House debates

Thursday, 6 February 2020


Australian Bushfires

10:00 am

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm pleased to have the opportunity to support the condolence motion moved by the Prime Minister. My electorate of North Sydney has been distant from harm's way during the horrific bushfire season Australians are witnessing this summer. However, for much of December and January, we have been reminded by the smoke-filled skies over Sydney of what so many communities across eastern Australia have been enduring. This of course does not compare with the devastation experienced by some of our fellow citizens. For most of us, we cannot really appreciate the ordeal, the loss and the grief experienced by residents in bushfire affected communities. But I know residents across my electorate have been united in concern and compassion towards those who have lost homes, properties, businesses, livestock and tragically, in 33 cases, the lives of their loved ones. The impact on Australia's ecology and wildlife has also been deeply felt by my constituents.

Today we pay tribute to the role of RFS volunteers and all those fighting the fires. They are ordinary Australians doing extraordinary things. We can only imagine the circumstances faced by RFS volunteers. Photos and videos give us some insight into the ferocity of the fires, but only just. One RFS volunteer recently gave me this piece of metal. This unrecognisable molten shape is a mag wheel from an RFS support vehicle consumed by the fires. It's a demonstration of the intense heat they have been encountering on a daily basis.

Today I want to particularly acknowledge local residents who are members of the RFS. Recently the ABC featured two of those local volunteers, Simon Adams and Barry Lanigan, who faced horrific circumstances at Rainbow Flat on the Central Coast during a daring rescue mission to help a trapped resident. The RFS volunteers have been supported by so many others, often behind the scenes. I want to pay particular credit to the role of Australia's defence forces. They have been magnificent. Many local reservists in my electorate were called up, including two local ministers in their roles as Army chaplains—Reverend Craig Potter from St Aidan's in Longueville and Reverend Tim St Quintin from St Peter's in Cremorne. I spoke to Tim about his experience on the South Coast during his deployment. He commented on what a reassuring presence the Army has been for communities who have lost so much. It meant they knew they were not alone in their ordeal.

I, like so many, have been inspired by the generosity shown by individuals and organisations across my electorate. I'm proud of the help that they have been providing, and they deserve to be recognised today. So many children and young people have been leading those efforts—from Northbridge Public School students Zachary Fisher and Luca Meyerson, who raised over $1,000 at a stall in Castlecrag, to Laura Campbell and her friends from North Sydney Girls and North Sydney Boys, who raised over $1,200 selling cakes in Northbridge Plaza, and the dozens involved in a kids market to raise funds at the Willoughby Park hall. And across my electorate Scouts have been selling bushfire recovery badges.

In addition to the kids market, Willoughby Living's Naomi Sheriff led a massive collection of essential items, which received an overwhelming response from residents. And In the Cove's Jacky Barker raised funds through the collection of Christmas trees. Our multicultural communities have also been playing their part. The local Chinese and Japanese communities have helped fundraising activities, and the Armenian Relief Society led efforts in the Australian Armenian community to raise over $7½ thousand. In one evening the Northbridge Golf Club raised over $60,000 for BlazeAid, while the Kirribilli club raised over $10,000 through an Australia Day charity auction. Many local pubs are also contributing. For example, The Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay is holding a bushfire charity long lunch. Lavender Bay resident and OzHarvest chef Mark Hamilton and his fellow chef Renzo headed to Cudgewa to cook a special meal for those affected by the bushfires, while Bottlebrush Honey in Chatswood raised funds for farmers who had lost their beehives. So many have donated to help the recovery of wildlife, including through the animal rescue co-op based in Gladesville. These are just a few examples I'm aware of. I'm sure there are many, many more in my own local community.

There will be many lessons from the unprecedented bushfire season. The federal government's role in disasters such as this will increase. I want to acknowledge the leadership of the Prime Minister and other ministers in putting in place what has been the most significant Commonwealth response to a bushfire crisis in our nation's history. There are also undoubtedly lessons for resourcing and hazard reduction activities. Underlining all these things must be the recognition of the impact of climate change and our resolve to ensure that Australia plays its part in meeting this global challenge. These have been horrific days for our nation, and they are not over. But in their midst we can be so grateful for the bravery and generosity of so many Australians. It makes us all proud to live in this great nation.

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I call the member for Solomon, I want to inform the Federation Chamber that there is an informal agreement, certainly among the opposition members, to limit speaking to five minutes. In condolence motions, the clock is not set. I just wanted to let members know about the five-minute limit and that the indication on the clock is just an indication, to help those members who wish to restrict themselves to five minutes to be aware of that.

10:06 am

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The scale and devastation of the bushfires has been enormous and heartbreaking for our nation. Lives have been lost, homes and livelihoods have been destroyed, animals have perished by the millions, and habitats have been lost. The trauma has been really significant. That trauma will stay with a lot of Australians for many years. The sights and sounds of these horrific bushfires will stay with Australians. I want to send my and my family's condolences to the families of the 33 people who have been lost. Darwin understands trauma, as a city. It was 45 years ago, around Christmas time, that our city was hit by Cyclone Tracy, and still today, 45 years later, sights and sounds of that horrific occasion return to our residents. So there is a deep empathy for those Australians caught up in these horrendous events.

I won't congratulate the Prime Minister for his leadership, because his leadership was wanting. It was not good. I think people caught up in this, those lost, deserve to have that said and acknowledged.

This Christmas time I took my family down south to visit family and friends. We travelled up through the North Coast of New South Wales. On the way we had lunch in Lakes Entrance. We visited family in Merimbula on the South Coast, but we couldn't get further south because of the fires, so we took a detour through the member for Eden-Monaro's electorate, via Canberra, to get north to Sydney. When we got back to Darwin on New Year's Day, when the fiercest storm of fire hit, we felt like a lot of people around our nation—quite helpless. But we could get on the phone and we could follow the amazing ABC, to try and find out what was happening to communities on the east coast, down south, in SA, in WA, around our nation when it was on fire.

I was talking to a mate, a veteran, who was stuck with his family on a beach in Mallacoota. All sorts of triggering of previous traumas has happened over these months. But he wasn't just responsible for himself and his mates: he had his partner and small children with him. They were eventually evacuated out by the Air Force. I acknowledge all the work of the defence forces during this time.

Even though, during those difficult weeks, a lot of Territorians felt helpless, we were not powerless. When someone is in need, Territorians help. Our firefighters, our NT fireys, our Bushfires NT volunteers and our NT emergency services headed south to help and support the exhausted fire crews in Queensland and New South Wales. Those strike teams worked tirelessly to relieve some of the fireys who had been going at it for so long. Our emergency services volunteers went south too. It was chaotic. I talked to one of the volunteers, who said that the NT fireys who were there trying to protect homes around Nowra were fighting house to house to try and defeat the flames and save houses. Often the fire would outflank them—terrifying stuff—but they were proud to be making a contribution.

I also want to acknowledge the medical and health specialists from the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre who also joined the fireys down south—amazing people. I've mentioned our Defence personnel, but veterans around the country, through organisations such as Team Rubicon, also used their skills to assist with the fires. A veteran in my electorate, Shane Potter, a veteran of 26 years in the military, volunteered with Team Rubicon. He shared with me stories of strength and human connection that he had witnessed when assisting people in the Adelaide Hills with those fires, including some work to retrieve an elderly lady's ring—a ring of her mother's that meant a great deal to her—even though her house had burnt down. A Darwin surgeon, Dr Richard Bradbury, who was holidaying in Merimbula, stayed on the South Coast to help out at the regional hospital in Bega. Well done, Dr Bradbury. Territorians are on the ground there, pitching in and helping out.

Fundraisers—many fundraisers—were held in our community. We took high-quality goods and non-perishable foods and sent them down to communities that had been wiped out. But there were also lots of fundraisers by The Italian Club, the Beachfront Hotel, the Filipino Association and many other multicultural groups. There was the Cabaret 4 A Cause at the Railway Club. The NT Thai Association and The Pint Club had fundraisers. Wharf One had a great fundraiser, which I was proud to support. This Saturday the Lions club and the New Zealanders are having a hangi fundraiser at Tracy Village. I encourage those who can to come along to Tracy Village to join that fundraiser, because the recovery process is going to be a long one. I also want to acknowledge our brave American firefighters who came and fought alongside our crews.

The recovery will take a long time, but, with good people running the recovery process, hopefully the affected communities that do need long-term support will receive the commitments and support they need. Through all this, we've seen the greatness and resilience of Australians. We must honour that greatness in the work that we do here and not shirk our responsibilities. We must lead and help all those affected by these disastrous fires.

10:13 am

Photo of Kevin AndrewsKevin Andrews (Menzies, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I join with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and colleagues in expressing sincere condolences to those who are affected by these bushfires, particularly the families of those who have died as a consequence of the fires, including the families of the three American firefighters. Can I also add my thanks to all who have continued to fight the fires, both up until now and no doubt into the future—members of the various voluntary firefighting services in each of the states, other members of emergency services organisations, the first responders and, of course, members of the Australian defence forces that were called out. It's appropriate that the parliament pauses for this motion and it's appropriate for me to express, on behalf of the constituents I represent in Menzies, our condolences to all those who have been affected.

Fires, of course, have been a constant in this country. As a child growing up in Gippsland, I recall travelling to bushfire zones with my father, who ran a livestock transport business, to collect stock that were escaping, effectively, from the fires at that time. As a child, I remember that, as summer approached, there was this annual cycle of burning-off, ploughing of fire breaks and cleaning up of rubbish around farms, all in preparation for what was a threat and a risk to people, animals and places in local areas right across this country. We've had a series of bushfires across this country. Bushfires are a reality in the life of this country. The challenge is how to ensure that they don't become catastrophic bushfires that cannot be controlled. And from time to time that has occurred.

I also welcome the announcement of a proposed national inquiry into this matter to see how we can better respond to these risks and dangers. There have been some advances in the last 20 years. For example, there has been a one-third reduction in the amount of land that has been burnt due to bushfires. This year, even though we're only part of the way through the danger season, I think it's about half of what has been the average for the last 10 years. But we also know that, with the population growing, the so-called tree change movement and the suburbs expanding into what were bushy areas, such as Eltham and Research in my electorate in suburban Melbourne, those challenges remain in the future. Many factors are involved here, and, hopefully, a national commission of inquiry will be an opportunity to canvass all of the matters raised by various constituents and, indeed, by members in this place.

I will take this opportunity to remind my residents, particularly those in Warrandyte, Eltham and surrounding areas, that the danger hasn't gone away for this season. Indeed, when one looks at Victoria, we have yet to approach the time when bushfires tend to occur in Victoria. It tends to be late January and, indeed, into February. We saw the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in February and we've seen other major fires in late January and February, so I remind constituents to be fire ready and to do everything that they can to ensure that rubbish is cleaned up, that overhanging branches are removed, that any precaution to be put in place is done and that, should there be, tragically, a fire, they've made a fire plan so that they can move from the danger that might ensue as a result of that fire.

I was honoured to attend the blessing of the fleet before Christmas, which is an annual event held with the fire brigade services, the SES and others from Eltham, Research, Warrandyte, Kangaroo Ground and surrounding areas. All the volunteers were there with their fire trucks, except those who were already working—that is, fighting fires in New South Wales—at that stage. It was good to see all those volunteers and offer them the community's support for the important work they do on our behalf and to encourage them to continue that vital work, which they do as volunteers on behalf of the broader community.

In closing, I again join with my colleagues in expressing my sincere condolences to all those who have been affected by the fires and to offer our heartfelt encouragement to those who are continuing to fight these tragic fires throughout Australia.

10:18 am

Photo of Kate ThwaitesKate Thwaites (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to express my deepest sympathies to the many Australians who've been directly impacted by this catastrophic bushfire season. I particularly pay my respect to the families and colleagues of the firefighters who have died while serving our communities. I know there is nothing that we in this place can do to take away the hurt you are suffering, but please know that your loved ones will always be remembered by our nation.

I pay tribute to all of the firefighters—the volunteers and the paid professionals—who've endured so much and demonstrated around-the-clock dedication to their task. I know that firefighters from our CFAs in Jagajaga have been a big part of that effort, and to them and their families I say a particular thankyou for their work.

Thank you also to the defence personnel who've been on the ground and on the water evacuating people from emergency zones. And thank you to the many charities, community organisations, volunteers and Australians who've offered assistance and donations to our fire affected regions, including the many of you in Jagajaga who have done, and are continuing to do, so much fundraising and work to support those who've been affected.

I want to assure the people in communities who have lost so much and who are tired, worn out and grieving that they are not alone in this. We do stand with them. We're ready to help, to visit and to spend our money, like they're calling on us to do. We in this place are ready to advocate for them and to make sure that they get what they need.

I acknowledge the expertise and professionalism of the journalists and news organisations in their work during this crisis. I particularly want to acknowledge the role of the ABC. They were often the first people to deliver messages and emergency updates in real time. Many people have reflected on the fact that they were in towns and communities where roads had been blocked and electricity was cut off and that listening to ABC radio, through their portable stereos or in their cars, was their only connection to the outside world. This is a vital service. We must continue to support the ABC and the incredibly important role that it plays.

These fires, some of which are still burning today, are unprecedented. Cities and towns across our eastern seaboard have been shrouded in thick smoke, creating hazardous conditions. For the first time we've seen rainforests and areas of bushland that have no prior history of fires burn. In fact, the dry conditions we've been enduring this year brought the fire crisis very close to home for those of us in Jagajaga when a fire started in the Plenty Gorge and quickly threatened suburban houses at Bundoora and Greensborough. These are not areas where people normally expect to see a fire. It quickly took hold and it was a genuine threat. Fortunately, fire crews were able to extinguish it before it did too much damage. I do thank our emergency services for their quick work.

We've seen countless native animals die and their natural habitats decimated. This will have a profound and lasting impact on our wildlife populations. I thank the organisations and volunteers who have donated their services to saving injured wildlife and are assisting in their rehabilitation and release. We are now at a critical turning point in our history to conserve our native species, both flora and fauna, and to ensure that those ecosystems remain for future generations.

This season has really changed forever how we think of summer in this country. It was not a time of rest. It was not a time of enjoying being outdoors or of watching or playing sport. It was a time of fear and devastation for many. The constituents of Jagajaga could not be clearer in their communications with me. Hundreds of them have contacted me to say that they are scared for the future and that they want real action on climate change. My constituents rely on the evidence of scientists. They are frustrated at the culture wars that are getting in the way of the action we need. They're fed up with us in this place and our inability to do our job to secure a better future for our country.

The science is real. Climate change is real. So I ask all of those on the government side, who are standing in the way of the real action on climate change that we need, to step aside. The efforts and sacrifice we have seen this summer deserve no less from those of us in this place.

10:23 am

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the bushfire crisis that has afflicted Australia over this very difficult summer. Despite the difficult and dangerous conditions, our emergency services, both professional and volunteer, have selflessly worked to defend property and life. I thank all of the career and volunteer emergency services personnel who've worked so hard. Let me take this opportunity to pay my respects to the families and loved ones of the 33 people who tragically lost their lives in this bushfire season.

I want to particularly acknowledge the Ku-ring-gai and Killara brigades based in my electorate of Bradfield who have been engaged in fighting bushfires since August last year. Their tankers and crews have been deployed to fires from the Queensland border to the Snowy Mountains and all points in between. In recent days, crews from the two brigades have been fighting the fires in the ACT and southern New South Wales. Crews were also deployed to Queensland in August. These deployments have varied in duration from 12 or 14 hours to five days.

The four Killara and Ku-ring-gai tankers were the first RFS units on the scene at the Turramurra fires that occurred on the first of Sydney's catastrophic fire danger days. Fortunately, that fire was quickly contained with the assistance of multiple strike teams and air assets, including a C-130 air tanker. These crews have experienced the heartbreaking loss of homes and outbuildings, together with the deep satisfaction they receive when they are able to save other homes and businesses. They have saved much more than they have lost. In addition to their deployments, these brigades have had crews on standby during total fire bans on days of elevated fire danger in the Sydney region. Brigade members have also undertaken extensive community engagement activities, including educating Ku-ring-gai residents about the risks of bushfire.

I want to acknowledge the members of these two brigades—around 80—who have contributed to this vital work. The need for their services is not yet over. Andrew Wilson is the captain of Killara Rural Fire Brigade, and Nic Lyons is the captain of the Ku-ring-gai Bush Fire Brigade. Killara Rural Fire Brigade, I should say, is the newest brigade in New South Wales, established two years ago. Thank you to Andrew, Nic and all of your colleagues for the work you have done to keep our community safe.

As Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, I have engaged closely with the communications sector as it has responded to the bushfires and their effects. I want to acknowledge the work of the telecommunications companies in quickly re-establishing facilities. Telstra and Optus, for example, have deployed temporary facilities, called cells on wheels, to provide interim mobile coverage for emergency operations and to provide connectivity to the community in areas such as Mallacoota, La Trobe and Corryong in Victoria; and Malua Bay and Tumbarumba in New South Wales. They have also provided satellite phones which have been distributed to rural fire services in bushfire-affected areas. They have acknowledged the work of NBN Co, which has worked very hard to provide temporary broadband and wi-fi services delivered over its national satellite network to more than a dozen evacuation centres around the country.

Let me particularly acknowledge the ABC and their very important work in transmitting emergency information to Australian communities, including during the current bushfire season. Many Australians, particularly those in regional Australia, turn to their local ABC radio station to provide up-to-date and vital information. Following extensive damage to infrastructure used in their broadcast network, the ABC installed a temporary radio and television broadcast facility to restore transmission to areas such as Batemans Bay, Moruya, Bega, Eden and Narooma. I had a chance to visit the temporary facility at Round Hill, near Bateman's Bay, just a week or two ago. I also had a chance to visit the damaged Telstra and Optus base station at Malua Bay, where I saw the damage that was done—the equipment hut was somewhat damaged, and the expensive electronics inside were obviously completely out of service due to the intense heat. At the ABC transmission facility at Mount Wandera, copper cables melted as a result of the bushfire. Copper melts at 1,000 degrees. It's a sobering reminder of the intensity of these bushfires.

It's important that we continue to increase mobile coverage so that communities have access to connectivity under our Mobile Black Spots Program. Some 1,047 mobile base stations have now been funded. Of those, 780 have been completed—I'm pleased to say over 90 are in areas affected by the recent severe bushfires. I pay tribute to Australians, particularly our emergency services, who have worked through these bushfires.

10:28 am

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Australians have all been staggered and numbed by the devastation brought on by these horrific fires. So many people are personally affected by the horror of these fires. Many of us weren't, but we still felt the pain and experienced deep sadness when we saw what fellow Australians had gone through as a result of this terrible episode in our nation's history.

The images of what occurred have been profoundly powerful and have had a massive impact on our nation's psyche: land transformed into alien landscapes, the remnants of homes on charred ground, the vision of fires forming their own form of weather event in that area, sweeping people up. For me, one image that had an incredible impact at a deeply personal level was of an RFS commissioner on bended knee, pinning a medal on a young boy in an RFS uniform at a commemoration service, a funeral, for an RFS volunteer. And I kept thinking, as I suspect many of us did, that, when the RFS commissioner was pinning that medal on Harvey Keaton, we were thinking about the fact that his dad would not be there for the biggest moments in that boy's life because his dad wanted to make sure that other families could be around for the big moments in their children's lives. That had a big impact on me, and it had an especially big impact on our community because Harvey Keaton was the son of Geoffrey Keaton, who lost his life fighting the Green Wattle Creek fire alongside a bloke called Andrew O'Dwyer. This happened in the Wollondilly area. Geoffrey Keaton himself had served loyally at the Plumpton RFS, which is within the Chifley electorate.

So many of the RFSs in our area—and I do want to pay tribute to them all: Eastern Creek, Marsden Park, Plumpton, Schofields and Shanes Park—have clocked up so many hours. Not just over this terrible period but over months, they have been out helping other families. So, while the fires, fortunately, did not impact our area, I have to say that our area is deeply grateful for the sacrifice of those people within our own neighbourhoods who have gone to other places within the country to help. Plumpton RFS volunteered over 27,000 man-hours fighting the fires. Chifley volunteers have fought in fires in over 26 local government areas, including in places such as Grafton, Tamworth, Bega, Singleton, the Snowy Mountains and the Blue Mountains, to name a few. And, during the Gospers Mountain fires in the Hawkesbury, Chifley crews were deployed daily for more than three weeks. Many of the shifts ended up being over 16 hours from the time of leaving to the time of returning. So I would like to acknowledge—and I think our community would like to thank deeply—the brave men and women of our local RFSs and RFSs across our state.

The number of RFSs deserving acknowledgement far exceeds the time I have to speak here today. I do, however, want to recognise the Plumpton RFS Brigade Captain Phillip Cook, his 2IC, Senior Deputy Captain Ben Keen, and people like Trevor Haskins and the volunteers from the Eastern Creek brigade who have been instrumental in both leading teams on the ground and supporting local crews, providing coverage, not only from our local community but further afield. And I also want to recognise the huge effort that has been dedicated by Blacktown City Council. They've allocated $2 million to their bushfire relief and recovery effort and allocated staff, vehicles, plant and equipment to bushfire affected councils. Also Foodbank in Glendenning in our area has been delivering thousands of pallets of food and supplies to communities ravaged by the fire.

There are not enough words for us to express our condolences to those who have been affected, to pay respect to those who lost their lives and to thank those who have stepped in, in the way that they have. But I am deeply proud that this parliament has put aside politics to allow this period of time for us, regardless of our backgrounds, to come together as a nation and just say thank you and put an arm around fellow Australians who have suffered so much through this truly catastrophic event.

10:33 am

Photo of Jason FalinskiJason Falinski (Mackellar, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd like to thank the member for Chifley for his remarks and comments in this place. They stand in contrast with those of so many others who have already spoken today, in terms of both his depth of feeling and heartfelt views on this matter and those who have suffered both in his electorate and across all of Australia.

On behalf of the Australian people and the people of Mackellar, who I so proudly represent, I stand in this chamber today with a solemn and heavy heart to pass on our condolences to the families of 34 souls who lost their lives in the recent bushfires and to pay tribute to the thousands of men and women who, with unflinching courage and determination, braved violent elements to protect us and our property.

Our dry Australian continent has been subjected to fire events for 60,000 years, to such an extent that it has produced an ecology and environment both prone to it and evolved to use fire to reproduce. Many explorers in past times were dazzled by the extent of the fires. James Cook described Australia as 'a continent of smoke'. Charles Darwin, who visited here in 1836, went to Bathurst in 119-degree heat, traversing the Blue Mountains in what he described as 'an inferno of fire'. We have suffered many severe fire events in our history—the various days prefixed with 'ash' or 'black'—and over the years hundreds of millions of hectares have been burnt and subsequently revitalised by fire.

But we do not pretend that these events were normal. I am reminded of the haunting words of the poet after whom the seat I am honoured to represent was named:

The love of field and coppice

Of green and shaded lanes,

Of ordered woods and gardens

Is running in your veins.

Strong love of grey-blue distance,

Brown streams and soft, dim skies

I know, but cannot share it,

My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel-sea,

Her beauty and her terror

The wide brown land for me!

This is neither the time nor the place to debate climate change. But surely the impacts of climate change are now undeniable and the need for ongoing action is urgent.

Our instinct is to stand and fight, as thousands have, some with success, some to the very brink of disaster and some with tragic and shocking consequences. Today we join as one to pay our respects to those who faced these challenges, the leaders of our Rural Fire Service, who have worked to exhaustion in the service of others, and to pass our sincere and deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who are no longer with us. In New South Wales two RFS firefighters, Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O'Dwyer of the Horsley Park brigade, lost their lives. Victorian firefighters Bill Slade and Mat Kavanagh gave their last full measure of devotion in order to serve others. The crash of a chartered Lockheed C-130 Hercules killed the crew. All were US veterans, all were here to help, and all were here for us.

From my electorate of Mackellar, encompassing Sydney's Northern Beaches and the famed Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, 17 RFS brigades have been deployed right across New South Wales and are still on deployment as required, at times for up to five days. Our Northern Beaches brigades are no strangers to the crimson bushfires. I pay tribute to our men and women who have entered and assisted in some seriously dangerous conditions.

Warren Buffett once said that we should always criticise in general, but we should praise in specific. In that spirit, allow me to mention just a few people: Northern Beaches District Manager Inspector George Sheppard—George's leadership is unsurpassed; Peter Duff, who is captain of the Terry Hills brigade—he's an inspiration to those men and women; Trent Dowling, who never takes a backwards step and never stops talking about how good the RFS is; Luke Robinson, who is captain of the headquarters brigade—you will not find a tougher person outside the military; and John Russell, better known as JR, captain of the Cottage Point brigade—there is literally nowhere that his men would not follow him. I salute the volunteers of the RFS, and I am so immensely proud of the work that they have done. Along with their crews and brigades from Mackellar, they have brought protection and solace to those in dire need.

We must also spend a moment to mourn the loss of so much of our wildlife, so many animals unable to escape or shelter in the firestorms. We watched as the desperate animals were given water, clung to firemen, rode in cars without fear—the simple act of escape and safety not lost on them. No-one was immune to such sadness. The work of WIRES, based in Brookvale, in this difficult time cannot be underestimated. In the first two weeks of January, when they normally receive about 1,000 calls, they received 16,000 calls for assistance. And, as the real scope of the impact of these fires becomes apparent, they will have a lot of work ahead. These images, along with the hundreds of terrifying scenes, have brought out the best in our community and in our humanity. Political, religious and cultural differences are forgotten, and a magnificent spirit of kindness, empathy, courage and selflessness has embraced our community.

If I may be so bold, to me this is what it means to be Australian. Australians have lived with our landscape and harsh conditions for generations. We are a resilient lot, made of strong mettle, and from the firefighters who stood in harm's way to defend others to those who defended themselves or sheltered friends, animals and neighbours to those who cooked meals and made cups of tea or simply provided kind and loving arms to hold shattered souls, we tip our hats to them and stand in deep and solemn respect—for all of those who faced these challenges, whether in triumph or in tragedy.

10:41 am

Photo of Libby CokerLibby Coker (Corangamite, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is with great sadness that I stand to acknowledge all those who have lost their lives as a result of these unprecedented and catastrophic fires that have raged across our nation since September last year. Many were defending their property or defending their neighbours' property. Some were trying to escape the walls of flames. Our collective thoughts and solidarity go out to the families and friends who have lost a loved one. We stand with you. I acknowledge the injured and those who have lost their homes and livelihoods as a result of the fires. I recognise the enormous fear and trauma these events have caused many thousands of people, even where people have escaped the worst effects. I pay tribute to the incredible work of firefighters, emergency workers, defence forces, our CFA and volunteers who have worked tirelessly and with immense bravery throughout this long fire season. The ABC must also be acknowledged for its work.

We know that more than one billion animals have perished, and some species are on the brink of extinction. My heart goes out to our environment, which has been scorched and burnt like never before. As parliament resumes in our nation's capital we continue to experience the effects of bushfires, loss of property, closing down of businesses, loss of flora and fauna on a massive scale and severe smoke, haze and dust, with daily health warnings. Add to this the damaging hailstorms and you could think we were being sent a message. This is no ordinary fire season. Yes, we have had terrible bushfires before. In Corangamite in 1983, during Ash Wednesday, my own small town of Aireys Inlet was almost razed to the ground. There was devastating loss of property. Then in 2015, on Christmas Day, we experienced the devastation of the Wye River and Separation Creek fires. These fires were horrific, but we have rebuilt, and I'm sure communities who've been recently affected will do exactly the same.

Bushfires are part of our nation's history and our psyche, but this fire season is very, very different. It is unprecedented, not only in the sheer scale of the fires across nearly every state and territory but also in the catastrophic and relentless nature of the fires. Fires that started in November are still burning now. Communities feel terrorised, businesses are stressed, native flora and fauna are under threat and many families are suffering. But, in the face of such devastation, local communities do amazing things to help and support one another. Firefighters and emergency services continue to put themselves in harm's way to save lives and properties. Communities get on with clearing the debris and bringing people together.

I would like to give a shout-out to a number of clubs, businesses and faith organisations in my electorate who have been raising funds to support bushfire affected communities. The Newcomb Power Football and Netball Club joined with other local sporting clubs to raise more than $20,000, and the Anglesea Bushfire Relief Fundraiser was hosted by the footy and netball club. The APCO Foundation contributed their proceeds from a Wine Walk to bushfire victims, and Ruby Room Hair and Beauty in Ocean Grove donated takings to help out, as did Onda Food House in Aireys Inlet and Mt Duneed Estate. And I know there are many more.

Yet, while the human spirit remains strong, there is so much we must do to honour those lost and strive for a better future for our children and our planet. Firstly, we must acknowledge that climate change is real. This is not business as usual. We must listen to the experts, embrace the science, learn from the past and better manage our future. The Brumby government took this approach after Black Saturday in 2008, when almost 200 people lost their lives. The Victorian government established the Bushfires Royal Commission, which led to sweeping policy changes and a recognition that we must urgently act on climate change to avoid the impact of rising global temperatures. The Premier announced significant investment in renewable energy projects, and in a symbolic step he announced Parliament House would be powered by green energy.

The Andrews government continued this work, reorganising the fire services, implementing new warning systems and updating power networks and response plans. More effort was put into hazard reduction around populated areas. These reforms have stood us in good stead in Victoria, and it is a mixture of good planning and good management that has meant that more lives were not lost this time around. The Andrews government did that by listening to the experts and taking advice. They didn't grandstand. They have adopted a both practical and ambitious approach to combating carbon emissions as well as implementing a very proactive set of policies to keep communities safe.

We owe it to those who have suffered through these fires to work together and put ideology to one side. Like many in this place, I was appalled to hear a senior Liberal senator say on national television earlier this week that he wasn't relying on evidence in holding the view that climate change is not man-made. If he is not relying on evidence, what then is he relying on? We owe it to those who have suffered not to espouse or promote myths—that the fires were caused primarily by arsonists, that they are the fault of greenies who have stopped fuel reduction. It is sheer nonsense designed to distract our communities from real action on climate change. We do ourselves and our communities a disservice by not listening to the experts and by refusing to take urgent action.

The coalition's 26 to 28 per cent reduction target is woefully inadequate. The United Nations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change state categorically that this target is completely inadequate to meet our Paris Agreement emissions target of keeping warming to less than two degrees. Even the conservative Tory government in the UK have listened and acted, by legislating for zero net emissions by 2050. They now take advice from the experts on the schedule of reductions to achieve that objective. That is why they are seventh of 61 countries in the international rankings on climate action, while we are second last.

Yes, we have to adapt. Yes, we have to plan earlier and coordinate better around the September to March bushfire period. But all these actions are a response to climate change; they are not the solution. The government must provide leadership and act urgently on climate change, which has been the key reason for the extended duration and intensity of our current fire season. This is the least we can do to honour those who have lost their lives, their property and their way of life. As the fire season continues in Corangamite and across our nation, I say: stay safe and take care of one another.

10:49 am

Photo of Fiona MartinFiona Martin (Reid, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

To those on both sides of the House who have had their communities directly impacted by these bushfires: I extend my sincere condolences for the loss of life, the loss of native wildlife and the loss of property and land. Words fail to describe this tragedy. We've lost 33 lives, including nine of our courageous firefighters, we've lost over 2,900 homes and we've lost more than 10.4 million hectares of land, and the ongoing harm to our wildlife and ecosystems is beyond measure. But in moments of grief and crisis we see the Australian spirit shine. We have seen incredible displays of bravery, generosity and resilience. This reminds us of the strength of our nation.

Firstly, the work of our volunteer fire services and emergency services volunteers has been inspiring. They have shown strength and courage, even while many have lost colleagues, friends or family members. They have demonstrated bravery and commitment to their country. In December, in the Rural Fire Service headquarters at Sydney Olympic Park in my electorate, I—along with the Deputy Prime Minister—was briefed about the escalating fire conditions. Our volunteer firefighters, many of whom had come from overseas in solidarity, have utilised every ounce of resources, time and tenacity to confront the challenge.

In the same light, I must also acknowledge the work of the Australian Defence Force personnel who, from as early as September 2019, have supported the fire relief effort. When the situation escalated, the Prime Minister, for the first time ever, instituted a compulsory call-out of the ADF reservists. Their support was instrumental in a period of crisis.

As a psychologist, one of my greatest concerns has been the psychological impact that these bushfires have had on Australians. Many Australians have directly experienced a traumatic event. The Australian government is providing $76 million for the Bushfire Recovery Access Program to make sure that immediate and ongoing free counselling and support are accessible to individuals, families and emergency service workers affected by the bushfires.

While the electorate of Reid was not directly impacted by the bushfires, many constituents in my area have been working together to respond and assist people. The Rhodes Bushfire Appeal, which I recently attended, brought together local businesses, community organisations and residents to raise money for those affected by the bushfires. The City of Canada Bay Men's Shed also organised an appeal for tools and equipment for bushfire-hit communities. And, of course, many of my constituents have written to me to express their distress and concerns. The sentiment has been clear: one of anguish, but also one of empathy. Many friends and family caught in the middle of the disaster have been connected in some way to the people of Reid.

The heavy smoke haze across Sydney was a sobering reality of the impact that climate change has had in our country. While bushfires are a part of the Australian climate, Australia is set to get drier and hotter. The evidence has pointed towards this for some time. This will only make hazard reduction and fire management more difficult in the coming years, and it will mean that our bushfire seasons will become more intense. This is why we need action now. It is time for us to be more ambitious and proactive in the way we address climate change. Scientific evidence must drive future solutions and policy. Our beautiful environment has borne the brunt of these bushfires, and we must now take the steps to restore and protect it.

10:54 am

Photo of Joanne RyanJoanne Ryan (Lalor, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

When flying into Canberra this week, after months away, seeing burnt earth and fires blazing to so close to towns and our capital city, all members would have been reminded of this horrific summer, and, more importantly, that the danger is far from over. The summer of 2019-20 will be one that will live on in the minds of Australians for a long time, unless, of course, our fears are realised and this is the pivotal season and, as predicted by the scientists, worse is to come. We watched and continue to watch in horror the confronting pictures in our newspapers and the videos on our computer screens. We watch on in awe of the bravery of our firefighters, thankful for the international help we've received. We watch on, unable to comprehend the pain, the suffering and the frustration of our countrymen.

The facts of the 'black summer' are this—33 people have perished; nearly 3,000 homes have been destroyed; 10 million hectares of farms, towns and national park are ash; and over a billion animals are lost, from cattle and livestock to our unique wildlife—and the scariest fact of all is that it isn't over yet. While so many of us around the nation were shocked and horrified by the images and videos of trees exploding, fire moving at great speed, and the air above the canopy bursting into flames, for most of us this was contained to our newspapers and to our news feeds. But for our bravest it wasn't on a screen. It is what they saw in front of them; it is what they were going in to fight. To the firefighters, the SES, the police, the doctors and nurses, the forestry workers, the ADF personnel, those who work at a charity, or the public servants getting those affected back on their feet, to all those and more: thank you. You are all heroes.

I particularly want to pay thanks to my local brigades, the brave CFA officers and volunteers from Werribee Brigade, Hoppers Brigade, Little River Brigade, Tarneit Brigade, Truganina Brigade and Wyndham Vale Brigade. They protect our community every day in our metropolitan area, going to building fires and, most importantly, to the prevalent grass fires on the area's plains. Some travelled from these brigades. They headed to New South Wales and spent considerable time in East Gippsland to fight in solidarity with their fellow volunteers. I look forward to thanking them all in person, with the Wyndham City Council, in the weeks to come.

It's a cliche, but this summer has once again shown us that when Mother Nature throws her worst, the best in the Australian spirit comes through. There are so many examples across Australia. We've heard from speakers across three days now of Australians rallying together, donating loose change, pocket money, large sums in pubs and clubs, or using GoFundMe pages, or directly to some of our largest charities—and as a Victorian, I'd like to thank the Bendigo Bank for their work here. People have donated food to organisations and they've donated clothes and nappies. They've rung vets to get supplies for wildlife. But I took immense pride locally in seeing our local Sikh community rally to assist in Sikh Volunteers Australia's efforts to work with Desi Grill in Bairnsdale, providing free dinners to volunteers and dropping off free food to camp sites. I give a particular shout-out to Let's Feed, who are continuing to work with the Bairnsdale Neighbourhood House to help a hundred families across the next six months, and assist Neighbourhood House to replace their equipment. Let's Feed also partnered with our local Filipino community to deliver supplies, cash cards and food to people in the bushfire areas around Bruthen.

Australians devastated by these fires also need the help and understanding of government and organisations to get back on their feet. So, thank you to the staff of Werribee Centrelink, who I met with last week, who travelled hundreds of kilometres to help administer payment applications and assist in getting people back on their feet. This is Australia at its best. Politics can be a nasty place, one driven down the lines between whatever party's hat you wear, but the only red, blue and orange we saw in these fires was on the fire trucks. The leadership shown by the members for Gilmore, Macquarie, Eden-Monaro, Mayo and Gippsland, working with their local state MPs, Commonwealth and state ministers, to meet the needs of their communities has been inspiring. I'm sure there are many more stories across the aisle and across the nation, much the same, because this is what leadership looks like.

I want to pass my thoughts to the constituents of Bean, Canberra and Fenner as they deal with the fires engulfing parts of the capital, and the consequences. As a Victorian, I say that the leadership of Premier Andrews, Minister Neville and Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp have been extraordinary. It is reassuring to know that the lessons of previous fires have been learnt and that this has meant that lives have been saved. I won't go into the arguments of climate change now. There will be time for that. But we should ensure, as a House, that we turn the devastation of these fires into the motivation for coming together and taking action.

In our cities, we felt this too—the ash in our hair, the smoke in our lungs and ambient heat driven by hot winds, lashing our skin. This has been a summer where, once again, the worst of Mother Nature has been met by the best in Australians. And while the threat is not over yet, we must always remember who and what we lost, and we pause to remember in this parliament that every day of despair, loss and destruction was met with bravery, solidarity and generosity. I call on those in this place to demonstrate the same: to embrace the science and take the action required at home and at international forums.

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

For the benefit of members, the condolence motion has no time limit. The clock has been set simply to assist members to manage their time, but the chair will not be enforcing the time limit. Thank you, and I call the member for Moncrieff.

11:00 am

Photo of Angie BellAngie Bell (Moncrieff, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This summer our nation has been gripped by bushfires, and we have seen devastation and heartbreak. We've heard many heart-wrenching stories from members from both sides of the chamber. On behalf of the good people of the electorate of Moncrieff on the central Gold Coast, I wish to pass on our condolences, our prayers and our best wishes to those who have lost their homes, their businesses or, sadly, their loved ones and to convey the heaviness of our hearts to our fellow Queenslanders and, indeed, all Australians who have been directly impacted by these terrible fires.

I wish to pass on our endless thanks and gratitude to the Australian Defence Force, volunteers and emergency personnel who've risked their own lives to assist those who found themselves in their darkest hours; and to those firefighters who gave up their holiday seasons from Canada, the US and New Zealand to come and assist us to battle these unprecedented blazes.

We are reminded by members that this disaster is not over yet. The fires have not stopped and the drought continues. I want to let drought-stricken communities know that we on the Gold Coast are thinking of you. We're backing you too.

The coalition government continues to dig in, stepping up all efforts to assist those enduring drought and those in fire-ravaged communities. Throughout this devastation we've also seen the best of the Aussie spirit. The Australian people are truly amazing. There have been many community groups, businesses, schools and individuals in Moncrieff who have embodied the Australian spirit with their relief efforts and generous donations. I would like to highlight some of them, but I'm sure there are many others who have contributed to relief efforts through the good work of charities and direct donations.

In Mermaid Beach, Temple of Spices Indian restaurant donated an evening's profits. Alfred's coffee shop donated a dollar per cup of coffee for a day. Moo Moo steak restaurant in Broadbeach held a fundraiser. The Australian spirit shone through over the Australia Day weekend with many businesses and clubs raising money to help you. A fire-relief fundraiser concert was held at Miami Marketta. Snags for Bushfire Relief at Steampunk was held in Surfers Paradise with gold coin donations going to St Vincent de Paul fire relief. North Burleigh surf club donated proceeds from their VB schooners. The YOT Club—a superyacht which travels Moncrieff's waterways—held a fire-relief cruise with proceeds going to New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

Sporting clubs are an integral part of our community. Southport Sharks donated $1 from every beverage sold over the Australia Day long weekend to the Gold Coast Rural Fire Brigade. They also hosted a bushfire boot camp appeal to support our southern cousins on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. The Gold Coast Suns contributed $50,000 as part of the overall AFL community's donation. The Gold Coast Titans donated their jerseys, held clinics and signing sessions, and visited New South Wales Rural Fire Service headquarters to put smiles on the faces of our exhausted firefighting heroes. The annual Magic Millions horseracing carnival events calendar contributed over $1 million throughout the weeklong event to support those in need.

Children are the future of our nation, and fundraising efforts at local schools have shown us that Australian generosity continues through the next generation. Last week I attended the Australian International Islamic College in Carrara with the assistant minister for multicultural affairs, Jason Wood. The beautiful kids at this beautiful school raised $1,000 for the relief effort. They crocheted mittens for the marsupials who've been injured in the blazes. The Australian Indian club, based in Surfers Paradise, collected pallets of goods, such as baby food, nappies and snacks, to donate to the Red Cross. Here are just two examples of our multicultural community in Moncrieff helping their fellow Aussies in need.

Trinity Lutheran College in Ashmore donated $1,000. Guardian Angels primary school has done a tremendous job. I was very proud when, back in September, during the first fires in the neighbouring electorate of Wright, the children were recognised by the Prime Minister for the very kind letter they composed to our firefighting heroes. The letter read, 'To all the firefighters, thank you for giving up your time and your family time to help other families. You are true heroes. Enjoy these treats.' The school also arranged a drop-off point for water to be delivered to drought-stricken Stanthorpe.

Emmanuel College students held a bake sale and a sausage sizzle to raise money for those communities who are doing it tough. William Duncan State School in Nerang teamed up with Backpacks for Bushfires to put together backpacks with supplies and deliver them to school children directly affected by the bushfires. A BlazeAid fundraiser will be held this weekend out in the Country Paradise Parklands, also in Nerang. Many community groups will come together to support this event, with proceeds going to those fighting fires locally and nationally. I would also like to acknowledge every single individual in my electorate who's given what they could to help. I thank you. Whether it's been $1, $10 or $100, these small amounts all add up to make a huge difference in the lives of those affected.

To finish, I'd like to say that I'm proud of the Australians who have endured so much this summer, and I'm proud of our Prime Minister and those ministers who have worked together so well to deliver for those Australians. It is precisely because of the responsible economic management and the recent return to surplus that our government has been able to act decisively and effectively to assist so many Australians who are either on the road to recovery or still fighting on in the face of adversity.

11:07 am

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak on the motion put forward by the Prime Minister and spoken to by the opposition leader. We certainly have experienced a truly difficult and, for many communities, horrendous summer break. Instead of being able to enjoy some time off with their loved ones over the Christmas and new year period, Australians from all walks of life have been tormented by devastating bushfires. From the outset, I wish to express my deepest sympathy to all of those who've been affected by the bushfire crisis in recent months, and I want to express my utmost gratitude to those who've been working so hard to control these fires and to deliver services in their aftermath.

As a politician, I can see the great leadership that has been given by politicians around the country in Australia. In particular, the Premier of Victoria and the Premier of New South Wales have been completely outstanding, and I congratulate them on their leadership in these difficult times. I'd also like to mention my colleagues the member for Gilmore, the member for Macquarie and the member for Eden-Monaro for their great leadership and their support for their own communities.

I also want to single out the fantastic staff and volunteers at the Rural Fire Service, led by the very formidable Shane Fitzsimmons; Fire and Rescue NSW; the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service; and the Forestry Corporation. I want to acknowledge the brave and valuable work undertaken by the New South Wales Police Force, NSW Ambulance, the Australian Defence Force, the St John Ambulance, the SES and other volunteer organisations during this very difficult time. I'd also like to single out Andrew Constance, the member for Bega in New South Wales, for his outstanding leadership as well. Australia has certainly been sorely beaten over recent months. We should acknowledge the efforts of those agencies and their representatives.

My thanks extend also to the interstate and international delegations who've worked so generously to defend countless homes and businesses across Australia, including our American colleagues at Coulson, United Aero, Valhalla and Erickson, who've contributed so much to our aerial firefighting capabilities. Each and every person who worked to defend communities throughout the country, along with various business, charities and community organisations, are worthy of commendation, from the retained, professional, contracted and volunteer firefighters to the businesses who donated meals all over the country. I congratulate them and I thank them for their support.

I wish I could name everyone and thank everyone personally, but for today I wish to specifically acknowledge the people who've lost their lives—in particular, Geoffrey Keaton, Andrew O'Dwyer, Ian McBeth, Paul Hudson, Rick DeMorgan Jr, Samuel McPaul, Bill Slade, Mat Kavanagh, David Moresi, and Dick and Clayton Lang. These brave men are amongst many others who have joined a list of heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend lives and property. I give my condolences to their families. I know how devastating it must be to lose a father, husband, son, relative and friend—how devastating it must be for them—and I send my condolences to them. They gave their lives in the service of our nation and to protect the lives not only of their families and friends but of complete strangers. These men, along with every man and woman who has fought the onslaught of blazes in recent months, are heroes, and we are eternally in their debt. I will not be the only one today to note that this disastrous fire season has brought out some of the best in people, and the way that communities and our values of mateship, bravery and selflessness shine bright in times of crisis is something that all Australians should feel proud of.

Macarthur, thankfully, has been relatively unscathed. However, we sympathise with the many communities that are close to us who've been so tragically affected. I'd like to mention, in particular, the shires of Wollondilly and Wingecarribee, and I'd like to thank personally the mayor of Wollondilly, Matt Deeth, for allowing me to be personally briefed about the bushfires and fully informed of what was happening to our near neighbours.

I'd also like to mention that I'm very concerned about the health effects of the bushfires, both physical and mental. In particular, I am very concerned about the long-term effects on children of our bushfires and of climate change in general. Recently I met with my old friends and colleagues Professor Guy Marks and Professor Bin Jalaludin from the Ingham Institute to discuss, with Chris Bowen, the health effects of prolonged smoke exposure and the long-term effects of climate change. I would like to encourage the government to consider funding a national institute to look at the health effects of climate change—in particular, the long-term effects on our young children—and to provide funding for this.

To finish, I would like to say how sorry I am to all who've lost loved ones and have lost property, and we as a nation are eternally grateful to those who have supported our communities around the country. Thank you so much.

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Adelaide, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Macarthur. Before I call the next member, I would just like to remind members that, even though the clock is running, it's there for your own benefit, to manage your time; I won't be enforcing any time limits, as the motion does not require time limits. The question is that the motion be agreed to. The member for Sturt.

11:12 am

Photo of James StevensJames Stevens (Sturt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Could I start by thanking all the members who have made a contribution so far. So many people have spoken so eloquently about their own personal experiences in their electorates. Some specifically had fires raging in the areas that they represent. Of course we've all had in our communities people who've stood up and made us all so proud to be Australians by responding to such a devastating set of natural disasters across our country in recent months. I just wanted to say that, in my contribution, I want to talk about my home state and my electorate, and I don't want that in any way to be seen as diminishing the fact and the relevance that so many other parts of the country outside of the state of South Australia have suffered and have had such tragedy fall upon them. Of course I would like to use my time to talk about my own community and my own state, but I put on the record that I of course acknowledge the impact right across the country, beyond South Australia.

I was born in March 1983, just a few weeks after Ash Wednesday, and in my electorate of Sturt during that awful tragedy we had significant fires through the Mount Lofty Ranges that came down into the suburbs of Adelaide. I'm of course very grateful that my electorate specifically was lucky enough to not have any fires of significance rage up over the period of the holiday break. But in the neighbouring electorate of Mayo, of course, they had a terrible tragedy through the Adelaide Hills and on Kangaroo Island. To my state colleagues—particularly John Gardner, Dan Cregan and Leon Bignell; the state members who were most significantly affected—to Rebekha Sharkie, the federal member for Mayo; and to Premier Steven Marshall, I acknowledge at times like this we put politics aside. It's about us all being leaders in our communities. I think that they all distinguish themselves by the way in which they were there for people who needed them—to make sure that they were comforting them and that they were getting all the services that government can provide to them at those very difficult times, both urgently and in the longer term.

I also thank the Prime Minister, who visited South Australia on multiple occasions in the immediate aftermath and subsequent to that, and the Australian Defence Force for their involvement, particularly in the fire on Kangaroo Island. Whenever you have a natural disaster of that magnitude on an island that, clearly, is not contiguously connected to mainland Australia, the logistical challenges, both in fighting the fire and in assisting the recovery, are very significant. The contribution of the Australian Defence Forces throughout South Australia, but in particular on Kangaroo Island, was so very significant, because without the personnel and the assets that the Australian Defence Force have we wouldn't have been able to make the progress that we've made so far in the clean-up and in the other, sometimes quite horrendous and horrific, components of dealing with the period after a bushfire, particularly the tragic destruction of livestock and wildlife and so on and so forth. Thank you to all of them.

Although my electorate didn't have fires specifically, in representing an area that takes in the Hills Face Zone, there is always that risk. We have SES and CFS brigades stationed throughout my electorate, all of whom were involved, such as in Burnside, Campbelltown, Athelstone and Norwood SES and just outside of my electorate at Tea Tree Gully, Norton Summit and Mt Lofty. They were all so heavily involved, not just in the Adelaide Hills' response but also at Kangaroo Island. Some were deployed interstate at different periods over the holiday break. The contribution they make as volunteers includes having to put their own lives to one side—many of them leave their workplaces, are away from their families and do very long shifts, as they always do. Frankly, this is, of course, nothing new. We see Australians called upon to serve their communities and to help in times of tragedy. They always step up and, of course, that was on great display throughout the months of the challenges that we have faced. I particularly place on the record my thanks and pride in the volunteers from my own electorate for the contribution they have made.

More broadly, our communities all stood up and made an enormous contribution in any way that they could. Radio Italiana is a good example. In Adelaide they were able to raise $50,000 in a two-week period to contribute to bushfire relief. This is an organisation that has to raise money for their own ongoing operating costs, so the fact that, on top of their own fundraising initiatives from their listener base and from their supporters, they raised $50,000 in a matter of weeks is just one of the many examples of the way in which community groups, not just in my electorate but across the country, stood up and did everything they could to contribute.

We all felt the emotion and pain of people that were directly affected. It was in our nature and our spirit to want to look for any way that we could possibly help our fellow Australians in need. There's a long way to go from the immediacy of the aftermath of fires, and we are still in the fire season.

It's obviously been great to see some rain through areas that were affected by bushfires, but I know that we are by no means past the fire season this year. In this country we will have the challenge of a bushfire risk every year. The Prime Minister has informed the House in his contribution to this motion of the process now for engaging the other levels of government, the states and territories and local government, to create a mechanism to undertake a full and deep review into every element of the tragedy and disaster that befell our country over this current fire season. Clearly there will be a whole range of lessons to be learnt from what happened in previous months to ensure that we do what we can to make sure that we learn all and any lessons, which hopefully will mean that we can limit and mitigate the sort of destruction and disaster that has befallen us.

Once again I thank all members for the contributions that they've made to this debate and the sense of bipartisanship around the need to have our political debates into the future about a whole range of elements to do with the bushfire disasters that struck our country, but making this about commemorating the people that have been lost, particularly the lives that have been lost, the wildlife impact, the destruction of people's businesses and property, the risk to their livelihood, and honouring the contribution that so many members—in fact, I would say the entire Australian community—made towards coming together, sticking together and showing that great Australian spirit in such a difficult time for our nation.

11:21 am

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I stand in this place full of rage and sorrow. This building, with its glassy volcanic size, rises and blends in with the landscape around it. But today it mocks the country around it, which is scarred, damaged and unrecognisably burnt. The irony is overwhelming.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 11:22 to 11:32

The people who sit in the plush chairs on the government side sit smugly on their green benches—a colour that has been burnt away from 17 million hectares of our country. Yet here we stand—a day of condolences. But how hollow so many of them are! We stand here, and some speak empty words to empty chairs, while the people that we were elected to represent die or lose loved ones, friends, families, houses, businesses, their air, their health, their history and their safety. And those words are hollow because they come from the mouths of people who could do something real but choose not to. As a message to anyone who lost something because of the fires: you may or you may not find this motion helpful. It may make it easier to deal with your pain, your suffering and your loss, or it may not. But it certainly doesn't do anything to prevent something like this from happening again. It doesn't stop things from getting worse. Do not listen to those who tell you otherwise.

These fires are unprecedented in their intensity, their size and their destruction because of fossil fuels—because of the burning of coal, oil and gas. Because of what we know about the burning of fossil fuels—because we know it now and have for a long time—when a government continues, encourages and promotes the burning of coal and gas, they are complicit. If we speak the truth then we must assign blame to those who are responsible. And that man and his cronies sit only a few metres away in the chamber. This is irrefutable. The fingerprints of the Morrison ministry, the Turnbull ministry, the Abbott ministry and the ministries that have come before them are on these fires. This fire season has now become an indelible part of this government's legacy. These are their fossil fuelled fires, their coal fuelled fires, their gas-grown fires, their legacy. Maybe in 2,000 years we'll have a new saying because of these times. Currently we say, 'Nero fiddled while Rome burned.' In the future, we'll say, 'The Prime Minister fiddled while his country burned'.

Like everyone else in this place, I want to acknowledge and thank our emergency services, our public servants and our community volunteers who are working so hard to look after us right across the country, including here in Canberra, as we face this continuing bushfire disaster. To everyone who has lost someone: we can't begin to imagine your grief, but we are thinking of you.

Over the past few days, I've been in touch with a Country Fire Authority firefighter in Victoria, who has been telling me of the unprecedented and terrifying conditions our emergency service workers and volunteers are experiencing. He wants the country to know that firefighters on the ground know that the climate crisis is real and is hitting us fast. He, like millions of Australians, has been appalled by the failures of our country's Prime Minister. There's no point repeating here the litany of critical errors that have been made by this Prime Minister, but there is no question that he has abrogated his supreme responsibility to keep Australians safe. He put this question beyond doubt when, almost three years ago, he brought a lacquered lump of coal into this parliament and cradled it like a baby.

The responsibility of the powerful, in the face of a crisis, is to act with certainty, with conviction and with the best available information at their disposal. But instead of this parliament shaping the country it is the emissions burnt from fossil fuels: they are disfiguring it, scarring it and making it unrecognisable. Have no doubt about what these bushfires show. They show that coal and gas sit on the throne of power. They show that Gina Rinehart and the rest of the coal, oil and gas billionaires, safe from the fires in their cathedrals, run this place and they will burn it to the ground for a buck. They have worked together in the corridors of power here to make Australia the biggest LNG exporter in the world. We are the third-largest fossil fuel exporter globally, trailing only Russia and Saudi Arabia. What a trio!

How do you quantify the grief of this catastrophe? The brutal, violent deaths of billions of creatures have happened in a matter of months. Innocent lives, human and animal alike, have been extinguished, their homes of green becoming prisons of flames in the blink of an eye. Imagining the fear and helplessness that they would have felt is harrowing.

A couple of weeks ago I visited Malua Bay with Senator Mehreen Faruqi and stood with Nick Hopkins in front of the wreckage that used to be his home. It was destroyed by the bushfires. Nick stood there and he said, clearly and knowingly, that what we are experiencing is not a natural disaster but an unnatural disaster. He told the Prime Minister that this is what the climate emergency looks like. Nick summed up the feelings of so many of us. He said that he was two parts shattered and three parts angry. Australians are anxious and angry because the government clearly does not have the climate emergency under control and has no plan to get it under control.

This is what it looks like in Australia at one degree of warming. We are on track for up to 3.4 degrees. It is hard to imagine that it could get worse than it is now, but it can—and it will, unless we act. We talk about learning the lessons from the fires. The one big lesson is that the best thing we could do to minimise the risk of megafires like this happening again is to phase out fossil fuels. So, I say to this place: enough; no more thoughts and prayers until you have a plan to phase out coal and gas, because, until you have a plan to phase out coal, thoughts and prayers and people on the government benches are pouring fuel on the fire and putting Australians at risk.

The next motion that gets passed through this place should be a motion that declares a climate emergency. The next thing that gets passed through this place should be a suite of comprehensive policies that deploy the entire machinery of government—every single department—towards decarbonising this country. We desperately need more money for our extraordinary firefighters, but what we also need to do is stop burning coal, oil and gas so they don't have to do this year after year.

Today I was joined by over a dozen firefighters in calling for a doubling of firefighting resources, to be paid for by a levy on the coal, oil and gas industry. Yet, as our country continues to burn, our Prime Minister signs our souls away with new arrangements that will stick a syringe into the ground in New South Wales and draw out gas that we cannot afford to burn. The bushfires have taught him nothing. The urgency of the situation is lost on this man as he plunges us further and deeper into the darkness of an economy that runs on carbon. The politicians in this place have been corrupted and seduced by the fossil fuels that line their pockets. If you were to turn out the jacket pockets of many of the men and women who sit in this place with me, you would find coal dust lining them.

This building should be the instrument of our liberation. It should be able to force our economy and the architecture of our country away from what is destroying it and towards its renewable salvation. I will not accept this summer as our new normal. I refuse to adapt to kids wearing gas masks. I refuse to accept a world where people put off having children because they are feeling so insecure about their future. We are a smart and wealthy country and, if we have the guts to take on these fossil fuel giants and the weak politicians they have in their pockets, we can solve these crises.

We need a Green New Deal to make it more likely that we never see these tragedies again, because, at three degrees of warming, which is what we are on track for, I see a future where the fire comes from the west and the rising ocean comes from the east. I see cities that will need to retreat from the coast and retreat from the bush because both will fast become uninhabitable. So I support this motion, but I also condemn it as a poor substitute for what we were elected to this place to do: to act. But this is not action. These words do not reduce pollution; no words will. Action to replace coal, oil and gas with renewables and to tell fossil fuels that their time is up is the only thing that has any chance of slowing down the extinction that we are hurtling towards.

Today I grieve. I grieve for the immeasurable complexity of what we have lost: the lives, the love and the ecology that may never come back. But I am charged with a determination. My pledge to everyone who has been affected by this summer and spring is that, as long as I am in this place, I will never stop fighting. I will do everything that I can to stop these coal fuelled fires, these gas powered infernos and these oil fuelled flames from ravaging our country every summer.

11:43 am

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise in this place to pay my respects and mark my condolences for those who have lost their homes and possessions and, in some very sad cases, have paid the ultimate sacrifice, leaving behind families, friends and loved ones. We are no strangers to bushfires in Australia. Every year we hold our breath, waiting for the best and preparing for the worst. Bushfires in this country aren't a matter of if, but of when and how bad. Every year I have friends from my home town of Albury who tell me they can't go on a summer holiday because they're worried about the risk of bushfires.

I'm proud of the Morrison Government's response, in an unprecedented way, to an unprecedented set of events. The ADF personnel have been working with state and territory authorities in response to Australia's bushfire crisis, and their support will continue for as long as it is needed. We welcome the rains that are due next week. The bushfire crisis remains the ADF's primary focus. Around 6,500 ADF personnel are supporting Operation Bushfire Assist. This includes 3,000 reservists. They will continue to support Australians and their community for as long as needed.

Recently, I was privileged to be asked to go to Wangaratta to watch the first in-kind AusMAT deployment. Many Australians don't know about AusMAT; it's the Australian Medical Assistance Team. It is an emergency team that is on call to be deployed in times of crisis. They have, over many years now—10 years—been deployed around the Pacific for emergencies. They've been to all sorts of countries in the Pacific to help at times of emergency there. The Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, has deployed AusMAT in Australia for the first time. They were deployed during the bushfire season that we are experiencing. I was very pleased to go to Wangaratta to see the wonderful work the AusMAT team are doing. They're a multidisciplinary team, incorporating doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, logisticians and allied health staff, such as environmental health staff, radiographers and pharmacists. They have been such an important addition in this time of crisis. Often these small rural communities don't have redundancy in their staffing systems, so to have the extra personnel to help with healthcare support and logistics was very much appreciated by the communities I visited.

The government's reaction and assistance have also included $40 million to the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul. Eligible adults will receive $1,000 and $400 for dependent children. The Australian, state and territory governments are providing recovery grants of up to $50,000 to eligible small businesses and non-profit organisations which have suffered direct damage to their premises or equipment from the bushfires and which intend to re-establish their community. Having seen my in-laws go through the experience of Black Saturday—they have a property in Buxton—and watched the 10-year period of rebuilding that was very long and hard fought, I can see that it is going to be a long rebuild. And it is very important that, as a government, we're there supporting these communities and wrapping around the necessary services. It's incredibly important that a significant commitment has been given to mental health and the support of these families as they're going through what can only be described as a horror period of time.

I'd also like to congratulate the ABC. On my trip to Wangaratta, there were regular updates on ABC radio, and, having spoken to people in some of these rural and remote communities, I know how important it is that they have this service available to them, so they can get out when necessary. In fact, my aunty and uncle who live in Beechworth were asked to evacuate from Beechworth, and they came and stayed at my house in the city. They were lucky that they had somewhere they could go; in the meantime, many community families had to go to other premises. A significant number of opportunities were provided by our government and by the state and territory governments, and I congratulate them for that.

Bushfires have always been part of the Australian landscape. The effects of climate change have been seen in hotter summers and drier winters. These have resulted in longer droughts and flash flooding when it does rain. We need to learn from this fire season and work to implement practices not only to mitigate the immediate danger of the next fire season but to address the overall global changes with a strong response on climate action. We need practical action in mitigation through reduced emissions, and this needs to go hand in hand with practical action on climate resilience and adaptation. We believe technology is the answer to ensuring that we have a strong and comprehensive action on climate change.

I join with those opposite and those on the crossbench to thank everyone involved in fighting the fires and in the recovery effort. From the bottom of my heart, on behalf of the people of Higgins, thank you. I'd like to give a shout-out to the people of Higgins. Not only have they given of their concern, but they've dug deep and made many donations to the bushfires effort. I congratulate each and every one of those constituents for the fine work they've done. They've spoken to me, they've reached out to me, and they've been concerned. They've donated goods, they've donated financially, and they've donated their time. I know many of them have been up to the communities to volunteer and help support those communities. I give a special shout-out to Emmy Monash, the aged-care facility where I went for a day. We had 500 volunteers there all packing bags, not just for the ADF and the volunteers but also for the local communities, with practical things that are needed on the ground. I know there are many community groups in Higgins, and I'd like to personally thank each and every one of them.

It's been a very fraught summer, and I think we have many lessons to learn. I look forward to being part of a proportionate and responsible response, so that this never happens again.

11:50 am

Photo of Amanda RishworthAmanda Rishworth (Kingston, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support this condolence motion. It has been really a very, very difficult time for so many. I'm also acutely aware that the crisis is not over. Fires are still burning, and, as we stand, there are still communities who remain under threat. The last few months have been a devastating time for our whole nation. While there's been a significant impact on the eastern seaboard, there's also been a significant impact in my home state of South Australia, with fire ripping through 25,000 hectares in the Adelaide Hills and 215,000 hectares on Kangaroo Island. The physical and mental impact on residents, as well as the toll on our natural environment, tourism industry and local businesses, is yet to be fully realised, but what we know so far is that it will be deep and long lasting.

Most significant over this summer has been the human toll. I want to acknowledge the 33 people who have tragically lost their lives during this bushfire season, including three South Australians—Dick Lang, Clayton Lang and Ron Selth. It is an unspeakable tragedy to lose people in such horrific circumstances, and my heart goes out to those families, friends and loved ones who have lost someone close to them. As was previously said on this motion, many people have lost the centre of their world, and life will never, ever be the same. It's important for us to express that we are with them, we're thinking about them and we want to do everything we can to lessen that pain.

There has also been injury to many, both psychological and physical, and we need to make sure we're doing everything we can to help people who are suffering psychologically and physically as a result of these fires. And of course there's been property loss and damage, to homes, to businesses, to people's livelihoods. It's important that we are with people as they rebuild their lives and, as the previous speaker said, not for a short period of time but for a long period of time.

A lot has been said about our volunteer firefighters. It's hard to imagine, but the efforts that we've seen right across the country, where fires have been fought and people's lives and properties have been saved, have been in many places performed by volunteers. I know that the selfless bravery of both our paid and volunteer firefighters during this crisis has left many Australians in awe. These are people who, many of them without reward, have put themselves in the path of the fires to protect people, animals and property. I'd like to acknowledge both those who are formally firefighters and those who took up the firefighting responsibility, who were not trained firefighters, who went and helped out neighbours, friends and even communities where they were strangers. There were some former firefighters, some volunteer firefighters and some who just became firefighters for the day or for the week. Their bravery, I know, will be acknowledged in the coming months and years, but I would like to say thank you.

In southern Adelaide I'd like to particularly acknowledge the Mawson Group of the CFS, which encompasses Blewitt Springs, Clarendon, Happy Valley, Kangarilla, Mawson Group Operations Support, McLaren Flat, Morphett Vale and Seaford brigades. These are local firefighters who, for the most part, have not had their communities directly impacted by the fire but who went to support their neighbours in communities alongside them, communities in need. They have made huge sacrifices to help people right across our state and indeed interstate.

I recently visited the Seaford Brigade and heard firsthand the experiences that the firefighters had. The crew, devastatingly, lost a six-month-old fire truck in a burnover while protecting homes in the Adelaide Hills. Thankfully, none of the firefighters were physically harmed. However, the crew told me of the deep psychological impact of being stuck in a truck. Imagine: you are fighting a fire, it is out of control, and it burns over you. Your vehicle is unable to move. You are trapped. That would have a significant impact. They described the intense sound of the fire blazing over them while they waited for the flames to pass. And when they finally went to drive away, they discovered that the flames had completely melted their tyres.

This is one of the many incidents that we've got to recognise. Each one will have an impact, and a different impact, on those firefighters. We need to make sure that we respond appropriately to the impact that it's had. The appliance, which was a new appliance, had to be sent away for repairs. The crew managed to get their hands on the burnt numberplate of the truck, which serves as a permanent reminder of what they endured this fire season. It is an important psychological memento of what they've been through.

In talking with our volunteer firefighters, they have asked not for any reward, but they did want to talk to me about the fact that it is difficult balancing their day jobs with being volunteer firefighters, especially in a season that has demanded not days of firefighting effort but weeks and months. These conversations have certainly reaffirmed to me that we need a conversation about how better to support our volunteer firefighters, especially since, as we go into the future, we know that we are going to see more and more intense conditions, longer-burning fires and more difficult conditions in many places in Australia at once. It is really important that we have a serious conversation about how we best resource those individuals and best support them to do work that potentially will go on for months.

In addition, I would like to recognise that, while it has been a very intense and difficult summer, our firefighters do difficult work all year round. Our volunteer firefighters and other emergency services get called out to fires and other difficult emergencies all year round. They go to things like car accidents on a regular basis. So I think it's really important that, while the work that volunteer firefighters have done this summer is fresh in our mind, we extend our thanks for their volunteer efforts all the time, all year, knowing that they work hard to protect our community through the 365 days of the year.

One of the other aspects of this bushfire season that has been distressing to so many around the country has been the widespread loss of animal life and other wildlife as a result of the fires. It's been deeply felt by many Australians and, indeed, people across the world. On Kangaroo Island alone up to 30,000 koalas have perished. With so much habitat, food and water destroyed, it's expected that the fires will lead to the endangerment and could even lead to the extinction of a number of species. I also want to pay tribute to the volunteers across South Australia and Australia who have been rising to the challenge of caring for our injured wildlife. There have been many volunteer organisations and volunteers themselves, not in any formal way, who have risen to the challenge of donating goods or going out there into the fire ground to actually look for and care for these animals. They are doing everything they can to save animals' lives and to try and put something back into the habitat to ensure that those that have survived the fire can survive in a burnt-out habitat. I recently visited one of the many volunteer organisations doing this important work at Minton Farm Animal Rescue Centre, which is run by Bev and Glenn Langley and their many volunteers. They've been doing really important work not only caring for animals but acting as a distribution centre for feed and watering devices that actually can help. I would like to say a big thank you to all of those doing this work. This work will continue for many months and years to come as the habitats rebuild, so I would like to thank them for their work.

Of course, in times of devastation and difficult natural disasters, we do see the best of humanity. That statement has rung true in this summer of bushfire crises. People far and wide, across the country, South Australia and the world have stepped up to help people in need. And not only has it been friends and family that have stepped up; people have stepped up for strangers, for people they don't know but want to help. I think this has been just extraordinary.

In my local community in southern Adelaide, which was not directly impacted by the bushfires, local residents have put on many events to raise thousands and thousands of dollars, and have donated food and other items to communities in need. Some of this has been through organised donations. Some of it has just been off their own back, working out what they can do to help. Soul Good Cafe in Old Reynella donated $1 from every cup of coffee and $2 from each homemade cupcake to the Kangaroo Island mayor bushfire appeal. Maxwell's Groceries raised and donated $1,300 to Bush Organics, a business on KI that lost almost everything. I'm aware of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in the south who helped in the Adelaide Hills actually packing up donations and doing the grunt work. The South Adelaide Football Club and the Southern Districts Stingrays—football and cricket—came together and held a T20 cricket fundraiser which raised over $17,000 for communities in need.

There are countless stories of generosity from businesses, organisations, community groups and individuals—communities helping communities, neighbours helping neighbours, Australians helping fellow Australians. During the tragedy, our country's peoples' generosity has been a beacon of hope. There's a lot of rebuilding to be done right across Australia, right across South Australia: repairs to property, addressing the ecological damage and ensuring our industries bounce back.

I will do a shout-out. There are many practical things people can do: buy Adelaide Hills wine or produce; come and visit the Adelaide Hills; perhaps a visit to Kangaroo Island. Kangaroo Island produce is some of the best in the world. It's worth actually treating yourself. Go and visit. I certainly implore people to think about those communities that are doing it tough and I encourage you. They are open for business. You'll have a wonderful time. Please support these communities.

The scars of these fires will linger for a long time to come, and it's important that communities that are affected know that we are supporting you. We want to make sure that you're able to rebuild in the months and years ahead. We want to make sure that your physical and psychological health is cared for, that you are supported in your efforts to rebuild and that we can continue to work with you to rebuild your communities. On that note: our thoughts are with all those communities. Thank you.

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I call the member for Tangney, I will remind members of the informal agreement between the whips that, while there are no time limits for the remarks today, the agreement is that we should try and stick to five minutes. That will be reflected on the counter, but it is obviously up to each individual member how long they speak. I call the member for Tangney.

12:04 pm

Photo of Ben MortonBen Morton (Tangney, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet) Share this | | Hansard source

This parliament is a symbol for all Australians. Although we represent different communities with different landscapes and landmarks, we come here together with the same belief: that Australia is an incredible country with incredible heart and soul, full of grit and determination. So many people have been standing up and fighting these devastating fires, and we're here to support them. We're standing with you. We're also standing to honour the 33 people, including the nine emergency responders, who have died whilst selflessly fighting fires. We are standing to reflect the deep gratitude felt by all Australians.

In my role as Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, I have been working to support the response and recovery efforts. The National Bushfire Recovery Agency, led by Andrew Colvin, is modelled on the National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency. The leadership is under the coordination of the Hon. Shane Stone. The National Bushfire Recovery Agency will ensure that communities, families, farmers and businesses hit by these unprecedented bushfires get the support they need as they recover. That is the priority of this government.

I have been very honoured and pleased to be able to visit affected residents. It's made me feel devastated to understand their stories, but I also feel very proud about who they are as Australians. Fires that are unprecedented in scale are being met with bravery, courage and selflessness of the highest order. I would like to share with you a story from my visit to Kangaroo Island with the Prime Minister, where I met with locals to hear what they needed and to check on the great work of the ADF. I met Shane Leahy. He was one of the first people I met when we arrived to talk with some residents. He is a farmer and a volunteer firefighter with the South Australian Country Fire Service. Shane lost his house and many of his sheds while he was off his property fighting fires. When he had a chance to return and saw the charred remains of his home, his guts were churning. He said he nearly threw up. Everything was alight. Trees were glowing. But there was no time for rest or reflection; Shane went straight back to the fire truck and sped off to continue the fight in the hope that others would be spared this exact same fate.

The first thing that Shane said to me when he saw me was: 'Mate, I don't want a handout. I'm going to be fine. I just want people to buy my garlic. I'm a garlic farmer.' He had harvested his garlic a few weeks earlier. Shane owns and runs Kangaroo Island Fresh Garlic. What was interesting in that story was that the harvesting of the garlic and the putting of the garlic in the shed that was surrounded by the harvested garlic paddocks created the fire break to save the garlic that he harvested. Shane was asking for that support, for people to buy his garlic so he can work his way out of the trouble he has found himself in. Army reservists taking part in Operation Bushfire Assist were also there to help Shane. They helped sort out the bulbs and remove stems so the garlic could be split into cloves, peeled and processed to be ready for sale. It is people like Shane we are honouring today—someone who lost his home and will potentially lose his business. When he had the opportunity to see a minister of the government, the first thing he said was, 'We'll be alright, mate.' He wants people to buy his garlic; he didn't want a handout. We were there to help him, and the ADF have been there to help him as well.

It's strange in politics sometimes, when you're visiting communities like this and you run into people like Shane. Towards the end of the conversation I asked about Shane's story. It turns out that he went to Ferndale Primary School and Lynwood Senior High School, which happen to be in my electorate of Tangney in Perth. It's strange that one person you bump into, who you talk to and who tells you such a story, actually comes from the community that you represent in this House today. It's people like Shane who we thank, as well as his fellow fire and emergency personnel who have given everything when they have lost almost everything.

I was very pleased to support the Prime Minister's decision to announce that we will be formally acknowledging the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices of our emergency services volunteers and personnel with the National Emergency Medal. The medal will be awarded to emergency responders who have given sustained or significant service during this season of bushfires, including those who work or volunteer with our fire, police, ambulance and emergency services, as well as our Defence Force personnel, reservists and overseas personnel.

While this terrible crisis continues, it's too early to settle the details of who'll be eligible. Our emergency service organisations clearly have other priorities just now. But it was important for them to know that their work will be recognised with the awarding of the National Emergency Medal, not by this government but by all Australian people, in this way. The crisis will end. In the coming months, when the Governor-General has made the necessary formal declaration, the medal will give us that opportunity to reflect again on each of those individuals who have stood up and served their communities and our nation.

When the Prime Minister moved the motion that we are speaking to today, he also announced some significant changes to the National Medal—a different medal, with a similar name. For the first time, it will be available to members of eligible government and volunteer organisations who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The National Medal is Australia's most-awarded service medal. It's been in existence for 45 years. It is awarded to members of emergency and like organisations who put their lives on the line in the service and protection of people and property, when they've reached 15 years of service. But one of the things that was wrong about this medal—and why the Prime Minister wrote to Her Majesty in January this year—was that if you died before reaching 15 years of service then you weren't eligible for the medal. If you die in duty, in serving one of these organisations, and you would otherwise have reached 15 years of service, then you should be awarded this medal, in recognition of your contribution and in recognition of the ultimate sacrifice you have given to the Australian people.

So, I'm very pleased that Her Majesty The Queen agreed to the Prime Minister's request and that the National Medal will not only be made available to those personnel who have died in this bushfire season and who haven't yet reached but would otherwise have reached 15 years of service but also will actually go back over the 45 years of the existence of this medal and make up for what should have been the case previously. These medals will hold Australia's immense gratitude within them, because in this country we've got so much to be proud of, even in the most difficult times.

12:12 pm

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise on behalf of the people of Dunkley to add our voices in support of this motion of condolence for the victims of the devastating bushfires. Those of us who have never stood at the front line of a roiling, aggressive wall of fire, who have never had to flee flames in fear of our lives, who have never lost a home, livelihood and loved ones to an insatiable inferno, who have never returned back to our homes, our communities and the habitats of our native animals that have been devoured by the fire can never really understand the way the extraordinary bushfires that have been raging across Australia last year and this year have scarred our fellow citizens' souls. We can see the physical impact. We can acknowledge the significant psychological trauma, and we can—and do—mourn the loss of life and limb and home. But we can never truly understand what others have experienced and continue to experience. What we can do, and what we in this place are all doing today, is honour their courage, recognise their suffering and join together to support them in their time of extraordinary need.

And what we must do—those of us who are privileged enough to represent our communities in the federal parliament—is act, not just to adapt to climate change and increasing extreme weather events but also to mitigate humans' contribution, through a robust national climate change strategy. We must act on the evidence, as we've been told in the recent open letter from 274 experts, on the link between extreme weather events and climate change, including these fires.

My community, a community not ravaged by fires, has shown tremendous solidarity with those that are. Today I want to acknowledge what a number of individuals and groups in my community have done and are doing. I do so both to acknowledge their generosity, solidarity and community spirit and also as a representation of what others have done—because, of course, I can't mention everyone and every organisation; there are so many people who are so generous and committed.

Cayden, who is nine years old, and his brother, Lachlan, seven, attend Langwarrin Primary School. Their mother emailed me to tell me about what they are doing because of how deeply affected they are at the thought that other schoolchildren their age won't have the resources at their schools anymore to get a good education because of the fires. These two young men spent their own pocket money purchasing grocery items for fire relief and volunteered time packing boxes to be sent to those in need. But they didn't feel like that was enough. Because schools had burnt down, they wanted to help those children and those schools. They collected books, new and used, from across Langwarrin and the wider community to donate to kids who had lost them. Over just a few days in a week, their mother tells me, they had a final tally of 1,100 books—1,100 books! They delivered them to local Frankston charity 123Read2Me and to The Little Book Room in Carlton so that they could be delivered to kids in need. What awesome young men—just like Elijah, who sat out the front of Ritchies supermarket in Mount Eliza, selling Zooper Doopers to raise money for people in need who had been affected by the bushfires.

At the end of March the Lyrebird Community Centre in Carrum Downs is going to hold a thankyou tea for our local firefighters and SES volunteers who have put their lives on the line and have tirelessly gone to support communities outside of Frankston and Dunkley because they saw people who were in need. Angela Lord is going to take her Sri Lankan mobile food van, which has amazing food, and cater for the event, for free, to say thank you to the CFA, career and volunteer firefighters from Skye, Carrum Downs, Langwarrin, Frankston, Mount Eliza, and, just out of our electorate—but many of our constituents volunteer and work there—Baxter and Mornington, and, of course, the Frankston SES.

Just last weekend, the Mornington Peninsula Sportsman's Cup was held at Emil reserve in Mount Eliza. It was organised by local football and cricket teams and GameFace. They raised $80,000 for bushfire relief for the East Gippsland bushfire victims. The Sandhurst residents club, on Australia Day in their annual festival, raised over $3,600 for the Victorian bushfire appeal. Local Frankston community not-for-profit groups That's The Thing About Fishing, 3199 Frankston Beach Patrol, Positively Frankston, Donation Chain, Community Angels, and Frankston History all joined to form the Frankston Community Connect organisation. Together with local businesses such as The Beach Nook, La Porchetta Frankston, Uncommon Studio, Amy's Manufacturing Jewellery and the Little Grasshoppers Early Learning Centre, it galvanised the wider Frankston community to donate many, many truckloads of goods to be delivered to Victorian communities, families and individuals in need because of the bushfires. Together with Frankston Pines Football Club, it hosted a day raising money, and I understand they raised some $181,000. This coming Saturday night, McClelland sculpture gallery in Langwarrin is holding a fundraising event, Sundown at McClelland, with an amazing and very impressive array of Australian talent, including Deborah Conway. I'm going to be there, and I urge those who haven't bought a ticket to come along and raise more money for the bushfire appeal.

This is just a small glimpse of what my community—our community—have done to say thank you to the firefighters, the SES, those people who have volunteered to fight fires to help with recovery in communities that aren't their own. On behalf of my community, I want to thank each and every one of you. I want to thank all of the firefighters and the volunteers. To everyone across Australia who has reached into their pockets and their pantries and, in particular, to those who have put life and limb at risk to help others, thank you.

Our love and our thoughts are with those who have lost their lives and their families. My commitment to you—and that of many other people in this parliament—is that we will honour your service and your sacrifice by not just what we say but what we do. We thank you.

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would remind members of the agreement between the whips—particularly with the members for Goldstein and Isaacs in the Chamber—to restrict themselves to five minutes, if at all possible. The clock will be set for five minutes, but there is no formal time limit for this debate.

12:20 pm

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My remarks will be short today because I'm mindful of the need to make sure that all members have a chance to speak on this important condolence motion. And I do so because we all know the context in which we've faced these very challenging fires across the Australian continent this summer.

Like most people, I wasn't personally impacted. But, of course, my fellow Victorians, New South Welshmen, Queenslanders and many people in rural and regional communities and those in coastal towns saw the full consequences of these fires and their impact. The tragedy is that 33 people, including nine brave firefighters, lost their lives, 2,900 homes have been confirmed lost and more than 10.4 million hectares has been burnt out—and that's not even to talk about the loss of wildlife and habitat and what that means for animal populations.

Like most people, I didn't have a firsthand experience, and nor did many of the constituents of the Goldstein community. Most of our experience was of the smoke that drifted from East Gippsland to Port Phillip and sat in the basin around Melbourne. I got feedback from constituents, rightly, about some of the issues around respiratory problems and the health consequences, no matter where they were. It was an eye-opener and, for many people, a wake-up call.

We need to acknowledge and pay tribute to the incredible service of our ADF personnel, who have done a wonderful job supporting local volunteers, and to those local volunteers, particularly in the CFA in Victoria and the RFS elsewhere, who put their lives on the line to do what is best for our community and for our country. We thank them eternally for their vigilance and their effort.

But I want to pick up on a point that was raised by the member for Monash in his response to this motion. He made the point that, for many people on the front lines, it is a traumatising experience. To everybody who's gone through those experiences and to those people who've gone through previous fires, where it may lead to being retraumatised, we say, 'If you need assistance and help, please seek it out.' Every family, at some point, has had some experience with bushfires and the consequences. My family tragically lost their home in the Ash Wednesday bushfires, when my grandparents and aunty had to run into a swimming pool to save their lives after the wind changed. My grandfather, Charles Wilson, was the local doctor in the Upper Beaconsfield community and cared for many of the people who suffered as a consequence of those fires after they'd lost their homes or suffered health damage. So, if anybody needs assistance for whatever reason—whether it's retraumatisation from the past or from their experiences being on the front line in these fires—make sure you seek assistance and help. And I urge those volunteers who, through sacrifice of their own time, particularly around Christmas, were away from their friends, families and loved ones to make sure that they seek any assistance and help that they need as well.

The other important thing is to make sure that we don't turn these fires into a political football. There's been a lot of jumping to conclusions. We have all seen in Victoria, for instance, the haunting images of the Mallacoota community and what people fear. There are of course many factors that contribute to fires—hazard burning, arson and the changing climate—and all of them need to be part of a sober discussion to make sure that we can do our best to address these challenges into the future as they escalate, as there is hotter and dryer weather, and make sure we help communities.

Only on the weekend I was talking to people from the Bureau of Meteorology, looking at their scientific research into the contribution of the changing climate into bushfires and the seasons. That research and work is being done and fed into the public policy decision-making that we will make at this place. But we should make decisions based on evidence, not on speculation.

Finally, to those people in the Goldstein community who saw the challenge and the opportunity to do so much good, we say thanks. I know even only last weekend the Black Rock community held a localised fundraiser to raise money to send to those people affected. Many people donated money out of their own pockets. I know Brighton yacht club has a fundraiser this Friday night to assist. To those people, we say thank you. To those people who have lost their lives, we pay homage and remembrance. But for those people who volunteered to do their best to help all of our communities, we give thanks.

12:26 pm

Photo of Mark DreyfusMark Dreyfus (Isaacs, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Attorney General) Share this | | Hansard source

I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese and the Prime Minister for bringing the parliament together this week to express our support for all those who have suffered as a result of this season's unprecedented and terrible fires and our condolences to those who have died, and to pay tribute to the magnificent firefighters who've done their all to protect life and property during the months of fires that we've endured.

I don't want to take up too much time today. That should be left to our leaders and to those MPs whose electorates have been most impacted by the fires. On that note, I do want to express my admiration for, and thanks to, my Labor colleagues, the member for Eden-Monaro, Mike Kelly; for Macquarie, Susan Templeman; and for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips, and also Darren Chester, the member for Gippsland. All of them have been out there every day, helping their constituents during this terrible time. They have truly shown their dedication and commitment to their constituents and highlighted the very best of what it means to be an elected representative.

I did want to pay tribute to those in my electorate who like so many around the country have answered the call to help others. Even though Isaacs has thankfully been spared from this terrible fire season, I wish to pay tribute to the members of three CFA brigades in my electorate who've sacrificed their summer break to answer the call to help their fellow Australians in both Victoria and New South Wales: the Patterson River CFA which fought the Gippsland fires and the Omeo and Swifts Creek fires in Victoria and also deployed a crew to support the New South Wales firefighting efforts in Kempsey; the CFA brigade from Keysborough which fought the Gippsland fires and had members deployed to support the New South Wales firefighting efforts; and the Edithvale CFA brigade which also fought the Gippsland fires and had members deployed to support the New South Wales firefighting efforts. I'd also like to mention the Highett and Mentone MFB stations who also supported the bushfire firefighting efforts in Gippsland and New South Wales. I thank those who stayed behind to crew the trucks locally and work behind the scenes.

And, as always, a special thank you to the families who shared in this sacrifice when their family members deployed to fight the fires. Our nation thanks you for your sacrifice and your service and, as your local member, I'm proud to represent a community where so many are prepared to give up so much and risk their safety and even their lives for no other reward than helping their fellow Australians at a time of great need.

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.

12:35 pm

Photo of Anne AlyAnne Aly (Cowan, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I, too, like many others in this place, rise to lend my voice on this motion offering condolences to those who lost their lives, their loved ones and their livelihoods during these devastating bushfires, as they continue to burn. Australia, I often say, is a land of contradictions: of wet and dry, of deserts and rainforests, of blistering heat and snowy mountains, of droughts and flooding rains. But, when it comes to the heart of Australia, when it comes to her people, there is no contradiction. We are one. And, as the song goes, we sing with one voice. We saw that over this terrible summer, in the response to these devastating fires across Australia.

As you know, I'm from Western Australia, and we were on the other side from those devastating fires on the eastern coast. For many of us in Western Australia—and I speak particularly also of many in my community of Cowan who approached me—there was a sense of helplessness, of: 'What could we do? What could we possibly do to make a difference to the lives of those who are hurting over in the eastern states?' The Cowan community came together, in ways that other communities right across Australia came together, in this show of solidarity. We had, for example, the Joondalup Health Campus raising money in its staff dining room. We had our local knitting group, Lauren Lang and the knitting ladies, who meet at my local shopping centre every Tuesday, knitting for the animals. A young lady named Jayde Macintosh put a post on Facebook asking for people to come together on a day and sew pouches for the animals that were harmed in the bushfires. My local IGA had a donation box. And in Perth's sleepy northern suburbs in Cowan, we all banded together to do what we could to help those who were so devastatingly affected by those fires.

While bushfires have ravaged and continue to ravage the east coast, I want to also make mention of those fires that also ravaged parts of Western Australia. In Yanchep, for example, 6,000 homes were saved as fires burned through 13,000 hectares. Yanchep is not in my electorate of Cowan; it is in the neighbouring electorate of Pearce, the Attorney-General's electorate. Nonetheless, the Cowan community came together during that fire crisis as well. On 2 February, the City of Wanneroo had a Yanchep Fire Thankyou Day. During the Yanchep fires, we saw the Yanchep Volunteer Fire and Rescue service, the Two Rocks Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade, the Quinns Rocks Bush Fire Brigade, the Wanneroo Central Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade and the Wanneroo fire support brigade come together. I want to thank those groups for the work they did in ensuring that the Yanchep fires weren't as devastating as they possibly could be.

I also want to make special mention of the mayor of Wanneroo, Mayor Tracey Roberts, who kept the entire communities of Yanchep, Two Rocks and Wanneroo updated through her consistent Facebook posts and who was there every single day on the front line, making sure that people were evacuated and that they knew what to do in the fires, and helping with the fire rescue efforts. Of course there were other fires in Western Australia, in Collie and Norseman and other places across Western Australia. But, as I mentioned, none were as devastating as the fires were in the eastern states.

Much has been and will be said about this moment in our nation's history. There'll be stories written, poems dedicated and artworks created, and of course a lot of reflection. I hope that in the coming months we learn the lessons about the need to act on climate change, which contributed to the intensity and severity of these fires and will continue to do so.

But most of all I hope that the stories that endure are the ones that tell of the bravery and the sacrifice of our firefighters and the stories of how a country came together; the stories of our international friends who reached across the oceans in our times of need; the stories of the communities of Muslims and Sikhs and other community groups who drove 600 kilometres with supplies for those who were affected by the bushfires; the stories of the local communities thousands of kilometres away from the bushfires who watched their country burn, igniting in them their compassion for their country and for her people.

12:40 pm

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a privilege to rise and speak on this condolence motion by the Prime Minister on the bushfire crisis. The ongoing bushfires have highlighted the dichotomies inherent in life in Australia. We've seen the worst of Mother Nature and the best of humanity. We've seen drought followed by fire followed by flooding rains. The drought still stubbornly persists, with more than 11 million hectares that has burnt, scarring our wide, brown land. Very tragically, 33 people have lost their lives, including nine very heroic firefighters. Three thousand homes were burnt to the ground, and the horrific toll on Australia's precious wildlife is just unfathomable.

Australians are known throughout the world for our reliability, generosity, bravery and compassion, and I gratefully acknowledge how people from around the world have joined with us, putting their lives at risk to help fight fires and assist with the recovery effort. In Wide Bay, homes and properties were lost and damaged, and more than 5,000 people were evacuated from more than 2,500 homes as multiple fire fronts attacked the Peregian-Noosa areas and the hinterland areas over the course of several weeks in September and October.

To the wide range of organisations, including the Peregian Beach Community House, UnitingCare, Tewantin-Noosa Lions Club, Noosa Heads Lions Club, Koala Crusaders, the Noosa State Emergency Service, Queensland Police and the Rural Fire Service, to the fighters, police, volunteers, disaster coordinators, community groups, councils and so many others who helped keep Noosa safe from bushfires, I say a very heartfelt thankyou. Emergency services and volunteers have worked tirelessly to protect lives and properties, and countless volunteers have stepped up to support them with everything from preparing meals to doing their washing, hosting fundraisers and many other kinds of practical gestures. Even our wildlife has not been forgotten, with thousands of hand-knitted and sewn joey pouches, bat wraps and resting blankets being made by craftspeople across the nation.

In Wide Bay we have kick-started the recovery period with an initial and immediate grant of $1 million to the Noosa community to help rebuild vital community infrastructure. We've also given $1 million to the Queensland government to administer a grants program for community organisations in Noosa. Like many of the places worst affected by bushfires, Noosa is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and its local economy relies heavily on the tourism market. I welcome Noosa's inclusion in a $6 million tourism recovery package, which will also be available to the Scenic Rim, Southern Downs and Sunshine Coast councils. Noosa is unique. It is an iconic destination that attracts two million visitors every year and generates more than $1 billion in tourism spending in our region alone. This package will help provide a lifeline to keep visitors coming so that businesses can keep their doors open and locals will continue to have a job to go to.

We also acknowledge that recovery—physical and emotional—cannot happen overnight and these bushfires will inevitably weigh heavily on people's minds for some time to come. Mental health care is absolutely essential to help individuals, families and communities recover in the wake of a crisis, which is why it's so important that the Morrison government has provided $14 million for a community recovery package to support the mental health and resilience of Queensland communities affected by bushfires last year, including Noosa. We know that in the weeks and months—and even years—following natural disasters like these bushfires, people can experience a range of emotions and behaviours that can be intense, confusing and frightening. The funding will allow affected people to receive the necessary support to deal with emotions such as grief, stress, guilt and depression, and provide strategies and assistance as the communities recover.

To the people of Noosa and to everyone everywhere who has been affected by these ferocious bushfires right across Australia, we'll stand shoulder to shoulder with you for as long as it takes.

12:46 pm

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support this condolence motion and to add to the many fine contributions that members have made this week. I especially want to mention the tireless efforts of the members for Gilmore, Macquarie and Eden-Monaro, as well as many others. I also want to pay tribute to the member for Bennelong, who I thought made quite a difficult and honest speech in this debate.

This has been a really difficult summer for all Australians, and it's not over. We have been at the forefront of a catastrophic summer of bushfires right around our vast continent. Like so many members in this place, I flew in on Sunday night over the bushfires that are still burning. Looking down at the hellish scenes was haunting. We can still smell the burning that is occurring less than 50 kilometres away from our parliament. The smell and the poor—often hazardous—air quality that has come with it have been a feature for Australians across the summer. But, throughout this past summer, we've seen the best of Australia rise from the most difficult parts of Australia—our incredible emergency service personnel, our volunteers, our defence forces and the extremely generous donations from people all across our nation who just wanted to help.

Of course, this is a condolence motion, and, sadly, we are mourning 33 Australians and others who have lost their lives in these bushfires. Our thoughts are with their families, friends and loved ones. A lot of lives have been saved, though, this summer because we've learnt from the lessons of past bushfires. The clear advice to urge people to leave now has been heeded, and that has saved countless lives. I also want to thank all those members across all sides of politics in the federal parliament and our state parliaments who worked tirelessly for their communities throughout the summer. We thank all those overseas and ordinary citizens who lent their support, their firefighters, their financial assistance and their generous donations.

These fires were different. Their scale was unprecedented. Our regions are on fire, our cities are filled with hazardous smoke and our nation has been severely polluted. Our native animal populations have been devastated. More than a billion animals are said to have perished. We've seen heartbreaking images of badly burnt koalas. Also at severe risk are species like the brush-tailed rock wallaby, the glossy black cockatoo, the regent honeyeater and many more. Entire ecosystems that our beloved native animals rely on are under threat. This isn't normal, but the evidence says that this will fast become the new normal. This is a national crisis of historic proportions. This is a climate emergency, and it's only the start.

Australians are on the front line and the whole world is watching. The bushfire season has taken an immense toll on our country. Its effects will continue to be felt over time. We are saddened and we are sorrowful, but it's clear we're also scared. We are scared that summer will no longer be an innocent time to enjoy a swim at the beach, a family barbecue or a day at the cricket; scared that we won't be able to breathe clean air for months at a time or see the sun shining in blue skies; and scared that our country is getting more dangerous and that the world is getting more dangerous. Their fear is understandable. It should be acknowledged, and it should be respected. We've seen the anguish on people's faces—the desperation, the exhaustion. But, beyond what we've seen, we need to recognise the mental health impacts of large-scale natural disasters such as these bushfires. The immediate grief and loss, and in the longer term the anxiety, depression and post-traumatic issues, cause distress for families in the months and even years after these events.

We also mustn't forget our first responders and firefighters, who suffer significant mental health issues throughout their work, which exposes them to extremely traumatic experiences. We need to make sure that our mental health system is robust and accessible and at the same time provide a hopefulness that is grounded in real solutions to heading off the worst aspects of dangerous climate change. We need to acknowledge that beyond these towns that have been hit is a whole country bracing itself for an uncertain future. Its name is climate change. It's here, and the way things are looking it's here to stay.

Today is a day to express our condolences. The detailed policy debates we need to have in the future can begin tomorrow—in fact, they must begin tomorrow. But we cannot talk about this crisis without talking about its causes. We were not elected to this place to merely deliver platitudes; we were elected to this place to govern. We were elected to this place to be leaders and to show leadership in confronting the great challenges that confront our nation. Climate change is not just an environmental crisis. Climate change is not just an economic crisis. Climate change is a humanitarian crisis, it is a national security crisis and it is a migration and refugee crisis.

For years we've been warned that this day would come, that extreme weather, droughts and heat would combine to create worse and longer bushfire seasons—and those predictions were right. Hazard reduction is one part of the equation, but climate change is making that harder, too. All in all, we need to accept that the world is getting warmer, that the climate is changing, and we will suffer the consequences if we don't change and get other nations to change with us. We should be leading the international efforts to combat climate change, because we are on the front lines of this global challenge. But we are not doing enough as a nation, and it's time we were all honest about it.

We need to lower our emissions, but right now we are not lowering our emissions. The time for making excuses is over. We know what the future holds, because the future is here. To honour those who have given up their summers to fight fires, to honour those who have lost everything, the responsibility now falls on us—on members of this place, the Australian parliament—to do everything we possibly can to ensure that our children, our grandchildren, our neighbours and our constituents have a safe future in this wonderful nation.

12:52 pm

Photo of Andrew HastieAndrew Hastie (Canning, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This past summer has been a 'black summer' and very tough for many Australians around the country, but particularly on the east coast, and I rise today to add my voice and that of my community in Canning, in the Peel region of Western Australia, in expressing condolence for those devastated by this year's bushfires. I particularly want to extend our sympathies to those who have lost loved ones, their homes, their communities and their livelihoods. I also want to acknowledge and give thanks for the efforts of our brave firefighters, our volunteers, both here in Australia and those from overseas, and I acknowledge the deaths of those three fine Americans who gave their lives fighting the fires here in Australia to protect our community. I also thank the community leaders and the many Australians who quietly got on with helping others, without any sort of recognition. It's a reminder that this great country starts in our local communities, where we form our closest bonds, with our neighbours, and, taken together, we form a collective known as Australia, this great country. It's encouraging to see such a healthy group of local communities right across this country.

But it's not enough just to offer our sympathies. Words need to be matched with action, and this government has stepped up with a raft of initiatives, including the initial $2 billion national bushfire recovery fund. Others here have detailed these initiatives, so I won't go through them again. But I do want to note, for the record, the contributions of my fellow Western Australians, particularly in the Peel region and the greater South West. For example, the Harvey Hay Run—Harvey sits in the seat of Forrest, just to our south—has sent a convoy of trucks carrying more than 2,000 bales of hay and fodder as well as supplies, clothes, blankets and nappies from south-west WA to help those in fire affected New South Wales. This support has come from farmers and families who were affected by the January 2016 Waroona and Yarloop fires. These fires, in my electorate and in the electorate of Forrest, destroyed 160 homes, the whole town Yarloop, and killed two people. We saw more than 2,000 kilometres of fencing destroyed, livestock killed and sheds, tractors and feeding troughs all destroyed. Farmers did it very tough. But what we've seen over the last four years in our community is the truism that restoration follows ruin, and that there is hope for those who've suffered immensely. Just seeing our community recover over the last four years gives me hope.

This season's tragedy has shown the best of Australia. I also want to put on record the work of the volunteer firefighters from brigades in my electorate and around Western Australia who travelled east to give their assistance and expertise during these emergencies. These are volunteers from the brigades in Bedfordale, Roleystone and Byford in Canning, just to name a few. Thank you for going above and beyond, giving up your summer break to travel across the continent to help your fellow Australians. I applaud you and I thank you from this House.

I also want to pay tribute to the hundreds of men and women who helped keep my electorate safe during the fire season. We've had some very near misses this season. The most significant came on 9 January when an evacuation notice was given to parts of the Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale, following an out-of-control fire that accidentally started on the Kwinana Freeway when a boat came off a trailer when a gentleman was returning from the south-west back up to Perth. The fire threatened parts of Mardella, Hopeland and Rockingham and the Kwinana Freeway. Had it not been contained, parts of Baldivis, Wellard, Oldbury, Cardup, Mundijong, Whitby and Serpentine would have been in great danger—a lot of homes, properties, livestock, and a lot of horses. The equine industry is concentrated in Canning.    So I thank the many hundreds of volunteers, but particularly the approximately 150 firefighters who converged over a couple of days and nights to beat back the fire, which burned up to 1,300 hectares, in the face of difficult and changing winds. Thankfully, our region was spared, with minimal damage to property and no loss of life.

This past summer is a reminder of how fragile our landscape is and how important strong local communities are to our collective wellbeing and security. So to all those affected, those who lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods, we in this House are with you. We will support you in the months and years ahead. Our hearts go out to you.

12:57 pm

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support this motion. It is fitting that our nation's parliament, the one place in which all of Australia is represented, sends a message of condolence for the terrible loss of life, wildlife and property that we collectively have experienced. Today we pay our respects and grieve for all the lives lost, but also for the lives that will be lost as a result of these unusually horrific bushfires. Such brutal fires can impact people in so many different ways—physically, emotionally, directly and indirectly. Even just the presence of such a brutal fire season can impact those not directly experiencing it.

However, words cannot express the grief, loss and sheer terror that the people who've been through the front of these fires have experienced. As many residents in my electorate of McEwen know all too well, this is not something that leaves our consciousness quickly. Country people are pretty much used to having such dangers, but the unprecedented blazes we've experienced during this crisis and over the past decade go beyond what was considered normal in the Australian summer. The consequences of our changing climate are becoming more obvious and more severe. Bushfires are not a faraway problem and an infrequent test for regional Australia. They are increasingly starting earlier and are more intense than ever before. We know this from the warning signs, from the voices of the fire experts who earlier this year predicted such brutal blazes, voices that went unheard in the corridors of those who could make a tangible difference. Evidently, these predictions were realised. These fires were bigger, they came earlier, and they were more intense than the government was prepared for. The challenge is now for government. If you say you accept manmade climate change, it is incumbent on you to educate those inside your tent who don't accept climate change.

Today we recognise and show our gratitude to those who live by the mantra 'Standing shoulder to shoulder'. These are the courageous people from all walks of life, paid and unpaid, who were prepared to stop what they were doing, forgo their plans, leave the comforts of home, go out there and get in and fight for communities. That courage has been shown as the fires rage, because we know all too well that the dangers are not yet over. We can smell it in the air outside this house today. Even as we stand here paying our condolences, communities across the ACT are preparing for the worst, as they hope for relief.

There is no greater example of courage than the fact that so many were prepared to risk their lives to save the lives of others. Many people were fighting fires knowing that all was lost for some of them, but they went back out there to help their mates, to help their neighbours and to help people they did not even know, because that is the character and commitment of our paid and unpaid volunteer brigades. This is the Australian spirit. It reminds us that leadership is being there when it matters.

We in McEwen and our surrounding electorates know all too well the challenges of the road to recovery. Black Saturday impacted us more than anywhere else in the nation. The brunt of that disaster was borne by our communities, and we carry the physical and mental scars of that day with us. But we also carry a great understanding of what the road to recovery is like. Recovery is an individual process that people deal with. It's best done at a pace that suits individuals, and the government has a massive challenge for the months and the years ahead.

My advice to the government is to listen. Listen to those with the expert knowledge and firsthand experience in recovery from disaster. There is no silver bullet to remedy this. There is no set play that can fix it. But there are lessons to be learnt which will make the road to recovery easier, so listen. Understand that people need to be the central focus of recovery plans. Letting individual cases guide us through the myriad issues we will face going forward is so important. At a time when we feel all is lost, we must keep them close, particularly in our small communities which have been hit hard.

Social cohesion at a time of crisis is important, especially for the many small businesses in towns who need the local foot traffic there to keep them afloat. Keeping locals in their community will always aid the healing process. But what will also help is reducing unnecessary bureaucracy which reduces the time people have to deal with the aftermath. Departments at all levels of government need to put people first. They can do this by taking unnecessary red tape out of the process and making services simple and efficient to use.

Understand and help with the process. Rebuilding homes and community infrastructure will be harder and more expensive as communities face higher bushfire attack level, or BAL, ratings and other building standards to make homes and other buildings safer and more resilient. Coordination is also key. Ensure that moneys go to people directly when they need them. Having an efficient system means more people will get help quicker and limits the number of people who will fall through the cracks.

Importantly, take the egos out of government. Recovery isn't a time for photo opportunities and false empathy. People are hurting and they need a hand up, a shoulder to lean on and an ear to hear their voice. Don't turn your back on them. Don't walk away. As I said, we have the experience and the knowledge in our communities to help along the way. We can learn from the people with the experience—people such as Tony Thompson OAM, Anne Leadbeater, Kath Stewart and Helen Kenny, people who have walked this path and know better than you what is in the road ahead.

There are people such as those in our Lions and Rotary clubs, and the Bee You child care in Kilmore, who made bat wraps to send up to the Blue Mountains. I have seen firsthand the work they do. Of course, there is BlazeAid. BlazeAid is now a national, iconic institution, founded by Kevin and Rhonda Butler of Kilmore. They have gone to great lengths in this space since the Black Saturday bushfires, helping farmers get fences back up, to get them going more quickly. There is Ranges Rescue, who spent weeks sewing and creating assistance and support for native animals. They did a fundraiser which raised about $5,000. That was done with little items costing up to $20, from home-made tote bags to bespoke fabric coasters. Whatever it was, they put it in to help communities.

I also want to acknowledge people like Khalsa Aid. Khalsa Aid, as the member for Gippsland pointed out, went out there into communities and supported communities by cooking food and helping people—in Buchan and those sorts of places. They even went up to New South Wales. And of course there has been the Islamic outreach. What this shows is that people right across this nation, from all walks of life, have been out there supporting our communities. For over ten months after the Black Saturday fires BlazeAid were out there, and even today they are out there, right across this nation, helping our farmers. Transition Village in Wallan, which is a homeless persons shelter, is opening its doors and helping to raise funds. A lady who I have the utmost respect for, Jane Hayward OAM, was the principal of Strathewen Primary School, one of the biggest towns hit with loss of life, per capita, in Black Saturday. Jane travels the country going into communities, looking after communities, looking after schools and helping them get back on track. She has been working with Rob Gordon the psychiatrist and Kate Liddell—ex-Firefoxes—to help people in the aftermath of the fires. We owe to people in these communities who have lost their homes and loved ones every ounce of energy and help that the Commonwealth government is capable of giving. We owe those communities that need us. We will be there for them as they forge ahead in the new normal.

1:05 pm

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the many bushfire brigades in my large electorate of Durack, the many hardworking volunteers and also paid fire brigade workers who selflessly give up their time to support their local communities in times of need. The current round of volunteer grants in Durack is specifically dedicated and available to the local fire brigades in Durack. I would like to encourage those eligible to apply urgently, as the applications close this Friday.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the efforts of defence industry in providing outstanding support towards the bushfire effort. During these bushfires we've seen many Australian communities band together to assist with the relief effort. Our nation's response to this emergency has been ably supported by both the Australian Defence Force, which I am immensely proud of, and our collective defence industry, which I'm equally proud of. I'm quite sure that the sight of the Defence personnel, boots on the ground, lending a hand, was such a great relief to those impacted by the bushfires.

The ability for the ADF to respond to this crisis so quickly and assist the states and territories was also made possible by the support of our defence industry. This support has come from our major contractors right through to our local and small businesses. I'd like to take this opportunity to recognise some of those efforts. I first would like to thank the many businesses in our defence industry who have held internal fundraisers and donated much-needed funds to assist in relief efforts for bushfire affected communities. Air Affairs Australia, based in Nowra, have flown missions to provide urgent intelligence on the unfolding bushfires to our firefighting agencies, including the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Victoria's Country Fire Authority and the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. Since early January Air Affairs have flown over 1,746 hours, covering the equivalent of 50 per cent of the total area of Australia. I thank Air Affairs for their ongoing service and efforts in response to these bushfires.

Summer is an important tourist season for many local communities in Australia. We need to do all we can to attract fellow Australians and overseas visitors to visit those affected communities. I would therefore like to thank our largest defence industry partner, Naval Group, for launching an internal tourism drive amongst its global employees to holiday in Australia in 2020. I encourage all our major defence companies to spread the word to their employees abroad that Australia is open for business and that a holiday down under should indeed be on the cards for 2020.

Our defence industry community extends not only to those companies involved in acquiring and sustaining our capability but also to those businesses that maintain our Defence bases. I'd like to acknowledge and recognise the efforts of those businesses, including Broadspectrum, Spotless and BGIS, which provide invaluable support services to our bases. During the recent bushfire events, these companies ramped up their activities at incredibly short notice and have sustained that level of support needed to allow the ADF to effectively respond to these bushfires. They should also be commended for their efforts in supporting the defence evacuation activities and for providing accommodation to displaced defence families. To them I say: thank you for your outstanding support.

Telstra defence is also playing an important role in assisting the ADF during the bushfire emergency. Telstra defence is installing mobile repeaters at key sites for Operation Bushfire Assist, to enhance phone services, and is providing portable internet devices for ADF personnel and displaced Australians housed at defence sites in addition to a large number of support services. I'd like to thank Telstra defence for their ongoing support.

I would especially like to recognise the efforts of Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group at the Department of Defence. Many of the staff at CASG, as it's called, have supported the operations of the ADF in response to the recent bushfires since Christmas—and I know many of them didn't get a Christmas, didn't get a New Year, didn't get a break, and I sincerely thank them and appreciate their ongoing assistance. To the wider defence industry, who played a role in providing relief and assistance to Australians and affected Australian communities from these bushfires, I say: thank you for your ongoing and continued support.

Finally, to those individuals and communities who have lost loved ones, who have lost their homes, who have lost their animals, and the many who have lost their business or have had their business impacted: please know that our hearts break with yours and that the federal government stands ready to help you to put the pieces of your lives back together again. We've heard it said a lot in the last week, and I think it's worth repeating: regional Australia is not broken. It is resilient. Its people are resilient. And it will endure.

1:11 pm

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm honoured to be able to rise in this debate to extend the condolences of my community in Melbourne's west to those who have suffered in this 'black summer'. While my electorate has not been directly affected by the fires that we've experienced in recent months, the loss of life and property experienced by so many thousands of Australians, as well as the incalculable ecological destruction and loss of animal life, is a national tragedy of unprecedented scale that all Australians feel at this time. My condolences and thoughts go to all of those who have been directly affected by this.

I want to particularly put on the record my recognition of the incalculable debt that we as Australians all owe to those firefighters who sacrificed their lives this summer, particularly those who had come from the other side of the world to fight fires in Australia. We've also seen in my community in Melbourne's west Australians at their best in the way that they've responded to this crisis. I've never been prouder to represent this community than I have been over recent months. People from all backgrounds have rallied together to help their fellow Aussies in need. Volunteers from the Australian Islamic centre, the Newport mosque, collected five truckloads full of donations and then left Newport at 3 am, drove to Bairnsdale, with the assistance of the MFB and the CFA, and put on a breakfast sausage sizzle for exhausted firefighters. They were featured on CNN for their efforts. The Authors for Fireys campaign, kicked off by YA authors Emily Gale and Nova Weetman, raised $511,000, and local authors in Melbourne's west, like Andy Griffiths, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Enza Gandolfo all participated in this extraordinarily worthy donation drive.

We are very proud to host Foodbank in Yarraville, and my heart was bursting with pride to see the 1½-kilometre-long queues of Australians pulling up in their cars, their utes, their trucks, their kombis—you name it—to make material donations at Foodbank to produce the thousands of food hampers that hundreds of volunteers from my community and across Melbourne put together at Foodbank in those times. They were the best kinds of traffic jams experienced by my community! We couldn't get around, but seeing those trucks lined up in community spirit was something extraordinary. One Yarraville resident, a school student, Oscar, saw these cars and he set up a carwash fundraiser, where he was aiming to raise $100 for the wildlife rescue and rehabilitation fund and ended up raising $3,000. What a legend! Oscar, well done, mate.

No matter what their background, people were chipping in. Dr Tien Kieu, an upper house member in Victoria, travelled with the Venerable Thich Phuoc Tan from the Quang Minh Temple in Braybrook in Melbourne's west, and Quang Minh Temple delivered $33,000 in donations to the CFA in Bairnsdale and CFA District 11 Headquarters Brigade. The Vietnamese Evangelical Church in Footscray raised $42,815 for the Salvos' relief efforts. The East Meets West Festival in Footscray suspended fundraising for the very important Vietnamese community museum in Footscray and dedicated their efforts throughout the day to raising funds for the bushfire as well. Sikh Volunteers Australia organised their volunteers to stay for 15 days in the East Gippsland area and helped serve 1,000 meals per day. The Tarneit Sikh gurdwara, with the assistance of their volunteers, sent tonnes of food to the communities of Bairnsdale and Bruthen. Let's Feed, an important charity in Melbourne's west, and its founder, Jasvinder Sidhu, made two trips to the bushfire affected communities, delivering four vans and 10 tonnes of food. They've committed to working with Bairnsdale Neighbourhood House in the next six months to help 100 families and also to assist the organisation in replacing equipment such as fridges and freezers.

The community response has been amazing. But the Australian government needs to do much more to respond to the underlying cause of this crisis: climate change. This 'black summer' has sheeted home to all Australians that the summers of our childhoods have past. Scientists have been telling us for more than a decade that climate change would mean that the Australian bushfire season would be longer and more intense, and this year all of us have experienced what this means, in the form of the tragic direct loss of life and the destruction of physical property and ecological environments and also in the form of the choking smoke enveloping our cities and electorates such as my own. It is beyond time for all of us in this place to get together and take real action on this threat to the Australian way of life, reduce emissions and, once and for all, tackle the challenge of climate change.

1:16 pm

Photo of Andrew LamingAndrew Laming (Bowman, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Islands are special places. As any island resident will attest, Australia doesn't have many populated islands, certainly not many permanently populated ones. Kangaroo Island and, off the coast of Queensland, my local island of Minjerribah are two of the largest, followed by Phillip Island in Victoria. Natural disasters on islands present unique challenges. What normally would roll down a highway and provide emergency and disaster relief services isn't easily available. To those on the other side: many islands rely on services coming down a highway and onto water transport even before they can get to an island.

Kangaroo Island's western national parks, which erupted in flames not once but four times over this break, were one of these examples. We in Redlands know that feeling, as much of our own island of Minjerribah was under flame just two years ago. At night our horizon was glowing in the distance like a bombing run—an ember that was burning orange across 15 kilometres of water. It reminded us each sunrise how remote an island can be, as that glow turned to smoke and that evil grey tail rose into the atmosphere and then trailed away from the scene of the crime.

But that's where the similarities between Minjerribah and Kangaroo Island end. Compared to Minjerribah, Kangaroo Island is in a wind tunnel. We can't even make wind turbines stack up in Queensland. Kangaroo Island's mayor, Michael Pengilly, pointed out that, at first, on that night, after a lightning strike, many weren't that alarmed. But, with each step of the way on Kangaroo Island, every turn became a worst-case scenario. Fire escaped the gorge that it probably shouldn't have. Fires joined and became a megafire. Fire moved faster than anyone could have predicted and turned in direction, maiming up to 100,000 livestock, such that the following day there was nothing but the echo of farmers euthanising. There was incalculable wildlife loss. Fire is the hardest element to understand. It revels in its mystery. It flares; it can disappear, change direction and flare again. In the end, on Kangaroo Island, it took more than 650 ADF staff, 300 Country Fire Service workers, a strike team of 47 New Zealanders and a Japanese C-130 before we ultimately prevailed, and even that was after the elements gave us a break and delivered 30 mils of rain. We need to recognise every one of those volunteers, and the thanks from Kangaroo Island echo in my ears.

We need to train volunteers in the city. At the moment, for city residents, it's simply too far to travel to be a regular, reliable member of a CFA or an RFS. We need to reconsider training in cities and have it deployed so that city residents can get the technical training close to home and the practical training by orbiting into the regions.

But on Kangaroo Island, for the 70 homes that lost everything, the only consolation was getting out alive. Some managed to move their stock successfully. Some moved their stock to a new location, only for all of the stock to perish in a subsequent fire. For the minority who were renting, their decision will be about replacement and relocation. But for owners—and that's the majority on Kangaroo Island—they know it's about rebuilding. That's why they want to stay on the island, and virtually all of them have. They concede, though, that they do need help in doing that. As Georgia and Olivia told me at the relief centre, the locals know exactly what needs to happen. And while the world's compassion was offering everything, including cans of baby food, on Kangaroo Island, not a single baby was affected. And this was a lesson to me: that we need to be giving financial support way more than the in-kind support, because what people need is direct and immediate help.

Teams from Services Australia worked long days with Housing SA. They've intensively case-managed every family that required help or just advice. Virtually all residents that were affected have been temporarily relocated and housed on the island. In fact, some residents simply went and furnished empty farmhouses, knowing they'd be needed, but not knowing who by. What that island knew is that they needed to provide a roof for every family that needed it.

Islanders pause and remember Clarrie and Dick Lang. They lost their lives in that fire by driving through a front a day after building firebreaks all day. The last movements of their vehicle are, chillingly, spray-painted on the road. Further down, the Western Districts clubhouse is gone. But Jade, working there, knows it'll be rebuilt. They are operating out of a dark, dank, brick change room—all that's left of their club. There are piles of animal feed and an open account at Petbarn to feed whatever animals need supplies. I met Cam and Isaac there. They'd just taken the Budget Pantech out and got it bogged. No-one's quite sure why they were there, but they're glad they got the vehicle out and they're safe, as well.

BlazeAid were at full strength, camping at the oval and doing the backbreaking work of dismantling fences and rebuilding kilometres of it. QStore were drying their stock after the downpour that came too late. At the recovery centre, Rob and Jackie meet every person that comes in needing assistance. Mayor Michael Pengilly was open—as was Rebekha Sharkie, the local MP—in giving me that opportunity to deliver the $70,000 that was raised by my island city specifically to help their island disaster. The donors included SeaLink; American College; Karreman Quarries; Sirromet winery; Bartons new and used cars; Walker Corporation; McGuires Alexandra Hill; Hogan's Wellington Point; Darwalla; Graham Leishman; the Redlands bushfire relief concert; Courthouse; the Punjab Curry Palace; the Redlands Sporting Club, Zyka's restaurant; a range of real estate agents, from RE/MAX to First National; Doug Barton himself; Stradbroke Island Events; IGA Alex Hills; a range of businesses donating a dollar for every sale; and individuals in my city, who all agreed that every effort would go into one account, and it would all go to Kangaroo Island.

In closing, through disaster and tragedy—through this tragic loss of life that every one of us is feeling in this building and beyond—may we band together, embrace those that have been affected and be sure that we make every effort that we can to ensure their recovery.

1:23 pm

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors) Share this | | Hansard source

The bushfires that have impacted Australia this spring and summer have not been the normal bushfires. They have been more intense. The bushfire season has been longer. It has affected every state and territory, including my home state of Tasmania. Thankfully, Tasmania was not as hard hit this year as it was last year. Members may remember me standing up in this place early last year, talking about the terrible bushfires that impacted my community in the Huon Valley. That area continues to recover slowly. There are still businesses and families in the Huon Valley who have not yet rebuilt or who have not yet reopened. I say to them, 'The government should also be with you during this difficult time.'

The thing that Tasmanians found very difficult whilst these fires have been on is, of course, the retraumatisation: the memories of previous bushfires, the memories in the Huon Valley from last year, the memories from the 1967 bushfires, and previous memories. It is terrible for those Tasmanians who have been retraumatised.

Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

A division has been called in the House of Representatives.

Debate adjourned.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 13:25