Public Interest Debate: NSW Bushfires
26th February 2020
I am very pleased to participate in this public interest debate. In this day and age there are probably very few things that pique public interest as much as the threat of fire and the impact of the fires that have occurred in the past few months. I acknowledge the member for Myall Lakes. He talked about the wonderful communities we have—and we do. We have incredible communities. The spirit of those communities, both those affected directly by fire and others throughout New South Wales and perhaps Australia, who wanted to find some way to help must be acknowledged. While they may not want me to do it, I acknowledge all the members from fire-affected areas, whether it be Myall Lakes, Bega, the Blue Mountains or Port Macquarie. I say to each and every one of those members, and obviously to my friend the member for Wagga Wagga: You have done a great job in representing your local community. It is so important that the voices of the people are heard in this place.
I refer specifically to the motion of the member for Wagga Wagga and to his electorate. He referred to the Snowy Valleys and Wagga Wagga City Council areas, but the place I know quite well is Adelong. My family comes from Adelong and Tumbarumba. One night I was communicating with my cousin in Adelong via social media as he watched the mapping of the fire bearing down on the town of Adelong. He might have been all right but he was scared for his town. Later mapping was just ridiculous—there were straight lines where I think theMarie Bashir tanker came through and laid down fire retardant in a big V-shape that saved Adelong. What occurred was amazing and the heroes out there who saved those communities were absolutely brilliant.
We have talked about recognising the factors that led to the fires, in particular climate change. We cannot have these discussions without acknowledging it. It beggars belief that there are still arguments, not so much in this House but outside, about climate change. People still want to argue the case but the evidence is overwhelming. I have lived my life largely dependent on science and I have so much respect for Australia's Chief Scientist, the New South Wales chief scientist, the scientists at the Bureau of Meteorology, the CSIRO, our learning institutions and our universities, and international experts from NASA and the United Nations. Let us move on and say that climate change is a factor and we must address it, not for us—not for any of us here because we will probably be all right—but for generations to come. We have an obligation in this area, and we also have an obligation to deal with the issue here and now.
Our communities are looking for recovery and for safety in the future. That is what we need to be talking about. But we do not do one or the other; we do both. I know that we must commence the recovery process immediately. The member for Bega has articulated so well the impact on his people. It is not about possessions; people have lost their communities. It is not the fact that they have lost their house; they have lost their communities, their schools, their shops, their meeting places and their neighbours' houses. We have to do whatever we can to help. I know there is a huge burden on the Environment Protection Authority and other agencies that are on the ground trying to get the recovery started, but we must not let up.
We must also make sure that our firefighters, our volunteers and NSW Fire and Rescue—excellent professionals—have the right equipment. The Rural Fire Service and emergency services volunteers did a fantastic job but I think there is probably some disparity in the level of equipment they have throughout New South Wales. We must address all those sorts of issues. I truly believe what we are talking about here. I know work is happening, but perhaps we have to accelerate it to ensure those communities who are doing it so tough do not feel forgotten. That has been well articulated by those members who represent fire-affected communities. I thank them and call on the Government to keep doing what it is doing, but perhaps accelerate the pace.
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