Scott Morrison says Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk could have written to him a week ago if she wanted him pursue a state of emergency declaration earlier.
The Prime Minister’s office on Friday evening confirmed Mr Morrison would approach the Governor-General to sign off on an emergency declaration of the flooding crisis to NSW.
The Morrison government decided not to seek the same for Queensland after national cabinet met earlier that afternoon.
A spokesman for Ms Palaszczuk said it was a decision for the commonwealth government.
The widespread floods that have devastated parts of both states began in southeast Queensland in mid-February and then inundated northern NSW the following week.
On Thursday, Ms Palaszczuk rejected Mr Morrison’s move to include her state in the declaration, arguing it was needed “probably a week” earlier.
“We’ve actually gone past that. The floodwaters have gone down, they’ve subsided, and … those (state) disaster declarations will be lifted on Sunday,” she said.
Mr Morrison said Ms Palaszczuk had “every opportunity” to call for an emergency declaration and additional support a week ago but she had chosen not to do that.
Asked about the matter on Saturday morning, Mr Morrison doubled down.
“Well, if they — if she thought it was necessary a week ago, she could have written to me, but she didn’t,” he told reporters.
“The state can request, but no such request was made by the Queensland Government. The first to talk about putting it in place was the Federal Government.”
He didn’t say why it had taken until Friday to pursue an emergency declaration for NSW.
The meeting between Mr Morrison and the Governor-general is the first time a formal declaration of a state of emergency has been made since the measure was legislated in December 2020.
The laws were introduced in response to the recommendations from the royal commission into the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20, which burnt more than 24 million hectares of land.
Mr Morrison on Saturday said the emergency declaration would be particularly helpful in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, where the situation remained “drastic”.
Lismore is grappling with the destruction caused by its worst flood in history, in which Wilsons River rose to a record-breaking 14.37m and subsumed much of the town.
“It helps with things like having the waiver on our regulations for commonwealth agencies so they don’t require a signature on a bit of paper,” Mr Morrison said.
“I mean, people won’t have documents, they could have lost everything of their backup storage on their computers and all of these things.”
He stressed that the state of emergency declaration had no connection to the deployment of defence forces or disaster relief payments to flood affected areas.
“All of that’s flowing. And as Premier Palaszczuk noted, that was working incredibly well in Queensland, and the co-operation was outstanding,” he said.
“Her view in our consultation was that the co-operation between the federal and state governments had been excellent, and I agree with her.”
Mr Morrison said the federal government had paid $631m in disaster and recovery allowance payments to 766,000 flood affected people in the past two weeks, with $423m worth of those claims made by NSW residents.