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Wednesday, 16 February 2022
Page: 933

Mr RAMSEY (GreyGovernment Whip) (19:37): It is only in the last couple of days that I have received news that a round of the Australian Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants have gone into my electorate. There were two councils affected in the 2019-20 season. There was a very significant effect down on the lower Yorke Peninsula, where about 5,000 hectares were burnt out. Eleven properties were damaged and about seven houses were destroyed. Obviously there was a lot of farm machinery lost, as well as fencing and so forth. The community came together really well. The fire was caused by a faulty electrical connector near the Yorketown water tower, ironically.

I am very pleased to hear that there have been successful applications that I supported. One is for $40,000 worth of funding for bushfire signage throughout the council area, which will be put to good use. There is $1.8 million for a multipurpose community centre at the Edithburgh Oval. There will be an upgrade of the oval, the change room facilities, the clubrooms—the whole works. That will be a huge boon to the Edithburgh community. When I rang up the leading light down there, who is a good friend of mine, she was absolutely delighted. She was blown away by the news, I would have to say.

Minlaton is a nearby town with a population of, off the top of my head, about 1,100 people. It's surrounded by a very fertile farming community, and they have been crying out for a childcare centre. There are lots of dual working parents in the Minlaton area, so where do we put the kids? They were delighted to hear that $2.25 million had been allocated to building the Southern Yorke Community Childcare Centre. This is backed by the local council. They are seeking to find some private operators to come in and run the facility once it's up and running. I was talking to the mayor only yesterday. One way or another, they will find operators, even if it is the council itself. That will be a great boon to that particular community and will be well received. There is also $40,000 to repair the roof and the wall of the Edithburgh RSL and Bowling Club, which was damaged in the fire. The fire actually came right to the verges of the town, and there were people evacuating the town at the time. It was a scary time. So that's a very good outcome for Yorke Peninsula.

Over on the other peninsula, we also had fires down around the Port Lincoln region, and I have to say this is not an unusual circumstance. There's some pretty tight scrub down there. You get a lightning strike and whatever, and it's hard to control. Of course it was the place where in 2005 we saw the terrible fires in which we lost nine lives. Over 70 homes and hundreds of farm buildings were destroyed when it burned from one side of the peninsula to the other. Mercifully, 2019 was not as bad as that. That particular fire destroyed two homes.

But one thing that I can say is that, across all of the fires that occurred on the lower Eyre Peninsula, one of the things that come into focus is the ability of the communications network to keep up. There's been about $1.6 million allocated for a Telstra 4GX mobile phone tower to be placed at Coulta—which is on the lower Eyre Peninsula, near Wangary—and perhaps in Port Lincoln. That will service a whole lot of the area that has had these issues in the past.

I would just reflect on that as a point of interest: the fact that a mobile phone tower costs $1½ million, or a little over, shows how expensive these facilities can be if they are not near backhaul capacity and electricity. It's one of the things that we grapple with as we're trying to extend the mobile phone network around Australia. There are three things you need for a mobile phone. You need elevation—that's your tower or a hill—you need electricity—that's the electricity line or a big array of solar panels and batteries, because they use a lot of electricity—and you need backhaul. If you don't have cable, you're talking about radio, and that diminishes the effectiveness of the whole system. Everything is a trade-off. So, while we would like to have a mobile phone tower on every corner, there are a whole lot of individual barriers that get thrown up, and decisions are made around the economics of those.

But, to come back to the grants themselves, this is an excellent outcome. It's a large fund. I'm sure it will be weighted into the districts like Kangaroo Island in eastern Australia, and I fully support it.