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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 2049

Ms HALL (ShortlandOpposition Whip) (11:27): On Thursday, 17 October, fires devastated the Central Coast and the southern part of Shortland electorate, just as they did the Blue Mountains, and I pass on my condolences and support to the people of the Blue Mountains area. In Shortland electorate, it had enormous impact on the people who lived there, on their homes and on their lives. Thousands of people had to be evacuated from their homes. During the evacuation they were forced to move to evacuation centres either at Doyalson or at Swansea, and these areas were also without electricity for a long period of time. As the member previously mentioned, there was loss of life as well as loss of property. Nowhere near the number of houses was lost in the Shortland electorate as was lost in the Blue Mountains, but the suffering of people in that area was quite significant.

When the electricity was disconnected and people were forced to leave their homes, it caused a loss of food. One of my constituents, Bianca Uicich, lives in Catherine Hill Bay, where water has to be brought into the area because there is no town water, so her water was used to fight the fires. After she was allowed back home, she had to throw out everything that she had in her freezer and at the same time had to pay to get new water to drink and use in the house. On investigation—and this is very significant because Bianca is a student; she is studying education at the University of Newcastle—I was absolutely astounded to find out that she could not access the AGDR payment because, unlike on previous occasions, that was only going to be paid to somebody who lost their home or lost their life.

There were some people at Catherine Hill Bay who lost their homes, and they accessed it. People like Ken Marples, who lost absolutely everything, received the $1,000 payment, but, unfortunately, I had to link him into charities in the area, because that $1,000 does very little to help sustain him.

I am astounded that this payment is not being made to families. There were a number of people who have contacted my office about this. People have been absolutely devastated by the fires. I think this it is not a time for blaming. I was a bit disappointed with the member across the chamber's contribution. I think it is a time that we should all join together and fight to get these things for our constituents. We really need to do that.

A government member interjecting

Ms HALL: What the member for Chifley is trying to do is actually pull the government onside so that people who have lost thousands and thousands of dollars, who may not have any coverage from insurance companies, can get a payment with some dignity; people who slept on the floor of recreation centres, people who then had to turn around, go home and clean up their houses; people who may not have had their house burn down but still suffered significant losses. I think that the role of government is to support them.

The government's response initially in the Shortland electorate was good. But they have definitely failed the people of Shortland when it comes to emergency payments to help them cover the financial losses that they had at the time, to help them get on with their lives and to take up where they left off. It is not good enough that we get weasel words from the minister about why it cannot happen. What we should all be doing here in this parliament is saying that we want the best for our constituents. (Time expired)