House debates

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Condolences

Australian Bushfires

12:29 pm

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on this condolence motion that was moved by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. I want to put forward my thoughts in relation to the recent bushfires and thank people involved in my own electorate who have been reaching out to fellow Australians who've been affected, particularly in the southern states of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The Prime Minister referred this week to the recent catastrophic fires as the 'black summer' of 2019-20. Regions, as we know, have been devastated. Lives have been lost. Wildlife populations have been destroyed. I would like to particularly thank our brave and honourable firefighters who have put their lives on the line in many states that have been ravaged by fire, including in my own home state of Queensland. My brother-in-law is a firefighter down here in the ACT, and I know how tough it is at times for them, and I want to thank them.

These people have put their bodies on the line in order to protect people—fellow Australians—our valued wildlife and people's assets—their homes. This goes beyond the call of duty, particularly for those volunteer firefighters who have often spent weeks out there fighting fires. We are all very thankful—not just members of parliament but all Australians.

I'd also like to thank our Australian Defence Force personnel who have been deployed to help and the 3,000 or so reservists who have answered the call of the government to assist in our time of need. For the first time, the Australian government deployed Australian medical assistance teams, AUSMAT specialists, to provide on-the-ground medical support to people evacuated from bushfire-affected areas. The bushfire crisis recently has been the Australian Defence Force's main effort. The ADF has been working with state and territory authorities since September 2019, and support will continue for as long as needed. Over 6,500 full-time and reserve personnel are providing support in the field, at sea, in the air and from the defence bases across the fire-affected regions.

I'm also really thankful and humbled by the support that has emerged from my own electorate of Petrie. I'm proud of our community. People have rung up and said, 'Luke, how can we help those people down south.' That includes organisations in my own electorate like the Mango Hill Progress Association, who have helped. Aspley 10 Pin Bowl donated 100 per cent of their proceeds on Sunday 12 January to fire-affected regions. Peninsula Palms Retirement Village raised $5,695. The North Lakes Lions Club has helped. Quota raised $1,000 for Drought Angels. Azure Blue retirement raised $580 for the Salvos. The lady at Celtic Barber at Rothwell did an awesome job of collecting donations from the community and sending them down, particularly to the parts of the Central Coast in NSW. I was pleased to be part of the Australian Red Cross disaster relief BBQ, which helped raise more than $10,000. I particularly want to thank Nathan, who pulled all that together and who did a great job. St Mary's Anglican Church also helped. There was the Kippa-Ring Shopping Centre Christmas gift wrapping station, and some of my own staff helped out with the gift wrapping.

Also, in the last week, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my constituents, Tiarna McElligott. Despite the immense stress for Tiarna, as a Year 11 student, she took time out to work on an issue that worries her and worries other Australians. As we know, this past summer has been incredibly challenging and, at the forefront of our minds, has been the constant thought of how we can protect our wonderful country and those who bravely fight for it. Tiarna has admirably concentrated on and was spurred on by the knowledge that overexertion and stress remain an important factor for our firefighters. She has come up with an intel vest that will help firefighters manage their vital signals, like blood pressure and body temperature. She has recently won a Moreton Bay Regional Council award, and she has entered her idea in Earth Challenge 2020, so I want to acknowledge Tiarna as well.

It has been a tough summer. The Australian government has had the biggest response since Cyclone Tracy in 1974, and that will continue. When I travelled to Kangaroo Island some years ago the wildlife was incredible, so it saddened me to see the damage that was done on Kangaroo Island. I spoke to the member for Mayo and offered my condolences, because so much was damaged down there. It's been a tough summer. We acknowledge the victims, those people who lost their lives, and together, as a parliament and as the Australian community, we'll continue to work together to help restore what's been lost. Thank you.

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