General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove, speech to Mogo community

18 February 2020

Thanks very much, Jennifer. And can I say to Sherrie, it was good to have you speaking here. The authentic voice of your community and to give us an idea of what you've been through and what your needs are now and how typical of you to seek to identify members of the entire community who've been so important in your progress today.

I was asked to be involved in the BizRebuild project about a month ago, a little over a month ago.

And, I have to tell you, you do this with mixed emotions because we're all saying exactly what happened, at least through the medium of television, and we're aghast.

And it's hard to imagine the breadth and the depth of the needs.

But I said yes in a heartbeat for a start because our fellow Australians were under the pump, were being damaged, needed help. So, you do get involved because you see the national community or the community of the bushfire area at a time of great need.

But here's the other thing - you see the community at those times at its best. The firefighters, the people in settlements, large and small, helping each other, neighbours rushing to help other neighbours, people looking after folks who've had to evacuate, people in the aftermath of their lives and livelihoods turned to ashes. Their homes no longer there, their businesses wrecked, still looking to help other people and still being stoic and strong.

The first step, and I want to endorse something Jennifer said, the first step in the recovery was for the rest of Australia to see the determined but needy faces of those thousands of people, fellow Australians, who'd been devastated by the fires that mobilised the nation.

Everything that's done thereafter, is because the national community says we must help. This is a journey where we can say to you that we've done our very best and we will continue to do it, to mobilise the business community of Australia to pitch in, to help.

Today, we've seen one of the first major events of BizRebuild in action and, of course, it happened because people visited Mogo amongst many other places in the bushfire fields to find out what you needed. This seemed to be a needy, immediate practical thing to be attempted and now we turn to the people who made it possible.

Thank you to ATCO for donating the demountable buildings and through our efforts with you, the pop up mall will be up and running in about three weeks after it's fitted out by local tradesmen and suppliers.

Nancy is president and CEO of ATCO, which many Australians would have thought was the Australian Trucking Company was actually the Alberta trucking company.

Sir Peter:

Trailer, oh, I beg your pardon. Truck and trailer. In rugby union that's a penalty offense, a truck and trailer. But here we're going to call it a trailer.

Look, the thing I say to you is that yes, it might have Alberta in its name, but it's truly an Australian company and you, Nancy, had brought the maple leaf here to Australia and we love you for it.

Thank you very much, Nancy Southern.

And they came down here on those magnificent vehicles out there. Peter (Martignago, CEO of P&S Haul-Em) is nearby. Here he is. Where's Peter? There you go. That bloke up the back, drove that huge demountable down from Sydney yesterday and this morning, and he said he didn't hold up one other motorist, that they all loved him.

But I want you to take back to the others in the P&S Haul-Em that we're very grateful for their philanthropy in taking on this very necessary role. Now moving ahead, just to make sure you understand what we're going to continue to do.

Our focus has got to be on the ground, not sitting back in an office in one of the capital cities we are aimed at getting small and local businesses back on their feet and rebuilding communities and local economies.

If we're not doing that, it means there's no more to be done. Along the way we will be mindful of wider community needs but you'll understand our focus because we say that businesses are the glue that keep people in a community and we cannot stand by, we the rest of Australia and particularly the business community, and allow small and local businesses to fail. And we think communities will start to fight away if that terrible outcome is not prevented.

BizRebuild, which is this creation of the Business Council. We have been sending needs analysis teams with financial experts and business recovery specialists into communities such as Mogo.

I'd like to name and thank Lisa Paul, who's here today, there she is, and her deputy, Brigadier Rupert Hoskin. Where are your Rupert? Nearby somewhere? There he is, big fella down there. They are the leader and the deputy for the BizRebuild team.

Now we've got to talk very briefly about the vision thing. The vision thing. I think it was beloved all of one of the presidents of the United States. We're doing it here. Somebody had to come up with a notion that the business community in Australia is all over the shop. It's huge. It's small and it exists wherever the continent has its sovereignty, and yet it had to be mobilised. Somebody had to conceive of the fact that they would be this notion that business helps business because it is necessary.

It's the thing to do, the patriotic Australian thing to do and so Jennifer and Tim Reed, who is the head of the Business Council at the moment, conceived of this BizRebuild and I think it's an admirable thing and well-done Jennifer and well-done Tim.

Only a minute to go now. BizRebuild has also distributed more than $50,000 so far worth of vouchers, around $500 each, in bushfire affected communities including Batemans Bay, Mogo, Eden, Merimbula, Cooma, Tumut, and Batlow.

That's not a complete list of where this might happen. It's just what's been done so far.

We wanted to put here in Mogo a roof over the heads of local businesses who lost their premises, their equipment, their merchandise in the bushfires. Each ATCO module, and you've seen one out here, three point three tons of very capacious and very secure and very adaptable accommodation is what will arrive on each of these semi-trailers. The semi itself weighs 18 tonnes, and we're raffling one later.

So, there's 33 tonnes of demountable coming down the highway. He and I are already on the way and the total of the convoy will be around 213 tonnes and that's just for the main roads people and they can levy with the council later.

About 10 semis will make that 357-kilometre journey and they'll be in here and being unloaded across the hours that follow military precision involved.

And that gives me an opportunity to say to my ADF colleagues, and I include here the men and women of the Royal Military College band, you, along with the police who came from further up the line in here to help over the period, did what the nation wanted. You did what they expected and you did it extremely well. I'm proud of you.

That's all from me and thank you for your cooperation with the BizRebuild team. It's been wonderful to deal with it.


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