DEFENCE RESERVES MOTION

Ms CHAPMAN ( Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (11:30): I move: That this house—

(a) acknowledges the contribution of the Defence Reserves Support Council (SA), Air Force, Army and Navy reservists and employers of reservists;

(b) acknowledges the contribution of Dr Pamela Schulz OAM as the recently retired chair of the council;

(c) congratulates Dr Andrew Cannon AM as the new chair of the council;

(d) recognises the contribution of reservists, in war and peace, locally, nationally and internationally, and including the Sampson Flat bushfires; and

(e) appreciates the support of the employers of reservists to facilitate their contribution.

When I proposed this motion back at the beginning of 2015, members will recall that we were then facing the clean-up of one of the savage bushfires of our summer season, and for the 2014-15 summer season, we had the horrific circumstance of the Sampson Flat bushfire. Since then, we have had the ravages of bushfires across the state. During last year's occasion, the Mid North suffered a very, very significant loss.

The importance of recognising the contribution of our reservists or, as some like to be described, part-time serving personnel, should never be underestimated. Whilst our emergency services officers rightly receive accolades when we have these major incidents, it should never be overlooked that volunteer members of other areas, including the Australian Defence Force reserves component, should share in that recognition, respect and appreciation.

The purpose of this motion is to recognise the reservists generally, but also to highlight a number of other agencies, including the police, who contribute in those civilian emergencies. I am proudly a member of the Defence Reserves Support Council and have been for some years. I know the member for Ashford has been a member and now we have the Deputy Speaker as a member, which is very helpful. We are able to encourage our council to take up initiatives, such as the visit to the Woomera site recently.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: And wear flak jackets.

Ms CHAPMAN: And wear flash clothes, yes, and shoot pistols and do all sorts of things. Aside from the benefit that we individually have, as members of the parliament representing this parliament on the council, I think that we certainly enjoy the enlightenment of information that we receive by being there.

Essentially, the council comprises a group of employers drawn from all sectors of the state who advise, direct and endorse strategies of engaging and supporting employers of reservists in South Australia. I think, personally, that we are one of the most successful councils in the country and that has been recognised by the present national chair and, indeed, the former chair also, Mr Jack Smorgon, who for many years served as the national chair. The council aims to ensure availability of the reserve component of the Australian Defence Force by promoting the benefits of employing members of the reserve. It also aims to establish flexible partnerships with the community and employers so that they are encouraged to support those in the reserve.

Let me now recognise Dr Pamela Schulz OAM, who was appointed in 2009 as the chair of the council. She was the first woman to be appointed chair of the South Australian committee. She is known to many of you as she is a longstanding public servant of our state. She has devoted herself to community education and encouraging people to participate and act in issues that are relevant to their daily lives. She has also covered very important issues, including parenting, vaccination of children, parliamentary engagement, justice and the rule of law, so a broad spectrum of contribution to public debate and to academic advancement.

I also recognise Dr Andrew Cannon AM, who has been undertaking the role as chair for some time. He has served a long judicial career in South Australia, including as acting chief magistrate. His judicial career combined with academic research into the court systems, and his work on the introduction of many reforms to civil and criminal processes is commended. I am very proud to serve with him in this current role. Just this last weekend, many members of the council attended to support the celebrations of the Maltese community. I think the Speaker of the house was in attendance, as was minister Bettison and the Hon. Jing Lee. Our council turned up in droves to support a member of our council in that community and I am very proud to be part of that.

I will also speak briefly to the contribution of the reservists during the now past Sampson Flat bushfire in South Australia, which included the important contribution of the reservists. RAAF Base Edinburgh responded to the emergency by providing logistic support to airborne fighting efforts from 4 to 7 January, two large air tankers, a Bird Dog aircraft and more than 10 air crew and support staff were employed to assist the South Australian Country Fire Service. The Defence aid provided refuelling, air movements and water replenishment support to contracted firefighting aircraft from Victoria.

Mr Norman Kent, who managed the base support tasks, said that, due to the efforts of a small but hardworking team of personnel, the aircraft were able to be sent straight back to work after arriving at the Edinburgh base. He also said that the rapid rate of aircraft operations was something out of the ordinary as, by the end of the day, which was effectively only half a day, there had been 10 aircraft movements, and the air tankers averaged a turnaround time of just 25 minutes. To put this in perspective, he explained that the turnaround time was when the aircraft took off from Edinburgh, dropped its water supplies into the fire, came back, reloaded and returned to the fireground again.

The aircraft had virtually just taken off when, 10 minutes later, they were landing again, already having completed their task. To achieve such a short turnaround time was truly remarkable. The Victorian Country Fire Authority aviation officer, Wayne Rigg, has revealed that the support provided by Defence at such short notice was instrumental in supporting the South Australian community during the fires. He also commended the Edinburgh base staff who coordinated the resources and equipment so that, once the air tankers had arrived, they were immediately able to scale up their operations and get to work.

Over the four days that the air tankers were deployed, 320,000 litres of water was able to be provided for the fire retardant mixing plant. In addition, 14 refuels were conducted, supplying more than 50,000 litres of fuel to the aircraft. These are exemplary efforts which deserve our acknowledgement and our thanks. Australia's Defence Force continually seeks the skills and expertise of reservists to help maintain its capability. Receiving the support of employers means reservists are available to undertake their duties when called for service. Late last year, five South Australian employers were recognised at the Employer Support Awards. Again, in the preceding year, there was recognition of this particular contribution.

I also thank all other employers of reservists who facilitate their contribution. We could not operate without the ongoing support of employers, such as the many that we have, and the thousands, literally, who have signed up in South Australia who are committed to this. Most of us understand that, under the law, there is an obligation to release employees for the purpose of their service. However, we should not underestimate the importance of the support that comes from employers to facilitate that, to support them when they come back and to make sure their duties are undertaken while they are away. Obviously, they have the reciprocal benefit, which I often remind them, that their employees are being trained, they learn new disciplines and new skills which they can apply in the workplace for the betterment of the operation, business or employment. Many of them are significant government departments.

I recently had a meeting with the Minister for Environment, the Hon. Ian Hunter in another place. We have an annual meeting on bushfire management. I like to know what is going on in the state and I like to know what is going on in my district. Just about every year I have a new minister for the environment, but that is no problem, and for the last couple of years he has been handling it. I had a briefing about the few fires that have been undertaken in my area, which includes the entire Cleland National Park and very concentrated areas in the Adelaide Hills of bushland up against townships, and intense horticulture. So, we have a number of things that are intentioned.

I was stunned to have reported back that there had only been seven cold burns this spring across the entire state. Today, when we recognise the very significant work of our emergency services personnel and persons such as the reservists in South Australia, we need to understand the significance of not putting their life at risk, and putting costs and expense out into the arena to deal with these catastrophic fires. We also must ensure that our government employs funds to ensure that we have every possible advantage to diminish the fuel load before we get there. I do not want to be standing up in this parliament in the future having to commend contributions into events that should not have happened at all or been as severe. That, in my view, is up to the government to deal with. There is a lot of work to be done there.

Finally, it was recently announced that three members of our reservists are to retire. They are Commander Patrick O'Brien, who is the commander of the Navy, after some, I think, two years of service in South Australia; Air Commodore Steve Meredith, who is the senior officer for the ADF; and Major Russell Scutchings—we call him Russ—who is the Director of Defence Reserves Support SA. They have made a very significant contribution to our council. We thank them individually for the work that they do in their respective employment in the military and reservist roles, and wish them well in their next ventures. I commend the motion to the house.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Bragg is going to finish off. I have decided to say that I will happily do day 2, but I will never do day 1 of the stress thing, nor will I hang from the yardarm, member for Bragg.

Ms CHAPMAN ( Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (12:10): A marathon champion effort, Madam Deputy Speaker, only matched by your contribution to our Defence Reserve Support Council, which we all greatly appreciate. Thank you, members, for the contribution you have made. I look forward to this motion being carried and will of course ensure that your contributions are advised to the council at the next meeting.

Motion carried.