Economic and Finance Committee: Emergency Services Levy 2018-19

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:46): I rise to support this motion in regard to the first report into the emergency services levy 2018-19, moved by the member for Waite. I would like to acknowledge the amazing work of our volunteers and what they do right across the state in no matter what role they play, whether it is with emergency services or not. The simple fact is that without the many hundreds of thousands of volunteers in this state, the state could not function, and we would never have the ability to adequately pay for these volunteers on a wage basis.

What happens with the emergency services levy as far as our emergency services—and, sure, there are some professional operations here. We have the police, the Metropolitan Fire Service and obviously the State Emergency Service and the Country Fire Service, of which I am a member with the Coomandook brigade. There are many thousands of volunteers who do great work in these services for our state. There has been some discussion about fire stations in some of the contributions and it is interesting how convoluted the story can get in just getting a fire station. A lot of it can be around Crown land and native title access and all that kind of thing.

At Coonalpyn, when I was there with the member for MacKillop when that was opened in the last few years, it was a brand-new station with multiple bays. Coonalpyn is just outside my electorate, only by a few kilometres, mind you, so some of the people who volunteer there come from the seat of Hammond. These volunteers attend road crash rescues, as do Murray Bridge brigade members and those from Tailem Bend, and some of the atrocities that these people have to witness just as part of their job as volunteers would make you wince if you knew even the half of it.

I know for a fact that some volunteers just take a year out because when you are a volunteer or in the professional services and you are on a main road like we are on the Dukes Highway to Melbourne, sadly, we have those road trauma incidents and people see horrifying injuries and the impacts of road crashes that cause a terrible death to some people. I applaud our volunteers who are on call at any hour of the day and night.

The Hon. D.C. van Holst Pellekaan: Hear, hear!

Mr PEDERICK: Absolutely! It is good to see that Coonalpyn, after a bit of toing and froing, finally sorted through where they could have their new station, and it is working well.

Another one that had a litany of errors getting up was the fire station at Rockleigh. Sadly, in recent years Rockleigh has had multiple fires. It was serviced by three electorates, Hammond, Kavel and Schubert, and Hammond has made a takeover now with the new redistribution and I am very pleased to represent the good people of Rockleigh.

Rockleigh is a bit like its name: it is a place where getting around in any vehicle on some of the paddocks can just tear tyres and vehicles apart. With one of the most recent fires at Rockleigh at least 100 tyres were destroyed by CFS vehicles, and they were basically ratting tyres from other vehicles sometimes just to keep going; it is tough country. There are some lifestyle blocks in there, but it is good country for people to live in.

However, the Rockleigh Fire Station proposal was a long time coming. There were many years of bureaucracy and red tape. I must admit that I wrote multiple letters to the previous Labor government, and I will commend the now Leader of the Opposition, the member for Croydon, for bringing the answer to one letter up to my office in this place. I did not see another minister from the other side do that when they were in government. The letter was regarding Rockleigh and the simple fact that they were about on the verge of securing the land but they had not done the Crown land clearances, and they realised this at I think the 11½th hour. That ended up in the Federal Court, which was ridiculous, because the work had not been done in the background to make sure that all the clearances were in place.

I am pleased to say that I was present the other day when the Rockleigh Fire Station was opened by Greg Nettleton, the Chief Officer of the Country Fire Service. We have had a few earth tremors lately, and what I learnt that day was that that is probably the safest building to be in. Just get the truck out of the shed and get in the CFS shed at Rockleigh. I think it is the soundest building in the district by a long way, so obviously we are building these buildings to a very high standard and that would be the place to be.

Thankfully, for the good volunteers at Rockleigh, they finally have a shed and equipment does not have to be stored in the neighbour's shearing shed anymore. They can put their firetruck in and they have an operations room and a radio room, and the other volunteers that back up at Rockleigh, the Rockleigh support group, have somewhere to be based as well. They have had some terrible fires there in recent times. The CFS, which is funded by this levy, and the air support manage to limit built losses in a significant way. Sadly, one home was lost, but I was just amazed when I drove through the area after the last big fire that it was only one. It shows the dedication of our volunteers and our aerial firefighting team working in tough conditions.

We are seeing more stations being upgraded by our government, the Marshall Liberal government. There are six new stations to be built, with a couple in the South-East and a couple in other places. Tailem Bend will get a new station as well, and that is obviously quite vital with the growth in the region, not just with The Bend Motorsport Park but with a lot of the agricultural industry investments happening in the region. We are getting a solar farm built out there as well. I am pleased that those investments are coming into the electorate.

I note that my station at Coomandook is combined with Ki Ki and between those two stations they run a four-four truck and a three-four and a 9,000-litre tanker, so they are well served to battle bushfires. When the big fires happen, you see volunteers not just from around the state but from interstate come our way to help out.

I have been involved, since I have been in this place, with several fires, including one at Sedan, and going over to help clean up and put out a lot of the aftermath of the big onslaught on Kangaroo Island in 2007. Before that time, I had never seen a truck that had got so hot that the mirrors had melted off. It is a credit to the facilities we have to keep our crews safe in these trucks.

None of this would be happening, and we would not have the support for those volunteer firefighters, without the emergency services levy in place. The beauty of it is, as has been mentioned by other speakers, that the remission noted in this report is $90 million a year going back to the good people of South Australia, on average $145 a household, because some of these increases were crippling households, crippling farmers.

We are good on our promise, as we have said all along with all of our commitments—our 300-odd commitments that we made before the election as a Marshall Liberal team—and we have delivered already on the first $90 million of a $360 million rollout of remissions in the ESL levy, putting that much-needed money back into the hands of the good people of South Australia. I commend all our people and our services, whether professional or volunteer and commend your service.