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"In the days after the January floods many people in my electorate asked me about the management of the Wivenhoe Dam. Why was so much water left in it when we had been warned of a very bad wet season? Why was so much water let out at the last moment, raising the level of the water in the river that flooded their homes? And, most importantly, could this have been avoided? As they read the interim report this week you could understand why they must be feeling very angry, because that report showed that the Minister for Water Utilities oversaw months of confusion and delay about releasing water from Wivenhoe Dam in the face of clear warnings of an extremely wet season and a wet summer."

Click read more to read the full speech below.

Hansard Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Mr EMERSON (Indooroopilly—LNP) (6.03 pm): About 3,500 homes and businesses in my electorate and many, many thousands of lives were impacted by the January floods. More than six months later, the mud has been scraped away from the streets and piles of debris have been removed from kerbsides. You could be mistaken in thinking that my electorate has recovered. But if you drive down some of those streets at night—in suburbs such as Fig Tree Pocket, Graceville, Chelmer, Taringa, St Lucia or Indooroopilly, Sherwood, Tennyson or Corinda—you will see the unlit homes still vacant, still unliveable. Harder to see is the devastation and heartbreak that still rules the lives of many. Locals are still fighting for insurance and relief funds and are still asking questions about the disaster that they still live with every day.

This week, they hoped to get some answers to those questions. This week, they hoped that the interim report of the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry would explain why their homes were inundated. And this week they hoped that they would be told that the state government and the minister they relied on had done the right thing by them, had seen the risk and had acted on it. Sadly, the interim report showed that the minister had let them down.

In the days after the January floods many people in my electorate asked me about the management of the Wivenhoe Dam. Why was so much water left in it when we had been warned of a very bad wet season? Why was so much water let out at the last moment, raising the level of the water in the river that flooded their homes? And, most importantly, could this have been avoided? As they read the interim report this week you could understand why they must be feeling very angry, because that report showed that the Minister for Water Utilities oversaw months of confusion and delay about releasing water from Wivenhoe Dam in the face of clear warnings of an extremely wet season and a wet summer.

As the interim report details, on 18 October 2010—more than two months before the floods—the Bureau of Meteorology briefed state cabinet about the seasonal forecast, warning that the 2010-11 wet season would be unusually intense. Minister Robertson then sought advice from the South East Queensland Water Grid Manager on Wivenhoe Dam’s levels. He did not seek advice from anyone else—not even his own department. As the report says, based on this limited and preliminary advice, he made the decision not to proceed with the proposal for a reduction of the full supply levels. The process was ‘parked’, the minister said. But as the report revealed, there is no record of the minister having made this decision or telling anyone about it then or at any other time. He told the commission that he would have discussed it with his director-general. But his director-general could not confirm that the minister had made the decision on that day or at all. The report also detailed confusion among water agencies over the responsibility for lowering the dam levels. But, as the report said, the minister did nothing to resolve this confusion. It added that the ultimate decision is for the minister, that he was the only one who could effect a reduction in full supply levels.

So what do the flood victims in my electorate of Indooroopilly now know? They know that the minister did not clear up the confusion over responsibility for the dam. They know that the minister received warnings but made a decision to do nothing and then told no-one about it. He parked his decision. This is not a minister; this is a chauffeur. This is a minister who failed Queenslanders when they needed him the most. And this is a minister who will remain a minister, because no matter how big the debacle, the Premier refuses to sack anyone and that is the disgrace of this disaster.