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Monday, 3 December 2018
Page: 12330


Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (12:20): I'm pleased to speak on this motion marking the impending 10th anniversary of the devastating bushfires in Victoria. With the loss of 173 lives, more than 2,000 homes and 450,000 hectares of land, that bushfire ranks as one of the worst in Australia's history. Victorians not directly in the line of fire and those living interstate watched on in horror, through their television screens, as the terrible event unfolded. The scale of the disaster was difficult to comprehend for many. The 10th anniversary is a chance to reflect on that devastation, honour the memory of those lost, and remember the suffering of their families and friends and those who lost possessions. It's a time to honour and pay tribute to the courage, bravery and dedication of those who fought the fires and helped rebuild the lives of people and their communities.

Unfortunately, bushfires have always been a feature of the wide brown land we live in. Queensland is currently in the grip of bushfires raging across much of the state; in particular, in Central Queensland and North Queensland. Most of the hundred fires have caused widespread devastation, including the loss of one life, the destruction of numerous vehicles and buildings and the burning of more than half a million hectares of land. Last night there were more than 160 firefighting crews on the ground fighting bushfires right across the state of Queensland, including those in and around my electorate of Dawson. I am told the situation is expected to worsen today. Strong winds combining with very hot and dry conditions do not make it an ideal time for fighting fires.

I want to make special mention of the Central Queensland man who died at his family's property south of Emerald last week. He was struck by a falling tree while clearing a firebreak to protect his family's property. I would like to extend my condolences to his family and the Emerald community. In our own Finch Hatton, not in my electorate but just on the border of my electorate, farmer Robert Blines—and I know the Blines family very well—lost his house, his shed, his equipment and his crop while he was out fighting fires elsewhere. Finch Hatton cane farmer Burnie Ward also lost 100 per cent of his crop. He fought hard to save his house, bucketing water out of his dam because there was no power to pump the water. More than 700 hectares of high-value sugarcane crops were destroyed. CQ Rescue and its brave staff, under the leadership of Ian Rowan, need to be mentioned because they airlifted 10 people, including six children and an infant, out of Eungella.

The Deputy Prime Minister and the Assistant Minister for Home Affairs, who's responsible for emergency management, visited my electorate. They went to Capricornia, just on the doorstep of my electorate, to the communities of Finch Hatton, Netherdale and Eungella, to survey the damage and speak to those who were involved in fighting these fires—those in the SES and other volunteers who were assisting them. It is so heartening to see the community's response to this. The whole community has come together, and I have to applaud the leadership of Greg Williamson, Mayor of Mackay Regional Council. I visited Bloomsbury—

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 12:24 to 12:37

Mr CHRISTENSEN: I want to acknowledge those who are out there fighting the fires around the Bloomsbury area right now and those who are helping them out. Locals told me over the weekend that over 100,000 hectares up there have been burnt, including livestock burnt alive and fencing and vehicles—tractors, dozers and utes—destroyed. A number of grazing properties have been completely razed. I visited the properties of Tania Plemenuk and saw Max McFarlane's property on the weekend—absolutely devastating scenes there of totally scorched earth.

I want to particularly mention Christine Kinnear, who's leading the group of volunteers at the Bloomsbury community hall to help out and feed all the men and women out there fighting fires; the local fire warden Paul Camm; and blokes like Tony Jeppesen, whose properties were at risk and who are out there helping their mates. There are about 100 men and women fighting a 20-kilometre front of fire—all of them volunteers trying to stop that fire through a series of controlled burns and breaks around local properties. They've been battling it for hours and hours and hours every day since last Tuesday.

I've got to say: it's great that assistance is on the way and concessional loans have been approved by state and federal governments for primary producers. There are going to be community recovery teams out in the field, and hopefully more assistance will come if category C assistance is declared. My heart goes out to all of those who are battling the fires right now.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of date for the next sitting.