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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1558

Mrs MARKUS (Macquarie) (13:36): Firstly, I would like to reflect briefly on the member for Maranoa's comments. Having a seat that is semi-rural, with World Heritage bushland and a valley that is a floodplain all within my electorate, we are familiar with disasters and we have many SES, RFS and other emergency service community volunteers who do tremendous work. I particularly acknowledge the member for Maranoa's comments with regard to communications. I recently held a forum in my electorate, which is in a bushfire prone area. There are areas around and throughout the seat of Macquarie where people do not have access to mobile phone coverage and, in some instances, it is a challenge for them to have ongoing access to landline. It is important for us to enhance and improve these kinds of communications wherever possible, particularly in areas such as my electorate and other parts of Australia that experience natural disasters.

The extremes of nature are not foreign to our ancient and beautiful land, and the people of Macquarie are familiar with the devastating effects of flood and fire. Queenslanders have been dealing with a flooding crisis and, while it may not necessarily be on the front page of the newspaper or on TV today, the full human and economic impact cannot yet be fully measured and they are in the process of recovery. Earlier this month Northern Australians faced the powerful remnants of Cyclone Oswald, the effects of which were felt in many communities. Further south, fires have devastated large areas in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Many homes and businesses have been destroyed—and we have heard many stories told by my colleagues. Similar threats faced Western Australians earlier this year in Esperance, Boddington, Northam and other regions. Our thoughts are with the people on the ground as they endeavour to pull their lives together. On behalf of the people of my electorate of Macquarie and my family, I would like to extend my deepest condolences, particularly to those who lost loved ones as a result of these disasters. My thoughts and prayers are also with those who suffered extreme loss and damage.

It is important when reflecting upon these events to also acknowledge the men and women who stand up and put their lives and wellbeing on the line to assist their fellow Australians. One should probably start with the Mud Army of Bundaberg. The spirit of these volunteers embodies so much of the best of Australia and the Australian character—willing to drop everything to help their neighbours, friends and strangers. To them I say a huge thank you.

The emergency services, community organisations and defence community within the electorate of Macquarie have a long and honourable history of providing assistance far from home. This summer they have demonstrated that again—the tremendous capacity of locally based resources and organisations in the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains to extend their help to their fellow Australians. Most recently during the flooding crisis crews, equipment and craft journeyed from RAAF Richmond in my electorate. Many aircraft, including C130J Hercules assisted and are continuing to assist flood affected areas. These crews assisted in the evacuation and medivac of many patients, including those being treated at Bundaberg. A medical team of 20 personnel from the RAAF Richmond are providing help to impacted regions. I am told that their contributions have been extremely valuable.

The Blue Mountains has many well established, highly effective RFS brigades, the members of which are brave individuals, always willing to put themselves on the line. During the recent fires in the Shoalhaven, RFS brigades from Bullaburra, Hazelbrook, Winmalee, Wentworth Falls, Valley Heights, Medlow Bath and Mount Wilson and the Blue Mountains Group Support Unit were all on hand. These men and women assisted and fought at the Dean's Gap fire, being of great and vital assistance in protecting lives and property. To them, I say thank you.

The fires that ravaged our iconic Warrumbungle National Park in mid-January were extremely confronting for all Australians. Once again, the RFS brigades of the Blue Mountains rose to the challenge and journeyed to join brigades from across New South Wales in fighting the fires as they burned. I would like to acknowledge the brigades of Blaxland, Glenbrook-Lapstone, Linden, Warrimoo, Woodford, South Katoomba, Wentworth Falls, Winmalee and again the Blue Mountains Group Support for their tremendous efforts.

Blue Mountains brigades also provided invaluable muscle, assistance and expertise to the efforts undertaken to bring the Wambelong fire near Coonabarabran and Yarrabin fires under control. I wish to thank the brigades of Linden, Medlow Bath, Blackheath-Mount Victoria, Mount Wilson, Warrimoo, Woodford, Bullaburra and the Blue Mountains Group officers and staff for their selfless efforts.

Also in my electorate we are fortunate to live alongside two areas of great natural and rugged beauty. These regions breed and foster men and women of the Blue Mountains I have already mentioned, but I would now like to acknowledge the wonderful work of the Hawkesbury RFS. The Hawkesbury RFS also formed part of the cohort tackling the Wambelong-Coonabarabran fire. I wish to extend my deepest thanks and express my gratitude for the efforts of the Grose Vale, Grose Wold, Kurrajong and Oakville brigades. I also acknowledge and commend the selfless and invaluable work undertaken by the Hawkesbury district staff and Hawkesbury headquarters officers.

Finally, I wish to again express the tremendous pride of all Australians in the men and women who serve in our civil, defence forces and organisations. We are deeply proud of them, their selflessness and their extraordinary work. Thank you for the outstanding examples of leadership and service that you grant to us all.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 13:44