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Boots on the ground: Troops to the rescue in NQ as south-east battens down for more severe storms

Statewide

Troops are set to have boots on the ground in far north Queensland as the region recovers from record flooding caused by Tropical Cyclone Jasper.

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Australia’s military will still respond to natural disasters as the government considers a reserve force, Emergency Minister Murray Watt says.

Defence force personnel and army Chinook helicopters have been deployed to help recovery and evacuation efforts in far north Queensland following destruction by ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper.

Senator Watt reaffirmed the Australian Defence Force will continue to respond to crises as the federal government considers a reserve force and other measures.

“We’ve made clear that we will always make the ADF available to the states when they’re needed,” he told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

“But when we see these extreme events occur, it does place immense pressure on the Australian Defence Force and all of our emergency systems.

“That’s why at the moment, we’ve been doing a consultation process around what kind of resources we need at the federal level to be able to cope with this new future that we are entering with climate change.”

The defence strategic review released in 2023 warned the increasing number of major climate catastrophes risked the government’s capacity to respond effectively, and detracted from “Defence’s primary objective of defending Australia”.

It found the climate events were placing concurrent pressures on the ADF that had “negatively affected force preparedness, readiness and combat effectiveness”.

Senator Watt said all options had been consulted on, as the government invested in a non-profit disaster relief organisation led by veterans.

The defence force has increasingly been called on by governments to assist as the nation is battered by repeated extreme flooding and bushfires.

The defence review found the military was “not structured or appropriately equipped” to act as a domestic disaster recovery agency in any sustainable way.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has pledged Australian Defence Force support for the devastated area with another announcement expected on Wednesday.

Mr Albanese flew north with Queensland Premier Steven Miles on Tuesday afternoon, flying over flood-ravaged Cape Tribulation.

“We know there is more to do and that is why today the federal government has approved further assistance from the Australian Defence Force in the form of personnel, equipment but also temporary accommodation,” he told reporters.

It is understood tourism operators are expected to benefit from the mooted Wednesday announcement after Mr Albanese and the premier stay overnight in Cairns.

Queensland’s southeast may once again be struck by severe storms as it rebuilds.

A major recovery effort that may take years to complete is under way after seven people died in storm-related incidents with Scenic Rim, Logan and the Gold Coast the worst hit in the southeast.

The Bureau of Meteorology has warned Scenic Rim could be in for another drenching on Wednesday.

“There is a chance right throughout the state of seeing more stock-standard storms but that severity is in the Granite Belt and Scenic Rim areas,” the bureau’s Patch Clapp said.

More details about the southeast’s wild weather have been revealed after a tornado wreaked havoc on the Gold Coast on Christmas Day while Logan and Scenic Rim endured storms and flash flooding.

Mr Miles said there had been 3.5 million lightning strikes over the holiday period, compared to 38,000 during the same period in 2022.

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick has estimated the state’s repair bill will be $2 billion but expects that figure to rise.

 

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