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Monday, 19 March 2018
Page: 1388

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:00): I seek leave to make a short statement on the bushfires that have ravaged New South Wales and Victoria this past weekend and on the impact of Cyclone Marcus on the Northern Territory.

Leave granted.

Senator CORMANN: I thank the Senate. As Australians we know we live in a country whose landscape is unpredictable and where nature can bring us as much misery as it does joy. Sadly, this past weekend many of our fellow Australians have experienced that misery firsthand. Devastating bushfires have ravaged both Tathra on the South Coast of New South Wales and the Barwon South West district of Victoria. It is being reported that at least 88 homes have been destroyed, mainly in Tathra, but there remains the horrible prospect that there will be more, once we know the full scale of the disaster. Thankfully, there are no reports that lives have been lost, and I urge everyone in or near the bushfire areas to pay close attention to the advice of local authorities, to keep themselves as safe as possible.

Of course, our first concern is for the safety and needs of the people directly affected by these fires, especially those whose homes have been lost or damaged and the people who have been evacuated. The Australian government remains in contact with the New South Wales and Victorian governments and stands ready to provide any assistance requested to support these communities.

Australia's emergency services are the best in the world, and, on behalf of the local communities hit by these terrible fires and all Australians, I express my heartfelt thanks to all the emergency service workers and volunteers who worked so tirelessly over the weekend and continue to do so.

I also thank the men and women of the Australian Defence Force who are already providing clean-up assistance in the Northern Territory after Cyclone Marcus hit Darwin and the Territory on Saturday. Again, the Australian government stands ready to provide any further assistance requested to support these communities, and I'm sure all of the people of Australia join me in expressing our sorrow for those hardest hit by these natural disasters and our hope that those in the affected areas continue to be safe.