16 February 2011

Tears in Parliament for 2011 flood victims

Ian Rickuss

EMOTIONAL MOMENT: Lockyer MP Ian Rickuss
breaks down in State Parliament over the loss
of Grantham toddler Jessica Keep in the January deluge.

THE tragedy of a Grantham toddler swept to her death by a wall of water overwhelmed Lockyer MP Ian Rickuss in State Parliament yesterday.

Speaking during the first sitting for 2011, which was dedicated to disaster victims and survivors, Mr Rickuss paid tribute to more than 20 Lockyer Valley residents who lost their lives in the January 10 deluge, including Jessica Keep.

The two-year-old was torn from her pregnant mother Stacy's arms as the killer torrent swept through, becoming the disaster's youngest victim.

"And sadly Matthew and Stacy also lost their mothers, so their children now have no grandmothers," Mr Rickuss said yesterday through tears.

His heartfelt speech was among dozens heard as politicians suspended normal proceedings to debate a special condolence motion.

They praised the efforts of the "mud army" and Cyclone Yasi clean-up crews and told of miraculous rescues in terrifying circumstances or strong spirit in the face of devastation.

Premier Anna Bligh described the past two months as a "summer of sorrow" in which all Queenslanders shared.

"For many of us, there were direct personal effects. For others it affected someone we know and love," she said.

"And for a moment, together, we all felt fragile, fearful of what might come next for us or a loved one."

Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller told how her "suburb of battlers" at Goodna, on Brisbane's outer southwest fringe, mobilised to help each other even as their own homes and livelihoods lay in ruins.

"I knew then and there that the people united will never ever be defeated," she said.

There was humour among the grave faces, with Mr Rickuss passing to Speaker John Mickel a gift from Lockyer Valley residents of T-shirts bearing the slogan "$@!# it was a really tough week".

There was also anger directed at insurance companies, which were accused of compounding flood victims' distress through flippant treatment and slow assessments.

Deputy Premier Paul Lucas called for all insurers to offer flood coverage and spell out additional costs so residents could make informed choices.

"Perhaps there is a role for enlightened insurers to reduce further claim costs for their long-term insured by contributing to raising stumps so low-set houses in places like Depot Hill in Rockhampton are out of the water," he said.

Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek said there had been bipartisan work during the disasters but promised the LNP would ask "major questions".

"We must learn from the mistakes made and make better preparations for the next time nature vents its fury," he said.

The condolence speeches continue today.

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