Australian PM Offers an Extra $20 Million Support Package for Storm-Battered Queenslanders

‘We’re here to say that we’re putting our shoulder to the wheel to make sure that can be done.’
Australian PM Offers an Extra $20 Million Support Package for Storm-Battered Queenslanders
People watch the storm roll in across the Coral Sea as Cyclone Jasper approaches landfall in Cairns in far north Queensland on December 13, 2023. A tropical cyclone was building strength as it rolled towards northeastern Australia on 13 December, with authorities warning "life-threatening" floods could swamp coastal regions for days. (Photo by Brian CASSEY / AFP) (Photo by BRIAN CASSEY/AFP via Getty Images)

More funding is on the way for Queenslanders already reeling from wild weather including millions of lightning strikes.

The prime minister flew into the Gold Coast on Jan. 9 to announce another A$20 million (US$13.39 million) in financial assistance for the state’s southeast as the full extent of its storm damage was revealed.

Anthony Albanese was joined by Queensland Premier Steven Miles who said there had been a staggering 3.5 million lightning strikes during the storms, taking down nearly 1000 power lines.

“It took 80,000 work hours to get them reconnected, 120km of wires, 150 poles had to be replaced,” Mr. Miles said.

A tornado hit the Gold Coast on Christmas Day, followed by storms and flash flooding in the Logan and Scenic Rim regions.

The wild weather initially left more than 130,000 homes without power but work to restore electricity was finally completed on Jan. 7.

More severe thunderstorms are possible for Queensland’s southeast this week, with Springfield Lakes west of Brisbane receiving 130mm of rain in three hours on Tuesday morning.

Some roads were flooded along with properties southwest of Brisbane on Jan. 9.

The Bureau of Meteorology warned thunderstorms were possible from the NSW/Queensland border all the way to central parts of the Sunshine State.

“There are likely to be pockets of heavy rain and possible flooding through here,” meteorologist Angus Hines said.

A severe thunderstorm warning was issued late on Jan. 9 for Ipswich, Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley regions, likely to produce heavy rainfall and lead to flash flooding.

A major recovery effort that may take years to complete was already under way after seven people died in storm-related incidents.

The southeast storms hit after record flooding caused by Tropical Cyclone Jasper devastated the far north.

The prime minister headed north with the Queensland premier on Tuesday afternoon, pledging Australian Defence Force assistance after flying over Cape Tribulation’s flood-ravaged areas.

They are expected to make another funding announcement on Jan. 10 with tourism operators set to be supported after staying overnight in Cairns.

Overall an extra $50 million is expected for Queensland’s storm and cyclone recovery effort.

The funding injection comes on top of a A$64 million (US$42 million) package for storm-hit Queenslanders announced in December.

“We know that there is more to do,” Mr. Albanese said.

“We’re here to say that we’re putting our shoulder to the wheel to make sure that can be done.”

So far $10.5 million has been paid in federal disaster relief payments to 60,000 people affected by storms and flooding in Queensland’s southeast.

A further $4.5 million has gone to 26,000 people in the far north.

“We’ve also had more than 2000 people reach out for mental health first aid, giving you a sense of the impact that these weather events are having on people’s lives,” Mr. Miles said.

Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers urged insurers to “do the right thing” for people affected by disasters.

“People have been through hell in some of these communities, hosing out homes, throwing away a lifetime of belongings or being in physical danger,” he said.

“The last thing people need is insurance companies stuffing them around.”