23-month-old Jessica Keep from Grantham, 82-year-old Regina Vanderwerf from Grantham, 72- year-old Sylvia Baille from Grantham, 56-year-old Steven Matthews and 46-year-old Sandra Matthew from Murphys Creek, and 67-year-old Bruce Marshall from Grantham. We are still courageously looking for a number of people who are missing.
For every story of tragedy and horror that our electorates have been exposed to, there is a story of equal genuine kindness and humility. I would like to acknowledge the council up there. Mayor Steve Jones, who is known as ‘Jonesy’, and his councillors had their resources absolutely stretched. They did a magnificent job under the circumstances and whenever I get the opportunity I will always praise the work that they have done along with the state member, Ian Rickuss. Every one that I do not know, Ian knows, along with their parents and kids, and what schools they go to. These are tremendous members.
I want to particularly mention a couple of local businessmen who really banded together and helped pull together the first disaster recovery centre. There is Andrew O’Brien, the local Ray White agent, nicknamed ‘Obi’ because he is bald—he has funny-looking ears and looks like Obi-Wan Kenobi—and John Boyd, the LJ Hooker agent. They compete in the market in a small town but they have become strong allies and have done a wonderful job disseminating gifts that were donated to the area. There is Jason ‘Jughead’ Cook, who owns the local transport business. These people have lost tens of thousands of dollars which will never be recovered because they have assisted in the clean-up.
There is Derek Pingel, who took charge of the distribution centre. There were about six of them because every stage was at a different level of recovery. I also want to acknowledge all the ladies and blokes who helped out in the evacuation centre and the heart-lifting visit from the Canterbury Bulldogs up there. The locals who were displaced from their homes spoke about Hazem El Masri for three or four days. It was nice soft relief and I appreciate their visit.
In the Murphys Creek area, which sits at the bottom of the Toowoomba Range where the first inundation really hit, a bloke by the name of Peter Souter—and Tony mentioned him earlier—was a deadset champion. He owns the caravan park there. He is an ex-major in the Army. He is not an elected official; I do not even think that he is a member of Rotary. But when the crisis was on this bloke just stood up and was counted. He led a community that was in desperate need of leadership. I am proud to sit down and have a beer with him. Lynn and Jimmy Barnes—his is the easiest publican’s name in the world to remember—own the pub at Murphys Creek. They had two foot of water through the pub and, once we got that cleaned out, that became the evacuation centre. It is probably not the smartest evacuation centre! I remember the first Sunday there.
In the pub we had state government officials handing out cheques in one corner and emergency services in another. In another corner, a church service was held— I think it was the first time we had ever had one in a pub—with most of the patrons hanging onto a frosty ale.
Sue Haughey, the bar manager over there at Murphys Creek, came from nowhere and took a leadership role and made a magnificent effort. Muzza, Peter Schreck, Cam McDonald and other community members— and I know that I am going to forget people— stood out by taking a role in trying to make those couple of hours of discomfort a little bit more comfortable. I want to make particular mention of a generous bloke with the name of Jerry Keogh. He has got a couple of excavators over at the North Coast. He was sitting there watching the ABC News and his wife started crying when she saw the devastation. The next morning he said, ‘I’m going to Murphys Creek.’ So he came over to Murphys Creek and has had four or five excavators in there working for nothing since 10 January. On top of his own generosity he has managed to jag $200,000 worth of pipes—big concrete culverts—as donations from Hume’s pipes to start rebuilding the area, and then probably another 10 semitrailer loads full of pipes from Rocla Pipes out of Brisbane. All that happened just because of one man’s genuine want to help that community.
It was a significant day at Grantham yesterday. Our roadblocks were taken down for the first time. Since we were first flooded we have had police roadblocks at either end of the community to stop people going in. The only way you could get access was with an armband, which was blue when they gave it to us—and mine is so worn—to identify yourself, in order to stop looters and other people going in. The only way I can describe Grantham to you is as nothing short of a war zone.
Previous speakers have spoken of the devastation. I would like to continue in acknowledging those people who assisted in the clean-up and the recovery. There is Warren Kimlin. Again, he is not an elected official, but just a farmer. His house is down the bottom in Harris Street. He ended up being the chairman of the town effort, hosting the community meetings and playing an exceptional role. Malcolm and Tracy Dionysius came from nowhere. These guys are just farmers. Because their place was not affected, they hooked in along with Julie Johnson and Marty and Narelle Warburton. Marty owns the service station. His business was lost. You have probably seen some of the footage. The front of his shop is besser block. It is still there and the back of it is still there, but the inside is gutted. Marty was a councillor for the Gatton shire council and he has taken a lead role in setting up, through the council, a bank account where people can donate directly to Grantham. He set up a committee so that the money that comes directly to that community is going straight into those people’s pockets as opposed to other processes that may be in place at the moment.
In the Laidley-Forest Hill area I would like to acknowledge Linton Brimblecombe, a large beetroot farmer who provides mostly to Golden Circle. He took significant crop damage. He is going to hurt a little bit for the next couple of months. He rallied the community. Again, he is not an official; he is just a bloke from the street. He rallied the locals and systematically went through each of the houses in the Forest Hill community and pulled out the carpets and cleaned up the houses—and when they finished one house they just went to the next one. These are silent achievers and acts of random kindness. And I would like to mention Paul Williamson, the manager of the community care centre in Laidley, who looked after the recovery centre. There were some other acts of kindness that need to be mentioned. Before I entered politics I had a transport company, and one of my depots in Rockhampton was up the road from a pub called the Great Western, which Lee Kernaghan owned. I rang Lee and said, ‘I don’t know when or where, but I just want you to start getting your head around the fact that I want you to put on a bit of a concert for my people.’ He said, ‘Mate, whatever you need.’ I said, ‘I’ll leave it with you for a couple of days.’ He phoned me back and said: ‘We might be able to pull something together. I’ve got Gina Jeffreys, Graeme Connors, John Williamson, the McClymont Sisters, Kasey Chambers, Troy Casser- Daly, Adam Brand’—and a number of other people I have never heard of! He said, ‘We’ll put together a show for you on 20 March free of charge.’ Hopefully, 20 March will be a good day for us.
I want to mention as well the groups and organisations that helped so effectively—in particular, the Queensland Police. In a situation like we just went through there are two phases—rescue and recovery. When the situation is in the rescue phase the police have charge over it and call the shots. When it goes to the recovery stage the authority is handed to council and they run it. Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson and Assistant Commissioner Brett Pointing were briefing me with updates every two hours, and then it dropped back to daily updates. In addition, I would like to mention a few other police officers. Excuse me for not knowing these blokes’ ranks, but I think they all carry a few stripes. There was Andy Morrow, from Toowoomba. Mark Kelly, a young bloke—I am sure he is an inspector—handled himself in an exemplary way. Ben Marcus did a great job as an inspector liaising with the community. You have to remember that in Grantham, with the roadblocks in place, there were some people who could not get out of town and some people who could not get back to town. There was a period of about eight days when people did not know whether their houses still existed. The fear of the unknown was driving a lot of the problems we were seeing. Ben Marcus did a great job of communicating.
Grantham does not have a police station, so they put a temporary police station there. The police station at the moment is an Iveco van with an awning off the side of it. It is manned by a bloke by the name of Mark Wheeler. His nickname is ‘Rock’, which I think is appropriate for a local copper. The local police officers Sergeant Tom Messingham and Rob Brown are going to be dealing with some demons. They know everyone and it is a tough gig.
I want to mention the media and how they dealt with the situation out there. I have nothing but praise for the way they reported. They showed compassion and empathy, and it was well received and informative. Like I said, there was a lot of fear of the unknown, and people were looking for information. In particular, one Sunday afternoon I was listening to Kelly Higgins-Devine on ABC Radio. Earlier that day I had met a Reverend Lance Mergard. He runs a chaplain service and he had about 20 chaplains in Sydney and Melbourne who had worked with all the trauma victims of the Victorian bushfires. He said to me: ‘Your community is going to need counselling. But I have a problem. I’ve got 20 counsellors but I can’t get them to you.’ I said, Leave it with me.’ I rang Kelly Higgins-Devine and said, ‘Mate, can we put a call out to the airlines to get some seats for these councillors to come up.’ I think we did that at three o’clock on Sunday afternoon. By 3.30 on Sunday afternoon an old gentlemen from Brisbane, a pensioner, had rung up and said, ‘I can’t do them all, but I can do one for you.’ That was very humbling. By 9.30 the next morning Virgin Blue had rung my office at Beaudesert and said, ‘We’ll give you as many flights as possible.’ So, I want to acknowledge their work. They had heard that through our request that went out over the radio.
The Queensland Fire and Rescue—they have the little yellow four-tonne trucks that you see running around, which we call ‘bumblebees’—did a great job. I want to mention Emergency Services Queensland—in particular, the flight crew that plucked a lot of our families and friends from rooftops. You might have seen their leader, Mark Kempton, on Channel 7 the other night. His team includes Darren Parson, Mark Turner and Glen Ryan. We will be acknowledging those guys in a formal way later in the year. I want to acknowledge the SES workers who came from all over the state and rotated on a weekly basis. That was overwhelming. Two days later we had 200 Army personnel on the ground. Their task whilst in rescue mode was to walk the creek lines looking for bodies. The watercourse that goes through the electorate is 260 kilometres long when you add up all the tributaries. They had a team of Army blokes on either side going through every inch systematically, looking for bodies— it was 520 kilometres, which is why it took so long for us to get through the recovery phase. To each of those guys, we are indebted. We could not have done it without them. To the social services groups— Red Cross, Lifeline, Vinnies, local churches and the guys that have been mentioned before—we will never forget you. The bipartisan support that was shown by both sides of government at both a state and a federal level was outstanding. In this time of crisis, being a new member, I did not have any templates to work off. I often found myself calling my staff and trying to get them to Google who a particular minister was because I was not yet familiar with them.
I thank those thousands of Queenslanders and Australians who donated goods and money. I encourage the groups that would still like to give to do it in the way of cash. We have a situation at the moment where we are absolutely inundated with wonderful gestures of fridges and clothing and stuff but it is becoming logistically difficult for us to manage that, from a warehouse perspective. Cash gives us so many more options. If we receive a truckload of washing machines it just means that the local businessman who sells washing machines will not sell one for three years, and he will probably end up putting four blokes off. So if we can get cash we can then go and give out vouchers so the washing machine will be purchased from a businessman in the town. That goes for hot-water systems, beds et cetera. We should just buy locally—because our economy is going to take a hit. I flew back down to Canberra two days ago. A mob of Canberra businessmen hosted a fundraiser for us. Over a couple of red wines and a quick auction they raised in excess of $40,000, which was very humbling.
There are people within the electorate whom I have not had time to get to, who are not affected by the flood. I thank them for their patience and courtesy. We had bookings to be in their areas which, because of the floods, we unfortunately had to cancel. I want to thank those people working with us from Mudgeeraba, West Logan, Jimboomba, Mount Tamborine and Scenic Rim for their patience. I want to thank my staff, who have not slept much, as someone has been with me all the time: Greg Birkbeck, my chief of staff, and the two girls in the office, Alice and Ruth, who are starting to get inundated with insurance claims.
We will find a new energy. The people of Wright are afraid and they are mostly displaced. I will not abandon you, nor will I allow your insurance companies to abandon you. Know this: whilst most insurance companies have shown great compassion, I will continue to pursue those who think that they might be able to sneak out the back door because of some technical fine print on the contract. I might be a new member but I will hunt them vigorously. I will expose them. While God puts breath in me I will hang them from the wall if they try to escape from my people.
Honourable members—Hear, hear!