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Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Page: 829

Mrs MOYLAN (5:59 PM) —The malevolent course of fire and the subsequent tragic loss of life and destruction of property, stock and wildlife in Victoria have certainly galvanised this parliament and indeed the nation in an outpouring of grief, sympathy and support. It is indeed a tragedy of monumental proportions. Today I wish to add my voice to this motion and to support the comments of my colleagues in this place, many of whom yesterday and today spoke eloquently, with great compassion and with great sadness on the unfolding events in this terrible tragedy.

I would also like to take the opportunity to express condolences on my behalf, on behalf of my staff, my family and particularly on behalf of the people of the electorate of Pearce who I know would want to be associated with such a motion. Condolences go to those families whose neighbours, family members and friends have perished and we pledge our support for the rebuilding of their communities and for their ongoing support.

I know people in Pearce, as I said, would wish to be associated with this motion, as each year fire ravages parts of the electorate of Pearce. Fire looms as an ever-present threat in Pearce. In one of those infernos in the Avon in 2007, a local schoolteacher lost her life and many farms were devastated in that particular fire. The fire in this case was likely caused by an old power reticulation system, which in Western Australia is 40 to 50 years old. I heard the member for Mallee today speak in the House and also raise this particular issue. It is relevant because, although we in our parliaments throughout this country may need to deal with perhaps some unfinished business in terms of arson, we certainly need to deal with ageing power infrastructure, which I know in Western Australia has been the cause of many fires in rural areas, including the loss of life—certainly not to the extent that we have seen on this occasion in Victoria, but with terrible loss of property and all the heartache that that brings. This is something we can relatively easily attend to. We know it is a problem and it requires money to replace this ageing infrastructure of power reticulation systems.

Of course, lightning is often the cause of fires in my electorate as well. Before this House sat this year, for example, thousands of hectares of bush was burnt out in the coastal area of Yanchep within my electorate. Thankfully no lives were lost, but a great deal of damage was done to properties and national park and, of course, to wildlife in that region. Several thousand hectares were burnt out. Several years ago I sat in the burnt-out patio that was still attached to the burnt-out home of some of my ageing constituents, an elderly couple, who were grief-stricken to come back and find their property completely razed, everything gone—the sheds, the trucks, the tools, everything gone. But their grief was further exacerbated by having to go out and shoot 600 head of sheep that were seriously burnt in the fire. That fire in the Wundowie area was a result of arson and, if my memory serves me correct, that person was apprehended and prosecuted.

Each year, in the lead up to the summer season, men and women in the Pearce electorate give a great deal of time on a voluntary basis to prepare plans to manage fires and to provide emergency services. They put their lives at risk to look after the interests of others and they do it as a community service in a completely voluntary capacity. They do not ask for anything, they just pitch in and do what they know has to be done. They come from all walks of life and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to them and to their work, as Western Australia now faces the riskiest season for fire and that is a particular threat in the electorate of Pearce.

These people are our local heroes and I pay tribute to them, and particularly today to the brave, selfless and undoubtedly exhausted firefighters and emergency service workers in Victoria. To these men and women we owe a great debt of gratitude. May we never forget their selfless service and their courage. I understand, Madam Deputy Speaker Vale, that your husband has currently joined those firefighters in Victoria to add his voluntary services. We thank him for that.

We are equally grateful for the service of hundreds of volunteers caring for victims in the aftermath of the fires. We applaud the work of the health sector for the care of those suffering burns and injury. Our thoughts and prayers are with them for a full recovery. We also applaud the acts of courage and heroism of those in the community who took the time to look after neighbours and friends and family, putting their own lives often at risk. But long after the flames have been doused and the last embers have stopped burning, the people of Victoria and their communities will need our compassion and our support both at a personal and a financial level.

Once again through my Victorian colleagues, to whom I offer my condolences and my support, I express condolences to the people within those electorates, and particularly on behalf of the people in the electorate of Pearce, who I know from my past experience will be very generous contributors to the rebuilding efforts in Victoria.