Australian PM fights tears, pays tribute to flood victims

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Tuesday choked back tears on the floor of federal parliament while paying tribute to the victims of the Queensland floods.

Recalling the bravery of victims, including 13-year-old Jordan Rice - who insisted rescuers to save his 10-year-old brother Blake before him - the prime minister said, the summer of disasters would always be remembered by Australians, The Australian reported Tuesday.

An emotional Gillard paid tribute to the 35 dead and nine people still missing as a result of the disasters, and thanked emergency volunteers.

Gillard told the House of Representatives that the severity of the floods “paid no heed to the sanctity of human life”.

She held up a muddied Australian flag, recovered by the crew of a military helicopter during the Queensland floods rescue effort.

“They found this flag and I was honoured when they gave it to me,” she said.

“They did so because it was a powerful symbol to them - of what it means to face the elements, of what it means to be hurt, what it means to endure…” she told parliament, her voice faltering.

“I’ve spoken to them of courage. The courage it takes to keep filling sandbags, even though your back is breaking, the courage it takes to hold your nerve in the darkness as a cyclone races around you.”

“The courage it takes to tell your children to run across the road, knowing they could fall, but knowing it’s their only hope of getting to safety,” she said.

“The courage of a young boy, 13-year-old Jordan Rice, to say to his rescuers, ‘Take my brother first’.”

“And before that brave rescuer could return, Jordan and mum Donna were taken by the flood.”

Her response to the floods was earlier described as “wooden” by federal opposition leader Tony Abbott.

But putting aside politics, Abbott paid tribute to the prime minister’s efforts to visit flood victims, adding: “Whatever political disagreements we may have, she has shown a decent heart.”

Filed under: Politics

will not be displayed