Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:29): I would like to acknowledge the contribution by the member for Kavel in the Address in Reply and not just his contribution here today but the contribution he made alongside people in his electorate and from outside of the electorate who assisted during the fire and with the aftermath, especially the Cudlee Creek fire, and also the many people who assisted with the fires right across this state.
I want to reflect on the Keilira and Bunbury fires in the South-East, which I think were about 150,000 acres between them; the Yorketown fire and Kangaroo Island fires, which were well over 500,000 acres; and, obviously, the Cudlee Creek fire, with thousands of hectares from across Morialta, Kavel and Hammond, which created devastation across the landscape. I want to acknowledge some of the earliest comments in His Excellency the Governor, Hieu Van Le's speech acknowledging the impact of the fires. To quote his words:
We think particularly of those who have lost their lives, including those who came from overseas to help us.
We acknowledge Ron Selth and Dick and Clayton Lang. Ron was from the Hills and, sadly, Dick and Clayton lost their lives on Kangaroo Island. We also want to acknowledge volunteer firefighters and others from right around the country who lost their lives in the face of this fury. It is too difficult to comprehend how big this fireground is not just in this state but around the country as well. I wish John Glatz a very speedy recovery from his severe burns. Those are just a few names of locals who have been mentioned, but I also want to acknowledge the assistance we had from the United States pilots who came out here.
Sadly, three aircrew from the United States lost their lives. They came out to Australia because they recognised the contribution that Australian firefighters have made in their country over time. It also reflects on the interaction between our interstate fire services and volunteer fire services, whether it is the Rural Fire Service in New South Wales, the Country Fire Authority in Victoria or the Country Fire Service here in South Australia. I acknowledge that at times, even though New South Wales had massive fires, here in South Australia we were able to access a 737 tanker, the big air attack plane. There has been a great sense of cooperation across the services.
I would also like to acknowledge all the people right across the state—and the nation, to be frank—with farm fire units. Farm fire units do a great deal working alongside the official fire services, the Country Fire Service and the Metropolitan Fire Service, which I will reflect on a bit more later on in my contribution.
Another fire I should have mentioned in my list was the Carcuma fire, at the back of Geranium and Coonalpyn, which is almost a forgotten fire, and there was another one just out the back of Coonalpyn. There have been a few questions on how it started, but we will let people come up with that later on. It did get into some hay sheds and local properties.
My brother lives at Coonalpyn on a property working for the Ashby family. He had 800 young ram lambs to make sure he got through, and he did. I had a chat with him after they had been fighting this fire alongside the CFS down the back of Carcuma for about five days, and I said, 'Look, I'll come down and give a hand.' So I grabbed my other brother and we went down with our private unit, working alongside other private units and Country Fire Service units locally as well as from Glossop, from the Riverland, who were also there.
It was mainly in heritage scrub and some parkland. I will talk about this further in the bushfire motion, but we really need to make some real changes in how we manage our parks and our heritage scrub into the future, as well as native vegetation along roadsides. It will not be impossible to stop fires but it might help with more burn-offs, more cold burns.
I would like to salute everyone involved. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to serve alongside other Country Fire Service members on Kangaroo Island in a five-day swing in mid-January. Doing that, you witness all the agencies, not just, obviously, the Country Fire Service. The Metropolitan Fire Service was there in many numbers, farmers were out doing their bit with their farm fire units, and then there were all the agencies underneath it. The State Emergency Service and the Salvation Army were there. They were telling me they would rise at 5am and not go to bed until midnight. They kept everyone fed and watered.
I witnessed the contribution of our military forces, mainly Army, on the island. There were hundreds of reservists, but I was talking to a regular soldier in Parndana one day—300 regulars had come down from Darwin to assist with fighting the fires and with the recovery—and it was a very interesting conversation I had with this gentleman. He said, 'You know, before we pack up at Christmas we set kits aside for flood or cyclone, but we've never done it for fire before. We might have a rethink into the future.'
There are many other services I have probably missed but, to everyone who has rotated, whether it be in the Cudlee Creek fire, the fires in the South-East or the fires on Yorke Peninsula, the best thing we can say is just, 'Thank you. Thank you so much.' Sometimes in these situations you see a lot of bureaucracy, but I did not witness that this time on Kangaroo Island. People could go out and keep operating.
Essentially, we were in mop-up phase by then, but things did keep flaring up. I note that in this instance the Salvos served 460 meals in one night, and that just goes to show the amount of work that went on. They were working alongside Army cooks to supply all that food and drink to keep everyone going in the field.
There were a whole lot of things done around the place. There were professional people assisting in the Hills getting rid of trees that had fallen down or that were at risk of falling down. I witnessed at Vivonne Bay on Kangaroo Island—and you do not see this very often, for obvious reasons, because it is illegal to do it anymore—that a whole roadside had been chained down with scrub chains and dozers as a firebreak, just to try to take the cap out of the fire if it got that far.
When you think about it, 210,000 hectares or over 500,000 acres is huge. In fact, I took some people up through the Cudlee Creek fire area when we went to the Harrogate recovery meeting to talk to the locals and work with Alex Zimmerman and the member for Kavel and others on getting the message on recovery out. I said, 'Look, the Cudlee Creek fire is big, but it pales into insignificance alongside what has happened on Kangaroo Island.' That is only as far as size goes; obviously there was a lot of loss in the Cudlee Creek fire.
Many houses were lost. People on the fireground that day were trying to get in front of the fire on The Glen Road at Harrogate and they said, 'We had to bypass places because there was no point pulling up because the fire was racing us.' They did all they could to save what buildings they could. It was just amazing to see how many houses, mainly, were saved. A lot of sheds were saved, but I know that a lot of houses and sheds were lost. If no-one has been to the town of Harrogate, it is well worth a look because it is close to a miracle that the actual town was saved. It is black right around the perimeter—totally burnt, despite the efforts of the CFS. A lot of the CFS personnel that day were from my electorate—not that it matters, but I just make that point.
What a fantastic effort by all the volunteers, whether they were Country Fire Service, the State Emergency Service, the Salvos or myriad others, in assisting and still assisting, whether it is cooking a few meals, baking a few cakes or whatever it is. It makes you really proud to be an Australian and a South Australian, obviously in this state, to see what has gone on, and we must also recognise the assistance that has gone on around the country.
Thankfully, we have had some rain, but we are a long way from recovery, as the member for Kavel has indicated. There are supports in place from the government, but that does not take away the shock of losing all your possessions or shooting thousands of stock. I want to acknowledge PIRSA for getting right on board in supporting us. Shooting stock is just the reality. I know one property owner on Kangaroo Island had to shoot 8,000 sheep. To PIRSA's credit—and I do not want this to sound macabre—they supplied a lot of ammunition, because it is necessary in these times.
I also want to acknowledge vets and others who have had to do this terrible work, especially those putting down their own stock; there is no joy in it. But when animals are burnt beyond repair you do have to get on board. I wish everyone a very speedy recovery—as speedy as it can be. I know the government, through a whole range of agencies—whether it be through Housing, Primary Industries or emergency services—are there working alongside everyone to get people back on their feet as soon as possible.
I want to reflect on some other items in the Governor's speech and talk about what our government is doing and what we are looking forward to doing into the future. The cost to families and businesses is being lowered, more jobs are being created and there is a continuing focus on providing better services. We are going to look at reintroducing legislation around extending shop trading hours in the Greater Adelaide shopping district and proclaimed shopping districts. We are still looking at capping local government council rates and permanently lifting the prohibition on growing genetically modified crops in all areas of the state except Kangaroo Island.
I know some people in this house do not agree with the lifting of the ban on growing genetically modified crops, but I know that a lot of people in this house do support it. From our side of the house, all we are saying is: give people the choice. They do not have to grow, and Kangaroo Island will be exempt anyway.
Other things that are being done include a fully funded pipeline of infrastructure works worth $12.9 billion over four years. Many hundreds of millions, in fact, billions of dollars are being spent on the north-south connector, but we are also putting much-needed funding into regional roads—over 1,000 kilometres of roads to get them up to speed. We have eight roads on our list to get back up to a 110 km/h speed limit. Some of those roads require tens of millions of dollars, including the Browns Well Highway between Pinnaroo and Loxton, and the Ngarkat Highway, which stretches into the member for MacKillop's electorate between Pinnaroo and Bordertown, apart from others around the state.
Some people argue that only a few hundred vehicles a day travel on some of these roads, but they are valuable connectors for industry in our electorates, especially in the agriculture sector. I note that 80 per cent of the country's potatoes, apart from other horticulture, are grown in my electorate, and these connections and vital outlets are needed right around the country. Some of the things that this Marshall Liberal government has achieved in the first couple of years include:
payroll tax to small businesses has been abolished;
emergency services levy bills have been significantly reduced;
lower water costs from July; and
land tax reforms will benefit 92 per cent of smaller investors and 75 per cent of company groups.
We are also looking at further cost relief, including:
electricity bills for households;
reductions in compulsory third party insurance premiums;
doubling the value of sports vouchers for primary school-age children; and
free screening checks for volunteers.
Certainly one of the major projects that I believe is absolutely vital in this state and that we are promoting heavily on this side of the house—and I know the other side used to promote it until they decided to have a change of heart—is the interconnector to New South Wales. There is no more serious time to get that interconnector into gear, that multibillion dollar project, so that we can connect to power stations in New South Wales. Obviously, some of that will be coal fired, but we can also use our solar and wind generation.
When the sun is up and the wind is blowing and we have plenty of power, we can transmit that power and export it to New South Wales. As I said, it is important at the moment because of issues with the Heywood interconnector, the main interconnector for South Australia through to Victoria—there is another smaller interconnector through the Riverland—and it just goes to show that we cannot be isolated. I applaud this project and may we soon get on board and get going.
The Liberal government are promoting a growth state. We have opportunities in defence, space, energy and minerals, food, wine and agribusiness, international education—which is a huge one in this state—tourism, high tech, health and medical industries, and creative industries. There is so much that this state has to offer.
I want to reiterate some of the other commentaries around the speech and some of the assistance that is given to families, especially in light of these fires. I mentioned briefly earlier about providing tax relief by waiving fees and charges and by the commonwealth allocating funding to support recovery and rebuilding. Some of these are grants of $10,000 to individuals or up to $75,000 to farmers. Alongside this, and prior to the fires, assisting farmers and families suffering from drought and other challenges, is a dedicated drought support program with the injection of $21 million. Also in the agriculture sector, we have put $7.5 million aside to promote and do work around the red meat and wool sectors.
The government has fired up the Adelaide Desalination Plant to capacity, probably a temporary measure, I believe, to offset some of the angst around what has happened in the drought. There has been some really poor discussion from some areas in regard to what should or should not be done with the River Murray, but I note our commitment to the basin plan and also the commitment that is shared by both sides in this house not to build a weir at Wellington. I would like to have hoped that that discussion had been killed off between 2006 and 2010, but some people think they will raise that.
A river dies from the bottom up, and I have said that multiple times in this place. If that is what people think they can do, they will just keep putting in the north wall further up the river. It is interesting with river communities that you find some people complain about people taking river, generally north of them. Anything that goes past their gate is wasted in their summation, but that is not the case. You need to have a healthy, flowing river and I am so pleased that our government is playing an active role in getting water into the system and supporting the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
I note as part of the legislative framework for our government that the state's pastoral land laws will be repealed and rewritten to support the production of livestock and the growth of the pastoral industry, which is absolutely vital for this state, and to complete the legislation around increasing penalties for those trespassing on agricultural land with the intention of interfering and disrupting the normal activities of our farmers and food processers. That legislation will be completed in this parliament so that we can give more protection to our farmers against people who I think, quite frankly, are ill informed and would be better off spending their time seeing how well the technology that farmers are using these days produces that valuable food and fibre that we need to assist our state and our country.
I also recognise the rebuilding of 1,600 kilometres of the dog fence with the $25 million plan, working alongside the federal government, state government and funds levied from sheep. This is absolutely vital to protect not just our pastoral lands but the lands further south. You only need to talk to people who have wild dog sightings as close as the Riverland and sometimes in the lower north to know that these fence repairs are absolutely vital for the whole livestock industry. Obviously, this is a major rebuild for most of the fence on the South Australian side.
I have already talked about the fast-tracked establishment of the electricity interconnector and that it is absolutely vital for our surety of electricity generation into the future. Seven reservoirs will be opened up to provide further recreation opportunities and to deliver economic benefits for local communities and our regions. I think that is a great initiative, and I saw all the media event around opening up the Warren Reservoir on the way to Gawler. That was well done, with a heap of people in kayaks and minister Speirs up there launching it.
A massive piece of legislation we passed in the last session was the Landscape South Australia Act. This just shows our priority as a government for the management of natural resources and how that will be decentralised decision-making and back-to-basics land management. I know that some people do not like the criticism, but natural resources management turned into quite a bureaucratic nightmare and seemed to have lost its way.
It would not matter which government was in place, as I think that, sadly, it is just the nature of the beast and the nature of the legislation that was passed in 2004. I can say this with, I hope, a little bit of credibility, because my wife is an environmental scientist and used to work in this field. So many times they had to do reviews and reviews—three-year reviews, five-year reviews. It seemed that so much work was done on doing reviews. Let us hope that more time can be spent now getting better outcomes on the ground.
I also want to note that for more than 40 years we have been recognised in this state as our nation's leader in waste management and resource recovery. The container deposit scheme is a fantastic initiative which I believe is rolling out right across—I think Victoria made an announcement only the other day of it coming in there fairly soon, if it has not already. It has been rolled out over much of this country. I noted, when we raised it from 5¢ a container to 10¢, all my bales and drums of bottles doubled overnight in value, which was fantastic—
Mr McBride interjecting:
Mr PEDERICK: A big windfall. It takes a long time to fill them up, member for MacKillop; it takes many years. I think it does help to keep the litter stream to a minimum. You have seen over the years, when you travel interstate, the difference in the roadside with litter, etc. During this session, we will introduce comprehensive legislation to reform our local government sector, to help reduce red tape costs and to improve member conduct and public confidence in our councils.
I just want to reflect very briefly on the Coorong council and my good friend, the new mayor, Paul Simmons. There had been some issues there. I met the new chief executive officer the other day, and I was impressed with her within about 30 seconds. They say first impressions count, and first impressions certainly counted there. There is a bit of tidying up to do, but Paul and Bridget will be the people to do the job.
Also with this government we are looking at a new planning system—and I note that some of that work came before me when I was on the Environment, Resources and Development Committee—to try to streamline planning issues across the state.
As announced in the Governor's speech we are completing the regulations required to support implementation of the legislation passed last year to modernise our mining laws. I certainly believe that we did make some very good progress in relation to mining laws and the relation to land access. Not everyone will agree, but that is up to them, but it certainly was an improvement from decades-old legislation in how we go about accessing those minerals, which do make up, as does agriculture, a vital part of our income for this state.
Also, in relation to education, by mid-2020 our schools will have the best internet connection in the nation when our government completes its partnership with Telstra to deliver internet infrastructure. Another item which was put in the Governor's speech and which I think is a fantastic thing moving forward, because it has taken a long time to get some recognition is medicinal cannabis. I think we have been a bit slow off the mark here. Yes, we have legislation on how people can access it, but it is difficult. A pilot program will be put in place to assist the treatment of epilepsy in children, and that will be established to trial medicinal cannabis. From everything I have heard anecdotally, I think that will be a fantastic initiative.
Sports change rooms, family—friendly facilities, catering for both male and female teams, will be built and expanded. Also noting that there have been many of these lost around the state, clubs whose facilities have been damaged by the recent bushfires will receive grants to kickstart the rebuilding process.
I also want to acknowledge that we appointed our state's first Assistant Minister for Domestic and Family Violence Prevention, the member for Elder, Carolyn Power, working alongside the Hon. Michelle Lensink in this vital work in our state, delivering a strong focus on delivering a range of policy initiatives, with Murray Bridge being one of the regional safety hubs.
I commend the Governor for his speech. I again want to acknowledge everyone, and those from the Metropolitan Fire Service as well, who assisted the many thousands of volunteers who have rotated right across this state to protect our loved ones and our infrastructure and who are assisting in the recovery process into the future.