Thursday, 3 December 2015
Barker Electorate: Bushfires
) ( ): I rise today to speak about bushfires and tourism in my electorate of Barker. My electorate of Barker, and South Australia more broadly, is facing a once in a hundred years rainfall deficiency that has seen farmers across much of my electorate face significant challenges. Whilst previously I have raised the failure—and, indeed, the failure of state government—to deliver drought concessional loans, today I would like to take the opportunity to discuss the impact drought conditions are having on many parts of my electorate.
Drought has affected primary producers in almost every corner of my electorate. As we approach summer, those effects are, sadly, starting to translate into heightened bushfire conditions. In recent weeks we have seen the devastating impact of these dry climatic conditions and high winds with the bushfires that have struck rural South Australia. My thoughts and prayers are with my fellow South Australians who have lost so much in these recent fires, especially in the electorate of Wakefield, which borders mine, where lives and livelihoods have been lost. In the face of such tragic circumstance and elevated risk it is right that we are cautious and react accordingly. As we approach what is going to be a dry and hot summer, we should prepare for bushfires, just as we have done in the past.
However, recently I received some important advice from Anne Moroney, Chief Executive Officer of Regional Development Australia Barossa. I would like to share that advice with the House. Whilst it is absolutely critical that we acknowledge the loss and grief of those in the affected areas, we should not compound that loss and tragedy by cancelling travel arrangements to the Barossa wine and tourism region, which was fortunate not to be touched by the fire. My electorate is about the size of Croatia, and the Barossa Valley itself is a large area.
It is important that people do not conflate reports that bushfires have affected the region. All reports that I have received indicate that the Barossa is continuing with its world-class services and continuing to deliver excellent produce alongside hospitality.
There are many people across the fire-affected regions who earn off-farm income in the Barossa, and it is time to generate more activity, not reduce it. The people of the Barossa Valley are open for business. It is absolutely essential that people continue to engage the excellent services that can be found across the valley. Tourism is an important part of the economic activity that drives growth and jobs across all of my electorate. This is particularly true with the Barossa Valley, which has earned a reputation for excellence worldwide. It is important that people across Australia acknowledge the dangers that bushfires pose without allowing such an assessment to blanket their plans in the lead-up to Christmas and the festive season thereafter.
In closing, I would like to encourage each and every Australian to flock to the Barossa Valley to see the excellent produce and the friendly people who reside there. The Barossa continues to go from strength to strength and is certainly one of the best tourism locations in South Australia, if not the nation. As well as encouraging Australians from interstate to come and experience the Barossa, I also encourage people throughout Barker to take some time off these holidays, be a tourist in their own backyard and come and enjoy some of our premium food and wine. While Australia continues to be an unforgiving country, and we have seen further examples of that in recent weeks, particularly as it relates to drought and bushfire, I am encouraged to see the industry of the people of the Barossa Valley has seen them come through these recent fires relatively unscathed, and I encourage people to go and see this wonderful region for themselves. Do not compound the harm that has been occasioned to South Australia by failing to visit the Barossa Valley these holidays and during this festive season.