PRIME MINISTER:

It's a great credit to you and the people of your State and particularly the volunteers and the emergency services, the SES, the way they've pulled together. One of the young dairy farmers Luke was saying - he was there with his wife Tennille - and they were saying that they had hundreds of messages of support and offers of support on his mobile phone. The way the community has pulled together is characteristically Australian. When nature flings her worst at Australia us, Australians show their very best.

What Will and I are here to do is to announce that we are activating the National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements. This provides support to households, to businesses, to farmers of course, to local councils Peter, to rebuild infrastructure. This is funded jointly between the State Government and the Federal Government after the bill gets to $19 million, we pick up 75% of the cost. Will - I think you will go through $19 million without any issues here.

There's a lot of damage. There are, I believe, 19 bridges in Tasmania that are down. Several of them are million dollar jobs or more to replace.

So there's a lot of work that's going to have been undertaken, but we are here to ensure that the funds are available to do it. That’s what the National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements are for. So Will we're here to support you, to back you with that Commonwealth support. I just want to add that the community's solidarity is something that we must acknowledge and admire here as we have elsewhere in Australia during the course of these shocking storms. Will?

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

Thanks Prime Minister to you and to my Federal colleagues Brett, Eric and to Michael Keenan for being here today. I think it's a really strong show of support from the Federal Government to communities that are hurting, that are certainly feeling a great deal of stress and will be uplifted by the fact that we are now able to activate natural disaster arrangements to provide some much-needed support for Tasmanian households, for small businesses, for farmers, for local community organisations, nor not for profit organisations.

We have been determined to act swiftly and to provide emergency relief for people who have been affected across 18 councils in our State. 18 council areas have been affected. There's been a massive impact on infrastructure. There's been an impact on our ability to operate out of the Devonport Port as well, which is a significant economic impact for Tasmania. We have had around 200 homes affected, many businesses up in the north-west coast, especially farming communities that have been devastated.

Sadly and not far from where we are today, we have also had a loss of life. A Tasmanian woman, Mrs Allford, has lost her life. Our thoughts are with her and her family, her friends and family and similarly, for the friends and family of the two Tasmanian men who are still missing. I want to take the opportunity again to acknowledge the exceptional work undertaken by the SES and associated agencies and the many hundreds of volunteers who are giving their time. We have come together as a State and indeed as I say I think Tasmanians will very much be heartened by the fact that we are now getting resources, support, funding and assistance for those affected on the ground.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister why did you reject Bill Shorten's offer to visit these communities together in a show of unity?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can we focus on the storm, the damage from the storm and let's leave the politics until later?

JOURNALIST:

It's widely accepted in the scientific community, among insurers and infrastructure companies that climate change will affect the predictability, the frequency and the severity of natural disasters like this. Do you think Australians should prepare for things like this to happen more? Are you concerned they will happen more as a result of climate change?

PRIME MINISTER:

Certainly larger and more frequent storms are one of the consequences that the climate models and climate scientists predict from global warming. But you cannot attribute any particular storm to global warming, so let's be quite clear about that. The same scientists would agree with that point.

Having said that, it's very important to raise the issue of mitigation and making sure that communities are prepared and protected in the face of risks like this. You've seen in Launceston where we were earlier today, with the local Member Andrew Nikolic and you saw the way in which the Chairman of the Launceston Flood Authority acknowledged that the way in which both the State, the Council and the Federal Government have funded the removal of silt from the Tamar River has played a big part in mitigating the consequences of a flood - this flood in particular. So Launceston's defences were successful. That is because they were put in place and they were maintained. So one of the important things to do, after every natural disaster like this, is to re-examine the mitigation measures you have and learn what lessons can be drawn from the event and make sure that they are better prepared, if they need to be better prepared, for the next one.

JOURNALIST:

Should Andrew Hastie not have campaigned in his army uniform?

PRIME MINISTER:

Excuse me it’s kind of you to ask but we are just going to talk about the flood and the storm here in Tasmania and the way in which we're supporting the community here. We can talk about politics on another occasion - other political issues on another occasion if that is alright.

JOURNALIST:

The Launceston Flood Authority now wants more flood levees in place at Newstead. Will you guys help fund future infrastructure there?

PRIME MINISTER:

We will certainly look at doing that. All of this infrastructure has been jointly funded in the past. Yes, you are right - they talked about another I think it was an investment of another $200,000 was what I heard nominated there. It may well be more than that. But both the levees and the raking of the silt in the Tamar has had support from the State and the Federal Government. We have an ongoing program for silt removal for example and Andrew Nikolic has been a relentless advocate for it I might say, having been the subject of his advocacy over the years. So he's done well. He's done very well to ensure that there is continued attention to that because it's easy to - between floods it's easy to forget the last one and fail to anticipate the next one.

JOURNALIST:

You say you will cover 75 per cent of the repair bill. How much do you think that’s going to be?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it's too early to say but it will be substantial. The arrangements are that, for Tasmania, under the NDRRA the Federal Government covers 50 per cent of the cost up to $19 million, Michael Keenan is confirming that and after that we cover 75 per cent of the costs. So this is obviously going to be a very expensive recovery because so much infrastructure has been destroyed.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister are there still any areas of concern as a result of the weather?

PRIME MINISTER:

The advice - Michael?

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE:

No basically the worst is past.

PRIME MINISTER:

The worst is over.

JOURNALIST:

Has the search been scaled back for those two missing people and are the same resources still being put into looking for them?

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

Look certainly my understanding and we may well have our local Commander available today to talk further to this. But my understanding is that the search continues. Needless to say, our hopes for finding the two missing men alive are becoming slimmer with every passing day. But it is true to say that we are making every reasonable attempt to locate those men as soon as possible.

JOURNALIST:

Premier, are there still searches being made for missing woman Angela Jeffrey in the Bakers Beach area?

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

I would need to confirm that with the authorities.

JOURNALIST:

Have searches been scaled down?

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

Again, I’d need to confirm that with the authorities.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister - our State Government has contributed offering assistance packages of $750. Obviously to some of the farmers that is probably not going to be enough. Do you think they will receive more?

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me explain. All of the assistance is administered and delivered by the State Government. Our role is to fund half of it and then over the amount I mentioned – three quarters of it. There is assistance for households, which are small grants, which are not means tested, there are larger grants, I think $8,875 which - where there is a household income test, so for lower income households. There is also assistance for businesses. As we discussed in New South Wales, there are $130,000 dollar loans at 1.38 per cent which are available immediately and they of course enable a business and that of course can be a farmer, to get access so some cash quickly at a very low interest rate to deal with immediate issues pending insurance claims being settled. There are also subsidies for freight for moving cattle around and other livestock and also for moving fodder.

So there is a whole range of support measures and of course there is support for local governments to rebuild infrastructure like bridges and indeed some grants available for clubs and sporting clubs and so forth, if a part of their facility has been destroyed. But they're administered through Services Tasmania which I think is the agency that administers it in this State and our role is to cover the 75 per cent of the cost over $19 million and 50 per cent under that.

JOURNALIST:

On the climate change question, while we can't directly attribute one event to climate change, do you think we can rule out climate change as a contributing factor to the severity?

PRIME MINISTER:

Climate change is a very important issue and it's one that as you know I take very seriously. But attributing any particular event to climate change is just not sustainable. But there is no question that we live in the land of droughts and flooding rains and fires too. So we have to be very alert to natural disasters and Michael Keenan and I were discussing only this morning the importance to make greater - make a greater commitment right across Australia, to ensuring that we have the measures in place to mitigate the impact of natural disasters when they come, because clearly you've seen here this - the dairy farmers that we all met with earlier today at the council chambers, they and their families have lived on the Mersey River - the river here, for generations so they have got a lot of local knowledge going back many, many years. They have never seen water, as much water move as quickly as this. So what this means is that you cannot - you've got to assume faster, more frequent tempests in the future and do that out of prudence. Put your preparations in place, all of us have to do that, and hope to be disappointed. Hope that those precautions will never be needed. But it is plainly, this has plainly been a very rapid event. They have never seen - these are people that really know this river, it's their home. They know this river better than anyone. They have never seen so much move so fast here in generations.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister you’re wearing a Cradle Mountain jacket today. Bill Shorten was here last week - pledged $15 million - will you be matching that or making more?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I am here talking about the floods. I've worn this jacket to Iraq. I've worn it in Afghanistan. It's one of my favourite jackets and I acquired it when Lucy and I were in Cradle Mountain quite some years ago now.

JOURNALIST:

Why wear it today then if funding hasn't been announced?

PRIME MINISTER:

It's a warm jacket.

Thank you.