FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES (GOVERNANCE) AMENDMENT BILL (1)

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (16:17): I rise to resume my contribution to the Fire and Emergency Services (Governance) Amendment Bill. Previously, I was quoting the vital assistance of CFS volunteers and people with private units in combatting bushfires, and I now want to go to more detail on the bill.

Following the devastation of 2019-20 bushfire season in this state, our state government commissioned an independent review to identify how South Australia's response to bushfires can be improved. The independent review found that the response from our emergency services sector was remarkable. However, 68 findings and 15 recommendations were made as to how South Australia's emergency services capabilities could be improved.

To align the SAFECOM board operations with accepted governance standards, the independent review recommended that the state government consider amending the Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005 to enable the Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services to appoint an independent chair to the SAFECOM board. Pursuant to section 11 of the act, the presiding member of the SAFECOM board is currently the Chief Executive of SAFECOM.

In its response to the independent review, our government accepted this recommendation and there was also broad stakeholder and sector support to appoint an independent chair, including from the current SAFECOM board, the CFS Volunteer Association, the SES Volunteer Association and the United Firefighters Union. Funding of $60,000 per annum indexed was included in the 2020-21 state budget for the appointment of an independent chair. In line with the government response to the independent review, this bill also proposes to enable the Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services to table reports from the State Bushfire Coordination Committee in the state parliament.

In relation to the independent review, building on our $48.5 million package released earlier, the Marshall Liberal government has delivered a further $49 million package to ensure that South Australia is as prepared as possible for bushfire emergencies. We only have to look at the last two summers to see the terrible havoc wreaked across this state from one end to the other.

The conditions that gripped the state in the 2019-20 bushfire season were some of the worst on record. The government has responded with a $97.5 million package to keep South Australians safe. We are investing nearly $100 million so that our emergency services staff and volunteers have the resources and support they need to protect lives and property. Importantly, we are boosting support for CFS volunteers by employing nine additional regional staff to reduce the administrative burden on volunteers. I think this is vital for volunteers throughout the community.

I know for a fact that administrative work can be an issue for some volunteers, and even some captains of brigades, who are just keen to fight the fires and not deal with the administrative burden. It all has to be done. There is a certain amount of administration, obviously, that has to be done: who is on the truck, who attends the scene, etc. However, it does put extra strain on volunteers who are making valiant efforts to serve and save their communities.

We know that emergency services staff and volunteers experience some of the most extreme and distressing circumstances, so we are increasing mental health support by employing an additional professionally qualified counsellor. This is vitally important, especially for brigades in my area—Tailem Bend or Coonalpyn, just down the road from Hammond—and road crash rescue on the Dukes Highway. They see some horrific scenes of carnage when severe accidents happen. I know for a fact that some members have had to take a year off just to rest their mind and get away from the terrible devastation they witness on our roads.

Key elements of our response include $5 million for automatic vehicle location (AVL) technology, which has been successfully trialled this summer; $7.2 million for new CFS appliances, including 25 new trucks for the 2020-21 bushfire season; and $2.7 million to retrofit 49 CFS vehicles with burnover protection. Burnover protection is absolutely vital in fighting fires and it is part of our training every year. Before you get on a truck you need to do your burnover drill so that you can survive a burnover; they can happen at any time. The trucks are fitted with Halo sprinkler systems, blinds on the inside and oxygen tanks and masks to keep you going in the event of a burnover, which would be one of the most horrifying things that firefighters can face.

There is also a rollout of thermal imaging cameras to all 55 CFS groups and $11.5 million for new Metropolitan Fire Service heavy appliances. There is $4.7 million for nine additional regional full-time equivalents, including the first permanent CFS staffing presence on Kangaroo Island. There is also $4 million to upgrade state incident management facilities and continue Project Renew, which is the upgrading of CFS stations so that CFS volunteers have modern and functional facilities. I note that Tailem Bend is up and going; it is a new facility in my electorate.

There is also $2.1 million allocated for four extra FTEs to provide more support to the State Bushfire Coordination Committee and funding for an additional counsellor to support the mental health and wellbeing of volunteers. Vitally important in regard to our preparedness for fighting fires is $37 million for increased hazard reduction, including prescribed burns on public and private land. We have had both a federal review and a state review into firefighting in this state, and there have been some excellent recommendations in terms of moving forward.

I would like to acknowledge Moore Engineering and their work in my electorate. They are based in Murray Bridge and have about 25 employees. Whether it is CFS or MFS trucks or forest firefighting trucks, they either build or repair the trucks, and obviously there has been a lot of repair work having to be done with the amount of fire work that has happened in recent times—

The Hon. V.A. Chapman interjecting:

Mr PEDERICK: Or modify, absolutely; modify trucks—and some trucks come in heavily modified, and they have to be modified back to something resembling a firefighting unit when their mirrors have all melted and other carnage has happened to them.

I commend this legislation. It is definitely a step in the right direction. Let's see it roll out and let's hope we have no fires next fire season.