Joint remarks and doorstop with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague

Subjects: Queensland floods; UK flood assistance; Afghanistan

Brisbane

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

19 January 2011

KEVIN RUDD: I'm just here with William Hague, who's the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom. And I said to William, in the last few days that he's coming to Australia - and we had official talks in Sydney yesterday - to come up and have a look at what's happened to this local community.

I think, as you all know, this has been covered around the world, this flood, these Queensland floods. And the offers of help and support and solidarity and sympathy from around the world have been frankly overwhelming.

What you, as a local community have experienced with volunteers coming in and just cleaning places up, discovering neighbours you never knew you had before and friends that you never had before but now have, that's been our experience internationally. That is around the world we've had so many people roll in the door and simply put their hand up and say how we can help? And the British Government has been one of those as well.

Some of you would have seen that the Queen has made a private donation to the Premier's Flood Relief Appeal, and through William we've publicly acknowledged how touched, I think, people in Brisbane and people in Queensland are by such a donation. That's enough of the formalities.

The real purpose of today, however - before I flip to William to say a few things - is for each and every one of you who's been volunteering in this community, I have one thing to say this morning and that is simply thank you.

Those of you who have helped out neighbours, those of you who have helped out friends, those of you who have helped out people you've never met in your lives before, you've made it all work. And the purpose of this morning's barbecue is just to bring back a bit of normality, a bit of civility in terms of sitting down and having a bite to eat with one another, but also just to acknowledge what people have done and to say thank you.

So what you see, William, on the banks of the Brisbane River this morning, is the spirit of Queensland alive and well, the spirit of Brisbane alive and well, the mud still on the ground, but we're pretty optimistic about the future.

Anna, the Premier, has just been here a minute ago. As you know, this is her community. I see Helen Abrahams here as the local councillor, and there may be other representatives too.

This has been a great effort at all levels of government and I thank all those for their contribution to making sure we can get life back to normal as quickly as possible.

So the purpose of my remarks is simply to say thank you, because you, the people of the Southside here in Brisbane, have made the difference.

Now William, over to you.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Good morning ladies and gentlemen, it's a great pleasure to be here this morning with my friend and colleague, Kevin Rudd.

And I think it's probably hard for you to realise how people are watching on the other side of the world, as you were going through what you went through last week. You were frantically dealing with it and your neighbours were obviously helping out, but right all the way in Britain people were watching hour by hour, minute by minute, hoping and praying for you.

And I don't know whether that's of any comfort at all, because there was no actual help at the time, of course [laughs]. But people felt very strongly about the scenes that they were seeing, were very distressed in Britain about the things we saw on the television and so millions of people elsewhere in the world, hundreds of millions, were really with you when you were going through that ordeal last week.

I'm enormously impressed by the clean-up operation and everybody's talking about the number of volunteers and the hard work that's gone into it. So many things look back to normal just after a week. We're here in the, whatever, the last of the mud, I think of the flood. But you've done an inspiring job, which has also been noticed by the rest of the world.

We want to do everything that we can to help and there will be things that Australia has accepted, some items of help that we have offered, in flood recovery techniques and flood forecasting techniques and so on. So we want to work with you on that, on the future - in the future.

But mainly, I just want to say that in Britain we admire your fortitude and resilience in what you've been through and we were with you in spirit all the way throughout it. And I want to wish you the very best of luck for the rebuilding of the businesses that have been affected and the restoration of all the homes affected. And judging by the way you've tackled this last week, well, it won't be many weeks before all those businesses are back in action and all those homes are fully back in use again.

So good luck with it, and all across the world people have noticed Brisbane and will be visiting Brisbane to see how you got on and to be with you in the future. Thank you very much and good luck for the future. Thanks a lot indeed.

[Applause]

KEVIN RUDD: Well, thanks very much, William.

We're just going to talk to a few more local people and then William's got to start heading towards the airport, so thanks folks for coming out this morning. And if you need to drift off to work or places like that, don't let me hold you back. The city's now back in operation. But in the meantime we'll talk to a few folk. Thanks very much.

QUESTION: Just before you go, can we ask, people have been grateful for the support and everything that has been - wondering, there's been a lot of donations coming in and auction, things being auctioned. I'm wondering whether the princes, Harry and William, would be interested in wearing a Queensland State of Origin jersey. Perhaps signing it and so we could auction it. Would you...

WILLIAM HAGUE: Right, I'll take that. If you've got one there I'll take it back for them.

KEVIN RUDD: We'll get you one.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Yeah, we'll sort that out.

QUESTION: That would be fantastic.

QUESTION: Mr Secretary, what sort of assistance is the - is your Government providing us here in Queensland?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well, we'd offer - we give any assistance that we can give. Of course, we're a long way away and so direct assistance at the time, as you understand, is a very difficult thing. But our Prime Minister spoke to your Prime Minister last week to offer any assistance we could give. We worked out that there are some things we have experience of recovery from floods, and detailed work - the modelling and the forecasting of floods - that may be of use here in the future. So we're going to provide that assistance.

In addition, of course, here on the ground there were British Consular staff here, themselves affected by the floods, who were working very hard and indeed some of the people here today have asked me particularly to pass on my thanks to the - their thanks to the consular staff working here. So I'm going to go and do that now. So we were helping everywhere we could.

QUESTION: Do you think Brisbane can learn from flood mitigation measures in place in London?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well, I don't know. That's one of the things we could look at. In London, certainly - a low-lying city - we have a major flood barrier, we have flood defences built up over a very long time. It's an entirely different situation. We've never experienced in London, of course, the sort of continuing downpour over such a long period that you had here in Queensland.

But our experts are available to talk about all these things and to see if anything can be learned from experience in other countries. And I think you'll find not just in Britain but all across the world people are ready to help with those discussions.

QUESTION: What was your reaction when you arrived here in Queensland?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well, I am really amazed by the clean-up, actually, because when you think that the water was up to the first level of the block over there, and we all know what floods leave behind in terms of mud and debris and plants and objects displaced, well then, to have got it back to this state already I think is a great tribute to the people here and all the volunteers who've been piling in to help. So I think that's my first reaction.

And the second, having met some people here, is the absolute resilience and optimism of the people here, which is of course, the key thing that will see them through.

QUESTION: Mr Hague, have you or will you be discussing with Mr Rudd increasing troops in deployments into Afghanistan in the near future?

KEVIN RUDD: We went through all that yesterday, didn't we?

WILLIAM HAGUE: We've discussed - yeah, we gave a press conference about that yesterday and we were both come to the - playing a major role in Afghanistan...

QUESTION: Can you put a number on the...

WILLIAM HAGUE: ...and are strongly committed to that. But...

QUESTION: ...escalation?

WILLIAM HAGUE: We're not here to set out any numbers in that. We're just...

KEVIN RUDD: [laughs] Nice try, mate.

WILLIAM HAGUE: We're looking at floods today.

KEVIN RUDD: It's a flood morning.

ENDS

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