Mr Morrison ended his COVID-19 isolation today to visit the community of Lismore, where he pledged more payments for areas that have been hit worst by floodwaters.
Alongside the existing emergency disaster payments, the LGAs of Lismore, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley will be eligible for two additional weekly payments.
The money will be automatically paid for those who have already claimed and received the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment, at the current rate of $1000 per adult and $400 per child.
These payments will be made on March 15 and 22.
“I intend to recommend to the Governor-General to make a National Emergency Declaration covering this severe weather and flooding event across New South Wales and Queensland to ensure all our emergency powers are available and that we cut through any red tape we might face in delivering services and support on the ground,” Mr Morrison said.
“I have made this decision today, in consultation with the Premiers, after further briefings from government agencies about the situation in northern NSW and seeing the catastrophe firsthand.
“We introduced the power to make a National Emergency Declaration after the Black Summer bushfires and it will ensure our Ministers and agencies don’t face any unnecessary bureaucracy as they roll out what communities need.”
Only the Governor-General – currently David Hurley – can make a National Emergency Declaration.
Mr Morrison defended the role the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has played in the recovery, following criticism that soldiers were deployed too late or in too little numbers to help.
“We will need more trucks, the ADF is rolling those in but the ADF on its own will not be able to complete that task,” Mr Morrison said.
“It will need more than what the ADF can bring to this task to achieve it.”
Both the state and federal governments have been criticised in recent weeks for a crisis response deemed by some in Queensland and NSW to be ineffective.
Defence personnel are on the ground in both south-east Queensland and northern NSW to help with the recovery efforts.
Brigadier Robert Lording told Today the ADF had issues getting officers to the more isolated locations impacted by floods in recent weeks and there was a need to ensure there were resources available for the number of troops being sent in.
“The roads, the capacity to physically get people into some of these isolated communities, physically it wasn’t possible until Friday and Saturday, just three or four days ago,” Brigadier Lording said.
“It’s an enormous logistics challenge to be able to get that kind of support to people on the ground when they need it.
“I understand, they’re feeling the pain of having gone through what is a very traumatic situation.”
Resilience NSW Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons also defended the response by authorities.
“We do have to make sure that we have got the right needs identified and supported from the locals, that we are framing that up and getting the supports, that we have got to have the mechanisms in place,” he told Today.
He said Resilience NSW’s $1.4 billion budget was already at work on flood relief, including grants for small business and primary producers, but that a great deal was also being put into ongoing recovery from last year’s floods.
In a sometimes heated exchange with Today host Karl Stefanovic, Mr Fitzsimmons said there was no red tape impeding flood relief.
“It feels like it is,” Stefanovic said.
“We have spoken about that before,” Mr Fitzsimmons said.
“You can’t put a bucket of money in the ground up there and say, anyone help themselves. It just doesn’t work that way.”