A flood of help

Robert C. Johnston.

 

A version of this was printed in The Sydney Morning Herald (‘Help is at hand, no matter where it comes from’), on January 14th, 2011.

An Australian Defence Force Chinook transporting a water purification unit during the Queensland floods, January 2011

An Australian Defence Force Chinook transporting a water purification unit during the Queensland floods, January 2011

KEVIN Rudd should have displayed more tact when explaining to the media why he declined offers of foreign military aid for the Queensland floods (smh.com.au, ‘World offers support and sympathy to Qld’, January 13).

Regardless of how politely he privately responded to these foreign offers, and regardless of whether it was his decision or Julia Gillard’s, to say that ‘the worst thing you can do is have a whole lot of uncoordinated delivery of stuff from around the world, plonked on your doorstep’, is somewhat offensive to those who kindly offered.

Wamuran Basin, Queensland, January 2011 (photo: Deb LeCourt)

Wamuran Basin, Queensland, January 2011 (photo: Deb LeCourt)

It is a credit to Rudd that he has clearly been getting his hands dirty personally helping flood affected communities. But foreign leaders watch the news too, and they may be less willing to help next time if they think their offer was not adequately appreciated. Granted, making statements live on air is not easy. But our language is nevertheless very important.

A cow trapped on a roof after floods, North Booval, Queensland, January 2011 (photo: John Jewell)

A cow trapped on a roof after floods, North Booval, Queensland, January 2011 (photo: John Jewell)

Ipswich, Queensland, January 2011 (photo: Glenn Dance)

Ipswich, Queensland, January 2011 (photo: Glenn Dance)

 

And, yes, Australia is used to floods. Yes, Australia has good disaster preparedness. Yes, foreign financial aid for the victims is welcome and appreciated. And, yes, I agree that it was appropriate to decline foreign aid in the form of goods (because, as Matt Luxford notes, it can put local dealers out of business [SMH ‘Letters’, January 15]).

But sometimes it’s important to let people help us. It’s part of being in an international community. It builds relationships on the ground and breeds respect, understanding, and trust between different nationalities. It gives valuable experience to those who need it.

A young American or Indonesian soldier who has the chance to help during these floods may someday be president of their country. What better way for them to understand the Australian people? There’s plenty of work that can be done. Uncoordinated? Let’s get someone to coordinate them.

 

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