Event: Doorstop interview in Mogo

Speaker: General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK AC(Mil) CVO MC (Retd); Jennifer Westacott Business Council cheif executive; Nancy Southern, Global Chair and CEO ATCO

Date: 15 February 2020

Topics: Mogo recovery, BizRebuild

Jennifer Westacott, Business Council chief executive: We're here today. I'm joined by Sir Peter Cosgrove, by Nancy Southern from ATCO, and by Richard Adams from the local chamber and we're here to welcome ATCO's pop up shopping mall as part of our BizRebuild initiative. This is going to allow local shopkeepers to keep working, to keep earning money, to get back up on their feet, help the town get back up on their feet. And this is a great day for Mogo, it's a great day for Business Rebuild. It's a great day for the spirit that is Australia, helping people get back on their feet, get together and it's the community that's driven this, the community are the real heroes here. And across the country, there'll be community after community that needs help, that needs those little things like getting their shops running, getting their tools, getting their laptops and that's what BizRebuild is all about getting people back on their feet, get them working, keeping those towns going. I'll open up now for questions.

Journalist: Sir Peter. If you don't mind?

General Sir Peter Cosgrove, BizRebuild chair: Yep. sure.

Journalist: What a wonderful idea. I mean, there's these tangible ways to help. This certainly must be one of the best I've heard of.

General Sir Peter Cosgrove: It's irresistible. I think all over Australia, people thought they're in trouble. They being a very large number of people, a very large number of communities. Massive destruction, possibly the worst natural disaster of our lifetimes. I'm not saying in terms of loss of life but the overall carnage was terrible, and that's front of mind. The first victory was when people after the bush fire swept through looking each other in the eye and saying, "We're going to get through this," and next it became irresistible for the Australian community to pitch in. This is step one, or its the next step for this community of a very long process. We're delighted to see it being done here in Mogo. It's now going to, this sort of activity, we hope, will multiply and accelerate across the whole of the bushfire area.

Journalist: Sorry, Sir. There's been concerns that support hasn't been rolled out across this area, of this neck of the woods fast enough. Do you feel like this is a step forward to recovering?

General Sir Peter Cosgrove: There will always be from people in need an impatience, a hunger for practical assistance to get back on their feet. And everybody involved in the relief effort has to move as fast as they can, but each time, you got to get it right, so whatever steps you take must work. What we're doing is going to be direct, fast, and appropriate, but it's going to take a while and we will just pray that people stay with us and have faith that the help from ourselves, the government agencies, and all other people is going to be as quick as possible. This is going to take years.

Journalist: The essence of practical, what you've done in terms getting these burned out traders up and moving again. Where's the next town that is kind of effort will be delivered?

General Sir Peter Cosgrove: Each level of support, each type of support will be tailor made for what's needed. In some cases, businesses have still got premises but there's no money passing through the books. We've got to keep that in mind. In other cases, there'll be communities which need facilities that will just uplift them. There's a Men's Shed around here that has lost its premises. Well, they're the sort of people who will put their hand up to somebody like us, and we'll see how we go there, but we know that if we don't get business going, communities will starve and strangle. We can't have that.

Journalist: It's one thing getting business going again. It's another getting people back through. What would you say to those sitting at home tonight who've been thinking, "Oh, it's a good idea to go to some of these places," but maybe this will convince them?

General Sir Peter Cosgrove: Well, every community is at some level of recovery, and every community deserves to have its fellow Australians come and have a look and spend some money and going away, perhaps shocked at what still needs to be done, but having educated themselves. We don't want disaster fatigue. We don't want people to say, "Let's move on." We don't want people in the big smoke to say, "Oh yeah, I remember the bush fires," because the bush fires are a confronting social and economic problem for Australia.

Journalist: Big business is getting in and doing this. Do you think the federal government needs to do more? Why aren't they doing this?

General Sir Peter Cosgrove: The federal government, as I understand it has already spent $1 million, and there's a lot more on the way. They're using taxpayer's money and they are fully and properly accountable. I don't want to get into their business. We're doing what business is good at. We're agile, powerful, and we can apply the aid directly into business activity, so we'll stick to our knitting.

Jennifer: Nancy, do you want to say a couple of things?

Nancy Southern, Global Chair and CEO ATCO: I'd just like to say how proud I am of the people of ATCO. One of the hallmarks of our company is rapid deployment in times of emergency and crisis. And we have done that around the world. But nowhere is it more sobering and more emotional than in your own home. And the devastation that has occurred, the loss of human life, the loss of homes, the loss of business, can be extraordinarily daunting in the rebuilding of communities. But Shakespeare, he wrote one time, "You are rapidly becoming what you are going to be, and we are all going to be great again." And it's a great honour for ATCO to be a part of rebuilding this wonderful community.

Journalist: Thank you.

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