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Monday, 23 February 2009
Page: 1519

Mr CHESTER (6:45 PM) —There are many issues that have already been raised in relation to the bushfires which devastated parts of the Gippsland region on 7 February, and much of the community focus is on making sure that it does not happen again. I will have more to say on prevention activities at the appropriate time. The issue I wish to raise for the consideration of the House is the provision of information to residents during the fire crisis.

The Gippsland ABC team, led by Gerard Callinan, did an outstanding job as the official emergency services broadcaster, and I commend all of the staff involved for a remarkable effort in extraordinarily difficult conditions. But many constituents have already contacted me to express concerns about the reliability of the ABC signal, which was disrupted, particularly when the Mount Tassie transmitter came under direct attack from the fire front.

A former teacher of mine and a highly respected Sale resident, Vin Smith, makes the point in a letter which I have forwarded to the minister for consideration. Vin says:

Since the ABC is the designated emergency services broadcaster, it is obviously imperative that they are permitted to maintain optimum performance in transmission at all times. Since this was not the case with the recent fires, I am raising the issue of this transmission site’s efficacy and maintenance. If Mt Tassie cannot be protected and repairs are so difficult, perhaps a new site would be a good idea.

It is an important issue, and I thank Vin and others for bringing it to my attention.

In the absence of an early warning system, Gippslanders depend on their ABC for up-to-date information in these emergency situations. Gippsland does present many geographical challenges when you are broadcasting across mountain ranges to many isolated communities, which just heightens the need for a reliable service. I urge the minister to explore all options to ensure the ABC signal remains loud and clear. (Time expired)