Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Matters of Urgency
I rise to speak on this urgency motion. It would be inappropriate for me to begin to speak on this topic, though, without first acknowledging the catastrophic fires currently burning across regional Queensland. I acknowledge the large number of Queenslanders in the gallery today, eagerly awaiting some first speeches. I want to update them that currently there are more than 70 fires burning across Queensland, from the Gold Coast to Stanthorpe, the Sunshine Coast, Rockhampton, Rockingham, and all the way up to the coast and Lockhart River near Cape York, near Cairns, near my home.
As at 2 pm today, a fast-moving fire is travelling in a north-north-westerly direction from Peregian Beach towards the south end of Lake Weyba. The fire is expected to have significant impact on the community. Evacuation centres are open and people are encouraged to travel north. Conditions are now very dangerous and firefighters may soon be unable to prevent the fire advancing. The fire may pose a threat to lives directly in its path. The loss of property and homes has been significant. So far it has been reported that in Queensland 17 houses have been destroyed and 24 others have received varying degrees of damage. A number of other buildings and commercial properties have also been impacted.
I join with the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese; and Senator Watt in expressing deep concern for residents affected by the bushfires. I commend the efforts of fire and emergency services personnel and the many volunteers who have assisted in fighting fires in these dangerous conditions. I also commend the residents of bushfire affected regions for their cooperation with authorities.
I want to acknowledge the work of Queensland Minister for Fire and Emergency Services, a fellow Far North Queenslander, Craig Crawford. He is my local member and was in a previous life an ambulance officer, so I know more than most that he does not send emergency services personnel into harm's way without understanding and weighing up the potential risk and consequences. We express our very sincere sympathies to those who have lost their properties and will do what we can to support recovery efforts. I encourage all residents to follow the directions of authorities. We will, as we have done many times before, stand by you in this time of loss, and we will help you rebuild.
Drought, unseasonably high temperatures and high winds have combined to wreak havoc on bushland in Queensland. It is a concern to all that bushfires of this severity are occurring so early in the year, and this should prompt further thought by all in this place. Climate change is affecting the severity of natural disasters in Queensland. I acknowledge the school climate strike on 20 September, and, as I said in my first speech, I encourage young people who care about issues that are important and dear to their heart and who are passionate about making change to use their voice, to stand up and to speak out. But I also want to say this to the young people who care about climate change: it has been incredibly disappointing this week to see the Greens political party seize on the loss of residences in regional Queensland for their own political purposes. It has almost become too predictable. Every time there is a natural disaster in regional Queensland, the first thing that Senator Waters does from her office in Brisbane is jump on Twitter to take advantage of people's losses. Of course she acknowledges their loss first, but it is not too long before she starts to attack. And the leader of the Greens, who lives in Melbourne, has used question time this week to supposedly stand up for regional Queenslanders affected by this tragedy. But we know that these stunts and rants aren't really about helping regional Queensland. It's not about standing up for young people or finding solutions to address climate change. What they seek to do more than anything is to win votes in inner city seats in Melbourne, Sydney and south Brisbane.
But that's the Greens for you. On the outside, they're all rage and principled positions, but on the inside, they're concerned with themselves and protecting their niche self-importance. The Greens don't care about regional Queensland and they don't care about Queenslanders. And they certainly don't care about solving the challenges facing regional Queensland when it comes to climate change. They were in regional Queensland during the federal election. They flew up to Cairns to stand in front of cameras and make nice statements about what they were going to do to help the Cairns economy and the reef, but then they got right back on their plane and left, never to be seen again. They accepted in Leichhardt, at least, the preferences of the member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch. We all know, of course, that the Greens from southern states—not from Queensland—spent plenty of time in Central Queensland on their convoy. There has never been a more self-serving, disgraceful campaign tactic than driving up to Queensland to tell people that they didn't have the same right to jobs and security as people living in cities.