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Feb 4, 2013

Get Fact: was Abbott right on Howard's flood watch?

The dearth of fact-checking among journalists means politicians are getting away with some very cheap politicking. Take Tony Abbott's comments on Howard-era flood measures. We apply the Get Fact check.


How much fact-checking is going on amongst political journalists currently?

The week before last Prime Minister Julia Gillard used bogus figures from a security software provider as part of her justification for the government’s flash new cybersecurity centre. It passed without comment in the media.

It also appears no one has bothered to check Tony Abbott’s claims behind this widely-reported yarn about flood relocation.

On Saturday, the Opposition Leader was in Bundaberg with Barnaby Joyce and local MP Paul Neville to offer support to local volunteers helping with the clean-up. Good on them. And Abbott was, rightly, reluctant to be drawn into politicking while there — invited by a journalist to comment on Nicola Roxon and Chris Evans, he declined to do so. But there was this exchange:

Question: Mr Abbott, the Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, he wants more money from the federal government to do what nobody has done before, which is flood-proof towns, build levees and relocate homes and properties. Would you oblige this if you were Prime Minister?

Answer: It’s interesting you should raise this. Under the Howard Government there was a program for relocating people who were in highly flood-prone areas and a lot of work has been done in the city of Bundaberg to relocate people over the years, but obviously when you’ve got a one-in-200-year flood, there are places that are not normally flood-prone which do go under. The Howard government did have such a program. My understanding is that program has ceased in the last five years.

In fact, the Howard government’s Regional Flood Mitigation Program, which included flood relocation funding, was incorporated into the Natural Disaster Mitigation Program (NDMP) by the Howard government itself in 2007, and then rolled into a larger set of payments as part of the process initiated by Kevin Rudd of reducing the vast number of “special purpose payments” to the states.

Along with several other programs, the NDMP now forms part of the National Partnership Agreement on Natural Disaster Resilience, which enables the states to have greater flexibility in responding to disasters.

It was cheap point scoring from Abbott on a devastating disaster. And plain wrong.


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