Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has been accused of “BS, to be frank” in a heated clash over the crisis in flood-stricken NSW towns.
Mr Joyce was taken to task in an appearance on the Seven Network’s Sunrise on Monday morning, as thousands in south-eastern Queensland and northern NSW kept on with the daunting task of cleaning up after last week’s devastating floods.
Water levels rose to record heights in many towns and regions last week. Locals rescued neighbours from flooded homes and from rooftops, while many – particularly around Lismore and Ballina in NSW – have since complained of a lack of access to basics such as food, water, power, fuel, phones, ATMs, the internet and medical supplies.
On Monday, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet apologised for the “sense of abandonment” felt by many who had lost everything.
On Sunrise on Monday, host Natalie Barr asked Mr Joyce: “Has somebody screwed up here and, if so, who?”
But Mr Joyce defended the federal government, describing last week’s flooding as an extraordinary event that could not have been predicted.
“This is a one-in-3500-year event,” he said.
“A one-in-3500-year event … in Lismore, so it is beyond something that is naturally able to be planned for. This is momentous.”
Last week, NSW’s Minister for Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, tweeted that “one in 100 doesn’t mean one flood every 100 years”.
“It means a 1 per cent chance of that level flood every year. So a one in 20 flood means a 5 per cent chance of that level flood happening every year.”
On Monday, Barr used that to challenge Mr Joyce..
“This whole one-in-100, one in-1000, one in 3000 sounds to most people to be BS, to be quite frank,” she said.
“We’ve heard the Bureau of Meteorology say that’s not right and we’ve heard a minister in NSW, the Minister for Western Sydney, saying it’s actually a 1 per cent chance of it happening every year.
“We’ve had it last year and we’ve had it this year and it could happen again next year. So I think we need to drop all that stuff, don’t we? It can happen, so what do we do about it?”
That sparked this testy exchange:
Mr Joyce: “I’m either going to listen to the member for Western Sydney or listen to the local member, Kevin Hogan, who actually lives there.”
Barr: “Or the Bureau of Meteorology.”
Mr Joyce: “I’m going to be listening to Kevin Hogan on that one.”
Barr’s co-host David Koch: “We’ll listen to the Bureau of Meteorology, not politicians.”
Mr Joyce: “It’s 2.1 metres above the last record. 2.1 metres, just have a think about that.”
Koch: “I know that.”
Mr Joyce: “Not a couple of centimetres, not 10 centimetres. That’s 2.1 metres above anything we’ve ever known about in the history of Australia. I think that’s not something I hope is going to happen every 10 years.”
Barr: “We don’t want to argue about it, but we just have to…”
Mr Joyce: “Get them to talk to them and if they’ve got another reason where they say something is 2.1 metres higher than the last record, the biggest record known in history, then they can explain that to you on television because I don’t know what the answer to that one is.”
Koch: “Yeah, we went to the experts for the answer rather than a politician.”