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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1555

Mrs ANDREWS (McPherson) (13:25): It is fair to say that in Australia we live in a land of extremes where, on the one hand, our environment can be very kind and very giving but, on the other hand, it can be very harsh and very violent and cause massive destruction to property and to people's lives. Unfortunately, over the last couple of months, we have seen the harsher parts of our environment. We have witnessed the extremes of bushfires burning across our country whilst parts of Queensland and New South Wales were flooding.

My parliamentary colleague, the member for Hinkler, has already spoken about the devastation of Bundaberg and the destruction of property and loss of life in his electorate. My friend and colleague the member for Flynn has spoken about the ferocity of the floodwater as it tore through properties, tearing up fencing and pipes. Basically, it tore down many of the things that were in its path and caused extreme hardship for the people in his electorate. With regard to some of the areas we have visited, including Gayndah, his stories about the damage that has been caused in rural areas is really quite heartbreaking. My sympathy goes out to people and families in those areas who have been affected. For many people in Australia it is hard to imagine what went on in some of these areas. We get some glimpses through the media of the level of destruction, and our hearts go out to the people in these as they start the massive task of rebuilding.

Turning to the Gold Coast, the electorate of McPherson that I represent was also affected by Cyclone Oswald over the Australia Day long weekend. Whilst I am not suggesting for a minute that the impact on the Gold Coast of the floods and the extreme weather was on the same extreme scale as what was experienced in other parts of Queensland, we certainly were affected on the Gold Coast. One of the images that we saw regularly played on television was of the waves crashing through Meesh's Restaurant at Burleigh Heads, which is in my electorate, and the ferocity of the waves as they broke through the glass, going straight into the windows of the restaurant, basically wiping out that part of the restaurant. That is probably an image that will live with many Australians for quite some time. There were other businesses and homes within my electorate that were seriously affected. They had damage to their roofing structures and their building structures as well. Across the Gold Coast there were about 50,000 homes that lost power, in some cases for several days.

Whilst, clearly, there was a direct impact on many of our families, it was also our small businesses that were affected by this as well, because a lot of people have potentially lost their livelihood for a considerable period of time. I think we need to be mindful of what happens to small businesses when we do have these severe environmental circumstances, because for our small businesses that are already struggling this is yet another hit to them that makes it so much harder for them to get back onto their feet. We are doing whatever we can in my local community to make sure that we get those small businesses as well as our residents back on track. We had emergency services locally on the ground on the Gold Coast, as they have always been and I am sure will continue to be in the future. They provided enormous support to the community at the time.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all the emergency services workers, all the volunteers from around Australia who did what they do best, which was to lend a hand in a time of crisis. I thank them for all that they have done.