Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:40): I rise to make a contribution to the Statutes Amendment (Budget Measures) Bill, and I wish to indicate that I am not the lead speaker. The one thing I am very interested in is the amendment in regard to the Emergency Services Funding Act 1998 and the definition of 'emergency service'. It is about deleting the section that is:
(v) a body or organisation that is a member of Volunteer Marine Rescue S.A. Incorporated—
and substituting it with—(v) a body or organisation accredited as a Volunteer Marine Rescue organisation by the State Marine Rescue Committee…
I certainly think this is quite relevant in the fact that we certainly need all the assistance we can with our emergency services. It is great to see some volunteer organisations get on board alongside our Metropolitan Fire Service, our Country Fire Service, our State Emergency Service, our surf lifesavers and others who do so much to protect life and property around our state and who also do work interstate and overseas when called upon.
I want to talk about a group at Milang that wrote to me. They formed the Milang Marine Search and Rescue Squadron. Obviously, Milang is on the banks of Lake Alexandrina. It has been a great pleasure to look after Milang for most of my career, but with the redistribution it is being well looked after by the member for Finniss. I want to go through what that group wrote to me, which I put forward to the minister, and I quote:
My name is Jordan McAnaney, I am the captain of the search and rescue vessel Freemason as part of the recently formed Milang Marine Search and Rescue Squadron, located at Milang on the banks of Lake Alexandrina. The Squadron consists of local volunteers all of which live near and share a passion for the lower lakes. Plus, a huge amount of community following and support. The Squadron was formed after a gracious donation from Masonic Charities which gave us the opportunity to purchase one of the most capable boats on the lower lakes, equipped with some of the most advanced, state-of-the-art rescue technology, along with a shed in which to store it.
and I stress all private funding—
and many hours of skilled volunteer labour and effort has got us to our current position, but we are now seeking some assistance with funding to continue this ever-important service. Our Squadron has no fixed income and to date we have relied on fundraising along with financial help from the local yacht club in order to keep fuel in the boat.
Volunteers have been trying their best to raise money by cutting firewood, raffles and partnering with local wineries to sell their produce just so that we can keep our volunteer service running and our 'boat afloat'.
To date, we have responded to over 20 requests for assistance along with being 'on-station' for on water events at Milang, Clayton Bay, Goolwa and Meningie. Our training sessions have our volunteers covering almost every corner of Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert. Lake Alexandrina alone covers 64,900 Ha yet we are the only rescue boat on the entire lake. The members of the Squadron, including myself are passionate about Lake Alexandrina and every member has spent ample time on, and in the lower lakes all of which are no stranger to her unforgiving nature. I am currently unaware of the total lives lost within the lower lakes, but should you speak with older generations that have long inhabited the banks of these lakes you would be told there should have been a rescue boat on Lake Alexandrina years ago, many lives would have been saved. With the last life lost recently in the summer of 2020/21.
'Lake Alexandrina is the finest sheet of fresh water I ever saw. Indeed, so formidable did it look, with a stiff wind blowing up quite a sufficient swell to make one seasick' (Edward Wilson, 1850). It has been well documented that the lake is a truly formidable body of water and yet until now there has been no rescue boat based on its shores.
I am writing to ask for your help for our charity in hope you can offer as much support as our service deserves. Our goal is to raise enough money to install toilets and showers within our facility so that our volunteers can be properly catered for. Having amenities would also mean we can hire our facility out to the community and host fundraising events for ourselves to generate some income. There are future possibilities for the Squadron to hire out our facility to the community, along with school camps etc as a place for water activities with an obvious emphasis on safety. Yet, we do not have a toilet facility and therefore are in no position to do so.
As Captain of the vessel, I couldn't be prouder of the crew we have put together so far, and I have absolute confidence in each member of the Squadron on the water. But the things that concern me are the lack of funding for adequate First Aid training along with furthering their skills and accreditations in marine operations/radio communications needed in an emergency and that when the day comes that we are not quite quick enough that my crew will have access to any support they need courtesy of the Squadron they volunteer their time to. To add to this there is also the maintenance and running costs of our vessel. I, along with many others, believe that this service is essential to the safety of our lower lakes and that our community has an outstanding capacity to save lives and ensure the safety of our fellows on the lake, what we need is funding just as any emergency service needs from the government.
I would like to extend an invitation for you to visit our facility to meet with myself and our Squadron Commodore, Master 5 Chris Francis, along with current volunteers to show you the work that we have put in so far in hope you help us progress from the point we have already reached. Please make contact via return email or contact me on [the phone number], I look forward to hearing from you and hope we can have a chance to discuss our situation further.
It was with much pleasure that one day I ventured down to Milang and joined the member for Finniss on this mighty rescue vehicle donated by the masonic society, and I acknowledge the Freemasons for their generous donation. I believe it would have been in the capacity of somewhere around $300,000—a very, very generous donation and certainly a quite needed vessel and community emergency centre being established there in Milang. Yes, the lakes can look quite safe, but they are huge expanses of water, especially Lake Alexandrina with 64,900 hectares on its own. Too many times we have seen lives lost or put at risk because people, unknowingly, think it is just a gentle piece of water and, next thing, the weather blows up and all hell breaks loose.
We went out for a cruise on the boat, and I was very privileged to utilise my boat licence. We headed towards Raukkan—we did not go all the way across to the other side—and then came back, and it is a very capable vessel that can get up quite a speed going across the water. We had a good overview of how the boat runs, and its capabilities are well and truly up to conducting rescue activities on those lakes.
I wrote to Minister Szakacs, the Minister for Emergency Services, about what options there would be to get funding along the way. To this crew's credit, they are just asking for what they need: they want their facilities upgraded at Milang, but obviously they also want the running costs covered for the boat. They are quite happy, as a community of volunteers, to put volunteers on the boat and conduct operations when they need to. It was pleasing to get a response from the minister, and I will just go through it:
Dear Mr Pederick,
Thank you for writing to me on behalf of the Milang Marine Search and Rescue Squadron Inc (MMSRS) regarding funding assistance to continue marine operational services. After receiving your correspondence I asked the South Australian State Emergency Service…for advice in relation to this matter.
I am advised that MMSRS was established as a community group and is not part of the emergency services framework. Therefore, there is no facility to support the application. Notwithstanding this, the SES has informed me that there may be an opportunity for the MMSRS to become associated with the Victor Harbor Goolwa Sea Rescue Squadron, which is an established marine rescue association. Alternatively, it may consider registering as a satellite of an existing SES unit.
The minister trusted that this information was of assistance and wished them all the best in their endeavours.
I acknowledge that and thank the minister for his response. I know the member for Finniss is working with the squadron to follow up on their next steps, and I will certainly be following up on that progress as well. I would like to think that alongside that advice, and the changes in the budget measures bill, we can continue that fine level of service in the Lower Lakes region.
It is to be commended, as I said, that the Freemasons put up hundreds of thousands of dollars and that the volunteers are well and truly able to chip in. They been supplying not only their valuable time but also their own resources to make sure this vessel can assist those communities, whether it be right next to Milang or at Goolwa or Clayton or across to Meningie on Lake Albert.
This shows how important our emergency services are right across the board, whether it is staff or volunteers in any of the organisations. Obviously the Metropolitan Fire Service have people working for them full time, but they have also retained people working for them, and sometimes brigades are essentially retained brigades; some have a mix. Murray Bridge is a retained brigade and Mount Gambier has a mix. There are various versions around the state and, obviously, full-time brigades in urban areas. These people put their lives on the line, and not just for people—in more recent days, there have been a couple of rescues of pets, which is commendable. Great work is being done, and also the Country Fire Service do great work right across the state with their 13,000 volunteers. I note the member for Waite was a member.
Ms Hutchesson: Is.
Mr PEDERICK: Is—I think I said 'is', didn't I? I hope I did. Anyway, she is a member of the CFS, as I am, and we are both very proud to be part of that organisation. The Country Fire Service do great work, and when you have big events, as I have seen multiple times—whether we as a group from our area can back up others or when there is a big event like the Yumali-Netherton fire and strike teams emerge from all over the state, whether from closer to the city and coming down, or South-East brigades coming up to assist—those many trucks and many volunteers coming on board to assist their communities are such a welcome sight. They do so much good work.
As I have said before in this place, our State Emergency Service, and their getting close to 1,800 volunteers, and all these groups are to be commended for the work they have done in looking after River Murray communities—from the volunteer efforts and the people on staff, right through to the leadership of these groups. These are people who just want to do their bit for the community, wherever it is.
The SES were activated the other day with seven breaches, breaches of levees and overtopping down in the River Murray. I commend them for being on call, and I also commend the locals who pulled in very quickly alongside some contractors to try to stop breaches and some of the problems with the overtopping water on those levees. It just shows that we need to be more vigilant in how those levees are managed. I commend those emergency services people who give up their valuable time.
We have recently seen firefighters go to Canada, as we have had Canadians come here, and we have had Americans come here and we have been to America as well with some of our firefighting teams. It is to be commended that we can not only help our interstate friends but help our international friends as well.
In regard to surf lifesaving, there are volunteers who work to keep people safe when they are in the water. We have a lot of visitors to this great state and this great country and sometimes they do not realise the trouble you can have in the water and the undertows that can come into play.
I can remember one day, a bit over a decade ago now, when my boys were a bit younger and we were off Goolwa Beach. The next thing, they were both coming past me with the tow threatening to take them out and I just caught one each side and walked them in. It is a good thing I have fair anchorage. You just have to be careful because you cannot see the treachery that is under the water. For surf lifesavers who come up through from the nippers—and many of them do lifetime service—making sure that people can swim and be safe in the water, it is truly commendable.
Part of the budget is to make sure that all our emergency services are appropriately funded and that bases like Strathalbyn, which we initiated when in government but was opened more recently, are up to speed. That is a great SES station there. When we were in government, we launched the new vessel at Murray Bridge (I will probably get the name wrong), the Mulyawonk. These things go across governments of every colour to make sure that we do have the best facilities and the best equipment we can get, and there is always a push to get more.
I note that over time nine airframes of various sizes are coming into our firefighting capacity. I certainly believe that in big events, the more planes or helicopters we can get in the air in a hurry the better, noting that it is the volunteers on the ground who finally mop it up, but the strike force you can get from aerial bombing can really take the heat out of the situation. Those are my remarks for the budget measures bill. We always need to fill in the gaps, as I indicated with the Milang rescue squadron, and I wish them all the best in their endeavours.