PM shares the love for Lismore
PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull was given some straight-talk when he visited a flood-ravaged business in Lismore yesterday.
Mr Turnbull met with Steve Krieg, the proprietor of La Baracca, and was told small business owners needed support, not more debt.
Accompanied by Page MP Kevin Hogan, Lismore mayor Isaac Smith and Emergency Management Australia director-general Mark Crosweller, Mr Turnbull said he was impressed by the community spirit as he walk around the CBD streets devastated by the floods.
"Right through New South Wales and Queensland, we have seen nature flinging her worst at Australians, but it always brings out the best in Australians,” he said.
"You see the resilience of the business people here, the families here, cleaning up, getting on with life, getting recovery and what about the charity, the love shown by the SES, emergency services, the defence force, the levels of government working together.”
He said money and support for people affected by the flood would be made available immediately through Centrelink and there were several options for victims seeking financial assistance, including grants and low-interest loans.
"Grants are available to home-owners (and) a low-interest concessional loan for farmers and businesses,” he said.
"There is a substantial program of support for the community we will work out with Isaac and the State Government. We are committed to communities like Lismore, ensuring they have the support to recover.”
But these fine words did not impress Mr Krieg, who said small businesses needed help, not loans, and they needed them now.
"I'm a hard worker. I don't want a hand-out, but sometimes you have to swallow your pride and anything will be better than nothing,” he said.
"This (flood) has a lot of potential to destroy the town. I can't see a lot of businesses recovering from this.”
Mr Krieg, who was visibly distressed, said he was going to try and trade his way out the disaster but was very concerned for the future.
"I am feeling I am trying to trade my way out, but I just don't know (because) we can't afford to take on more debt - we just refinanced recently,” he said.
"More debt is not something I need - I need support and someone to say it will be okay.”
Mr Krieg said he and his wife Julianna lost $100,000 worth of equipment and stock, and the damage to the building "has been disastrous”.
Meanwhile, Mr Turnbull said the Federal Government, along with the rest of Australia, was backing the people of Lismore and other flood-affected areas with enormous solidarity.
"We are all in it together,” he said.
"No substitute for seeing this here on the ground ... seeing it first-hand and the impact, treasured possessions, all of life's work, all of the assets of the business flung out on to the pavement - that is gut-wrenching stuff. That is why we are backing the people of this community and every community affected by these floods to ensure they recover (and get) back in business.”
When asked about the Lismore's levy, Mr Turnbull said preventions and mitigation was the key.
"It is important to learn the lesson from the event which damaged it on this occasion (so) we would look favourably about increasing the height of the levy,” he said.
"Clearly it is important we make Lismore as resilient as possible. Lismore is a river city so has always been vulnerable to flood, but clearly a higher levy has a lot to commend it.”
Cr Smith presented Mr Turnbull with a Love Lismore pin to wear and a volunteer from the Lismore Baptist Church offered the Prime Minister a sausage from the pop-up barbecue stall at the Centre Church in Molesworth St.
Cr Smith said he estimated the cost of repairing the roads in the Lismore local government area at $40-50 million.