Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will visit flood-affected areas of NSW later this week as the Federal Government announces financial aid for those impacted, after the crisis was declared a natural disaster.
Mr Albanese is expected to tour the flood-ravaged State with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet as soon as Thursday after returning home from high-level talks in Europe on Tuesday evening.
“He will be on the ground here later in the week,” Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles told the Today Show on Tuesday, while speaking from flood-affected Richmond in north-west Sydney.
“Obviously this hadn’t happened before he left, and, you know, the Prime Minister has been in a war zone, and an area which is of enormous importance to Australia.”
The Prime Minister was briefed by phone about the flooding situation by Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt and Mr Perrottet on Monday, following a secret visit to three war-torn towns in Ukraine.
Mr Perrottet declared the floods as a natural disaster — prompting the Commonwealth to release a range of “immediate” payments and loans for individuals and small businesses across 23 local government areas.
Families in flood-affected areas will also be given financial relief from childcare fees and paid leave.
The government has committed 200 defence personnel to assist with the emergency, along with two helicopters — following a request by the NSW Government.
“So even before we had people active, they (the ADF) were on stand-by ready to do that,” Mr Marles, who is the Defence Minister, told Sunrise.
“We have really been trying to be on the front foot when the situation started evolving, because the earlier you can get help out there, the more you can do.”
It comes after Mr Albanese was criticised on social media and by some of his opponents for spending too much time overseas as conditions in NSW worsened.
The words “Where’s Albo”, “Airbus Albo” and “Anthony Overseasy” were trending on Twitter over the weekend, with some users likening his 10-day Europe trip to former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Hawaii holiday as bushfires ripped through NSW and Victoria in 2019.
Nationals Leader David Littleproud slammed the Prime Minister for not getting in contact with Mr Perrottet sooner, due to a media blackout enforced by the ADF during his trip to Kyiv.
“I think we want to be fair and equitable on this but you can’t have your cake and eat it too,” Mr Littleproud told Nine.
“(Labor) were pretty quick to throw a few grenades at Scott Morrison.
“We can sit down, throw political barbs at one another but it is those men and women, kids whose homes have been inundated who are the most important thing today and NSW is leading the charge on that.”
Mr Watt told the ABC on Tuesday that the financial assistance was “the beginning of the process in terms of disaster payments”.
“These are uncapped payments, they are demand-driven and they will be available for anyone who qualifies,” he said.
While, Treasurer Jim Chalmers warned Australians across the country to expect the flooding to impact food prices.
“With vegetable prices already going through the roof, our expectation is that this flooding will make that even more difficult for people,” Mr Chalmers said.
“There will be an impact on the (October) budget from the disaster funding arrangements, which kick in at times like this. We don’t propose to nickel and dime that— people will get the help that they need to get through this tough period.”