Senator Joyce writes from his flood-besieged home town of St George, for the Canberra Times:
Muddy waters sets the real tone
I am at a friend’s place staring out at the peak of the flood. In my town, St George, the hydraulic pressure of the river is forcing its way back up the storm water drains into the centre of town creating menacing pools of brown water inside the levy bank. The water trucks normally used for dust suppression are sucking up the water and taking it to the edge of the levy. Outside the levy bank is the bitter frustration of yet another flood, the third in two years.
It is the awesome spectacle of the energy required to lift billions of tonnes of water thousands of kilometres inland for which only a fraction ends up in the flooded river. The energy that is required is beyond comprehension. The temper of the town oscillates between community fervour to an understandable silent brooding, frustration and anger. The juxtaposition is stark between a house on a lawn, and just down the street, a house in the water.
The Local Disaster Management Group finds its own rhythm. They call for a mandated evacuation, and most go, but those with a job to do stay and some who are more scared of going than staying hide while others just completely ignore the order. The day for me starts with a quick look around town, public meetings and media and then either sandbagging, getting on the phone and chasing issues through or heading out to where help is required. The smaller towns feel they are forgotten in the shadow of the larger ones while the people on the farms feel they are forgotten by both.
All know that sympathy is usually temporary as the world moves on and the logistical exercise of repairs, insurance and getting the cash back into the house to bring back balance is a task that is self reliant with the support of a few friends as other issues will be on the news.
However, support during the crisis is overwhelming and genuine. Help just turns up as neighbours see people needing help, neighbours being anybody who see it in their heart to help. Teams of people swarm around houses to try and protect them from the fact that they know that the level of the house is below the oncoming flood. Miraculously some endeavours against all the odds succeed while others stand testament to a forlorn struggle.
The media look for the picture or the line that sells the story and we are happy, generally, to deliver it in the belief that it raises the prospect of public support. The media look for the hero or the rogue and if they cannot find it they will create one for you. Public figures, such as myself, have to show their wares of public service as you will be more noticed by your absence than by your participation, and of course this leads to a symbiotic, sometimes parasitic, relationship with those that hold the keys to the nightly news.
The most incongruous issue during the flood was watching the opening of Federal Parliament. It could have been happening on the moon, as it was so totally irrelevant to what was going on in the diluvium landscape that currently surrounds us. It is sobering to sit with others on their lounge in front of their TV and see how they see us. They giggle, laugh, frown and then say in the middle of the scripted punch line, ”Oh I better serve dinner; want a beer?”
Surely they should have more respect; don’t they realise we are vastly more important than curried sausages? All those media advisers and news producers being bumped by curried sausages. I am listening to a cacophony; the river, ominously loud at the window, Chris Uhlmann throwing to Heather Hewitt on TV and the clang of cutlery in the kitchen as my host and other flood refugees have left the TV to an empty lounge and all have moved to talk about other things in the kitchen.
The Balonne River will hit 14m overnight and houses will sit silently in the moonlight with the river running through them. Ladies will cry with frustration and sit with their husbands and partners and ask where the money will come from this time to repair the damage and bring back balance. Wayne Swan is talking in the background, something about the NBN.
A Twitter friend this evening described your humble blogger as “pensive”:
Adjective: Engaged in, involving, or reflecting deep or serious thought.
Synonyms: thoughtful – reflective – wistful – meditative
I would suggest that the above essay demonstrates this to be an attribute clearly shared by the good … and eloquent … Senator Joyce.
A man who, after sending his own family on to safety, has stayed behind to help his townsfolk, and opened his own home as a refuge for emergency services and those in need:
The out-of-control kindergarten we call “Parliament” resumed this week, did it?
Parliament be damned!
Barnaby for PM.