March 10, 2022

Sir Peter Cosgrove interview withRoss Greenwood, Sky Business Now

In the news

Event: Sir Peter Cosgrove interview withRoss Greenwood, Sky Business Now

Speakers: Ross Greenwood host, Business Now;Sir Peter Cosgrove, BizRebuild Chair

Topics: BizRebuild, disaster resilience,businesses assistance

Ross Greenwood, host: But the rebuilding effort is more than just insurance and or government assistance. It also goes to making sure that people have got jobs to go back to, the businesses can be reestablished to provide the employment and income to help rebuild homes that have been damaged. BizRebuild is an initiative of the Business Council of Australia. It provides the on ground assistance to smaller local businesses inthe aftermath of natural disasters, including bushfires and floods. The Chairman of the BizRebuild Advisory Committee is General the Honorable Sir Peter Cosgrove who joins me now. So Peter, thanks so much for your time. This is part of the key of trying to get these communities back on their feet, isn't it? You've got to have the business communities not collapsing under the weight of what's just been.

Sir Peter Cosgrove: Spot on. I mean, Ross, it's good to be with you but the subject is the glue that keeps communities together. Let's imagine Lismore or some of the settlements in South Queensland that have been equally hard hit. Now, if those businesses fail, cannot get back on their feet and quickly, the community tends to start to fragment they say, and that sense of despair in the wider community remains. So, we've seen evidence of that with people in say, Lismore, who are saying, "nobody knows about us. Nobody's helping." Well we help the businesses, the small businesses to get back on their feet as quickly as possible. They'll put in their requests for government grants and loans and all that sort of thing, but between now and then they need that helping hand immediately. We get this big business to give us money, which we pass straight through by way of vouchers, generally to people to say between now and when you can go through the complex nature of getting government level grants, we'll help you to keep in operation.

Ross: So, how do you get the money to the people on the ground? What's the process that they go to get this money?

Sir Peter: Oh, well of course there's the usual through information system through the internet. People on the ground,through their own Chambers of Commerce, that sort of thing where they say,"put me in touch with BizRebuild". We've got a website where you can do it online, BizRebuild and you will that way create an interest. Then we willget a voucher to you. We can even give the voucher online. We will do some kind of a check just to make sure you're not Bill Smith who's blowing into town,says this is cheap money. So, if you're a fair dinkum member of your business community, we'll know that and we will get you enough to get you back on your feet.

Sir Peter: Even fuel vouchers. We've got 1.7million in the kitty right now given to us by big business and we are starting to dull that out. We've got a big conference in Brisbane tomorrow with the big Chamber of Commerce for Queensland and they've got 400,000 people on their books. So, we're going to try to help some of those 400,000 who have been flood struck to stay in business. And of course, a Northern New South Wales and other places that have been hit, well they're not off our list.

Ross: Because if you think about some of those communities right now, they've had the bushfires go through. Then they were locked down through COVID, so no tourists came through. And a lot of those business people literally must be almost they of give up the ghost because it's just hard, right?

Sir Peter: If you're a biblical person, the plagues of Egypt: we've had the fires, the floods, we've had COVID of course, which was very unpleasant and here we go again with these unprecedented floods. So, your heart goes out to these people. They struggle every day to make sure that they're in a viable enterprise, but how do you put up with 14 meters of flood water?

Ross: But you've dealt with natural disasters in the past, you've managed the aftermath of them. Communities eventually do recover, but it takes time more than anything else. But the scaleof this is the thing that gets me. I mean a lot of people are criticizing government right now, but I'm just looking at the scale and it's pretty hard to say the government has got to fix everything now, but the problem is if you are in that community, if you're a small business person or a person who's lost the house, you need the help right now.

Sir Peter: That's it. There's two things,immediate hope. So, optimism that you will get through this and immediate help.The immediate help is really important. After Cyclone Larry, my mantra was to say, "we're not going to let this hold us up. We're going to every day,you're going to see progress." Now for the people who are steering off their high set home in Lismore, looking at all the stuff that's out on the road that they've chucked out because it's ruined. They're wondering about tomorrow,not next year. How am I going to get through tomorrow? So, we got to try to help that part.

Ross: And the other important aspect is what I mentioned at the beginning is it's not just sort of helping that business survive, but it's the workers of that business. Because if thebusiness fails, then you've got a whole bunch of workers who also fail and that's not good enough.

Sir Peter: We saw that up in Innisfail and nearby after Cyclone Larry, when I'll call it the itinerant workers, people who are there and do jobs depending on seasons. They packed up the Kingswood and went south. That's basically what happens and you can't-

Ross: And that's giving up hope as you talk about.

Sir Peter: Absolutely. Hope and help. And they've got to come in very short order and in large amounts.

Ross: Yeah. And so, therefore is the logistics of trying to rebuild the community as you've been through that before, is that a difficult thing for government and for business to plan for?

Sir Peter: Yes, it is in the sense that everything is normally within the ambit of Australia, as we've seen floods every year but they're localized and not too much. This is an extraordinary event and it even makes dare I say it, some cyclones look like well that was here today and gone tomorrow. Unfortunately, the impact of these natural disasters of this nature are lingering and very widespread.

Ross: But you would recognize andunderstand the frustration, having seen it firsthand yourself that people are going through right now.

Sir Peter: Yes. But there things are happening now. I mean I'm glad that our political leaders have been up into these and in Queensland into the South Queensland areas and in Northern NewSouth Wales. They've been there and they will carry away a profound idea of the impact of this, so that the purse strings will be opened, but inevitably government can't be as quick as us. We are not trying to solve the whole problem, we're trying to get in there quick.

Ross: BizRebuild and that's what people are going to look for right now. So, Peter Cosgrove great to have you in the program. We appreciate your time today.

Sir Peter: Thank you very much, Ross.

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