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Monday, 3 December 2018
Page: 12325


Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (12:00): Last Friday morning, as I was flying back from Canberra to Melbourne, our plane was put in a holding pattern for a while, and we were circling around that area of Victoria on the Great Divide. It was a beautiful, clear morning; you could see clearly to the Gippsland lakes and the Ninety Mile Beach in one direction, right through to the Murray in the other. But what struck me the most, as the plane circled for 10 or 15 minutes, was that you could still see the scars in the bush of the 2009 bushfires.

Those 2009 Black Saturday bushfires were the most devastating in Australia's history. One hundred and seventy-three people, tragically, lost their lives; 414 were injured. More than a million animals were lost. Four hundred and fifty thousand hectares of land were burnt, and you can still see many of the scars where 3,500 buildings, including more than 2,000 homes, were destroyed. So this was a devastating tragedy for all those concerned.

The response of the communities, as the member for Indi has indicated, was a great response—a very significant response. People from all walks of life did what they could. They made contributions where they could to relief agency efforts et cetera, to ensure that, as best as possible, we could aid all of those who had been devastated by these fires.

I want to talk about the future, because this coming summer season has already been indicated by fire authorities and others as one which will be more hot than usual, and one where there are more likely to be those sorts of unusual conditions which come along from time to time. We had 100-kilometre-per-hour winds on that Black Saturday during those bushfires almost a decade ago. I put that in this context: a recent Country Fire Authority survey revealed that half of all Victorians living in areas of high risk of bushfire actually classified the risk to their homes as only 'moderate', 'minor' or 'non-existent'. In other words, there's a huge disconnect between the actual risk and people's perception of the risk in many instances. A third said they would only leave when a fire threatened their town or suburb—rather than on the morning of, or the night before, a day of extreme fire danger, which, of course, is the CFA advice. So preparing for this fire season is very important, particularly in the context of the summer which we are facing right throughout Australia. And of course we see what's happening in other parts of Australia at the present time.

I particularly urge my constituents in the new areas of my electorate, in Eltham, Eltham North, Research, Kangaroo Ground and North Warrandyte—places which have been touched by bushfires in the past; places in which there are very few ready exits, in terms of major roads, if people need to flee—to actually be prepared and to have plans for what they might do should these extreme warnings come from the Country Fire Authority and other authorities. Of course there's the other work that people can do now, such as cleaning up their property—especially around their house—which can reduce the risk and, therefore, in many instances, reduce and prevent destruction. So, even if you are going to leave early, please follow the steps that the CFA and other Fire authorities have set out in terms of minimising damage to property. Move furniture, wood piles and mulch away from windows, decks and eaves. Prune tree branches so that they're not overhanging the roof or touching walls. Keep grass shorter than 10 centimetres and regularly remove leaves and twigs. Don't allow plants higher than 10 centimetres in front of windows or glass doors. And of course, if you are leaving, before you do so, make sure you remove all flammable items from around your home. Houses have been lost from things as simple as embers landing on a doormat. And a decade ago we saw those great ember storms that went kilometres forward and caused so much damage and destruction as a consequence. Then there are very practical things such as checking that your home and contents insurance is current and includes a level of cover in line with current building standards and regulations.

This is simple commonsense advice which is given by the authorities in relation to the risks that people face; yet, as the CFA survey showed, many people who are at a significant risk are not aware of the level of the risk—and, of course, that itself can be a trap for them if they do find themselves in the devastating and tragic consequences that we saw in Victoria a decade ago. So I urge everybody, whether in my electorate or wherever else in Victoria or Australia, with this season of a hot summer coming, to take the necessary precautions to try and minimise any damage if it should tragically occur.