Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (12:38): I move:
That this house—
(a) recognises that 13 October is International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction;
(b) acknowledges that this day aims to promote a global culture of disaster reduction and preparedness;
(c) expresses its appreciation to all professional and volunteer emergency services workers who protect communities across our state;
(d) commends the Marshall Liberal government for investing $80 million to establish a new multipurpose State Control Centre at Keswick for South Australia's emergency services headquarters; and
(e) urges the state Labor government to work collaboratively with our emergency services to ensure their work is supported and they are adequately resourced.
The International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction was first recognised in 1989 after a call by the United Nations General Assembly for there to be a day to promote a global culture of risk awareness and disaster reduction. Each year, this day celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of reining in the risks they face.
In Australia, the National Resilience Taskforce has led an interactive process about what makes Australia vulnerable to disasters, including analysing its exposure to systemic risk: the best defence against systemic risk is to transform systems to make them more resilient. Australia, as we know, experiences many significant natural disasters, whether that be in the form of droughts, floods (as we are seeing across the country at the moment, including here in South Australia), storms or our annual fire danger season.
Heading into the 2022-23 fire danger season, this day serves as a timely reminder for people to take a moment to think about how they can reduce the risk of a disaster occurring. Our State Emergency Service (the SES), the Country Fire Service (the CFS) and the Metropolitan Fire Service (the MFS) personnel do their absolute best to assist the community in preparing for natural disasters, and this was bolstered by the Marshall Liberal government's investment in the new multipurpose State Control Centre.
The state-of-the-art facility has given the senior leadership teams of our emergency services the ability to work together under the one roof, which was not, and had never been, an option prior to the Marshall Liberal government's $80 million investment. It is home to more than 300 personnel from all of the organisations: the Country Fire Service, the Metropolitan Fire Service, the State Emergency Service and SAFECOM. The earthquake-resistant building features a self-sufficient power source so that staff and volunteers can continue their crucial work for up to 48 hours without worrying about going offline.
South Australia's State Emergency Service does a tremendous job in keeping our community safe from and informed about the disasters that occur in our state. The SES has approximately 1,600 volunteers across 73 units in South Australia, who provide emergency assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Volunteers are supported by a team of full-time staff, and together they respond to thousands of calls each year, including extreme weather events, road accidents and marine rescues. The SES also assists the CFS during major bushfires and supports South Australia Police in land search operations and traffic management.
I note that last year we launched a new rescue boat for the SES in Murray Bridge, the Mulyawonk, and this Saturday, along with the emergency services minister, we will be opening the new SES headquarters that the Marshall Liberal government instigated in Strathalbyn in my electorate. It will be a very proud moment to support those personnel in that part of the Fleurieu for the great work they do supporting that area and local community.
Meanwhile, our dedicated MFS and CFS personnel are always at the forefront during the fire danger season. They also attend numerous other incidents throughout the year. Our fire services have a combined workforce of roughly 14,700 personnel around the state, ready to assist at a moment's notice, with the majority of those being volunteers—in fact, over 13,000 of those are volunteers in the Country Fire Service.
The other key organisation in South Australia's State Emergency Management Plan is the St John Ambulance service. They are the key first aid providers and are always ready to provide support to the aforementioned emergency services during times of bushfires, floods, extreme weather events and unprecedented events like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The emergency services across our state do a magnificent job and they have been called upon so many times, especially in the last three or four years, to major events right across the state, whether it be the Cudlee Creek fire that impacted many electorates, and certainly part of my electorate around Harrogate and edging into the Rockleigh area, and throughout the Hills, or the Kangaroo Island fire, which was a major fire, burning hundreds of thousands of hectares and taking out a large portion of the island. Both fires were frightening and terrible events.
People need to do what they can to mitigate fire issues around their properties. We have seen other fires in the past, for example the Pinery fire that essentially started up near Balaklava and, with wall to wall crops all the way through to Gawler, that fire almost reached the township of Gawler. I must commend all our personnel and also our contract plane operators, such as Aerotech, who do such a marvellous job bringing water bombers in to assist our forces on the ground. In the end, fires are only beaten by the forces on the ground, but it involves a multiple use of all the assets you can use, the planes and the helicopters, and I note that they have some new helicopters now. It really is a concerted effort.
I mentioned the Kangaroo Island fire, and as a CFS volunteer I was privileged to go over and assist in the mopping up of that fire. I saw the concerted efforts of many CFS personnel and worked alongside the Metropolitan Fire Service, which had quite a few vehicles there. The MFS also had a crew there and their main job was trying to keep the trucks going. You can imagine with such a big event that there were trucks with blown motors, gearboxes, differentials, and a whole range of things going wrong. That vital service was absolutely essential to keep as much of the fleet going as possible.
It certainly was good to see the community of firefighters across this state, whether they were metro units or Country Fire Service units, shipped across to the island to combat that fire. They came from right across the state, and certainly from right across the Murraylands in my electorate, and it was done in a strategic way so that brigades at home were not left without capability. Even Coomandook Country Fire Service has three trucks. We have a three-four and a four-four and also a bulk water carrier in our midst.
So there are plenty of communities with fire brigades like that that could have offset, and did offset, one vehicle to go down to Kangaroo Island. Cudlee Creek was certainly a major fire throughout the Hills, and I think it exemplified some of the issues, as did other fires around the state, concerning the fact that volunteers and Metropolitan Fire Service people cannot be everywhere all the time, especially when you have fires of such scale.
It is pleasing to see that people have realised that they do need to have a farm firefighting unit. Some of these people are on smaller properties, hobby farms or whatever you like to call them. It is good to see that even commercial builders of firefighting units are putting together basic trailers, using a 1,000-litre shuttle with a little pump. Sometimes it is called a rip-off of a Honda pump, a 'Chonda' pump, but it does not matter so long as it works. I have a Honda pump on mine because I trust them implicitly, and they are good.
Everyone with a reasonably sized property, even of a few acres, needs to have something so that they can be resilient in the first instance if they are still there looking after their property. Some people said to me after the Cudlee Creek fire, 'There were tunnels of fire and we were at home. We were deciding whether to stay or go and there were tunnels of fire in the tree lines down the side of the road.' I said, 'Well, if it gets to that, you've got to be prepared to stay at home because the risk of getting out on a road with burning limbs, burning bush on the road restricting your access and potentially being a life-threatening situation is far too high.'
Disaster risk reduction is something that people need to do, but they have to be vigilant right now as we head into the fire season. We have had a very wet couple of months and it does not look like letting up anytime soon. We have a massive grain harvest—probably the biggest in the state's history—just starting to come in. The crops are really starting to ripen in areas where they were getting close to ripen, but now with the extra rain the barley is becoming really golden, getting ready to ripen up, get harvested and come into the bin.
Alongside that, there are a lot of roadsides, a lot of vegetation around properties. I am not home as often as I would like and I have proved that a zero-turn mower can cut some pretty tall stuff. You might have to go over a couple of times, but it is certainly a good idea not just for fire reduction but to make sure you do not have too many brown snakes crawling up your back door. They just bask on my lawn, usually.
People need to be aware, and if you cannot control the growth around your property, seek some assistance from friends and family or a neighbour. Perhaps your local council may be able to assist because it may be the one thing that not only saves your house and your property but might just save your life.
I have seen what happens when we have gone out to fires. There have been fires right across the state, as other members will say, but in the Yumali-Netherton fire my brother got a burnt hand, but that was nothing compared to another guy who ended up having to wear one of those pressure suits because he got caught and was burnt. It is a terrible thing to happen. Thankfully, he is making a very good recovery, and certainly great thanks go to the burns unit in the Royal Adelaide Hospital. They do magnificent work if someone does get caught out in a fire front. They have assisted many people over the years.
I would also just briefly like to commend what we did as a government under the Marshall Liberal government in setting up the new state-of-the-art building for all our emergency services, the $80 million building, which gives better coordination of these disasters when they do happen. It is not a matter of if, it is when they do. It is not just fires but also when we have great storms, when we have trees across the road, as we see now, with the potential for flooding through the Riverland coming through the Mid Murray, coming down to the Murray Bridge region and then flowing past through to Wellington and then the lakes.
As has been said by many people, one thing is certain: it is a good time to go up the river to see what can happen virtually under natural conditions with the locks flat out open, just letting her go. It is a great thing to see so long as the communities are safe. I commend the motion and I commend all our people in the emergency services field.