Kangaroo Island Bushfire Response

I rise to make a contribution in relation to this matter—given the statements made by the member for Mawson. Can I start by saying that he represents, in this chamber, the people of Kangaroo Island. There are a number of other members here who represent districts that have not only been hurt by fire in this season but will be again. So I do understand the passion that is invoked in relation to people who represent areas where there has been human tragedy and disaster, property loss, livestock damage, the incineration of wildlife and the like. It is a very difficult time.

Notwithstanding that, I think the content of the letter outlined by the member to the house, which he apparently sent on 23December after the first wave of the fire—and I happen to know because it went through my family home prior to Christmas and those three valleys in the fire zone were seriously damaged. He mentioned one of my neighbours who then had a role in relation to putting down sheep.

Tragically, those same people, south of the Middle River dam, were involved in the extraordinary events in early January which caused even more devastation, and the loss of stock on the occasion the member refers to, on the day after the early January fire, was horrific. Seeing my neighbour, whom I had known for 30 years, whose 400 cattle were dead, having to go out on the Playford Highway and deal with the clean-up of that was disgusting.

It is a shocking experience to have to go and puncture animals when they blow up. These are all horrific scenes. It is as though you are in a war zone. Then the humane disposal of livestock—thousands of sheep, which has been referred to in the house before—is devastating. As I said at the time, an enormous effort went into neighbours assisting their neighbours to dispose of their neighbour's sheep so that they would not be disposing of their own animals. Along that highway there were shocking scenes of badly injured horses, pets and wildlife. These are shocking situations.

I want to report to the house that on that day, after the January fire, I took the Premier out along the Playford Highway and we did witness some of the shocking devastation there. He did speak to a number of people, including those who had completely lost their home. I think of people like Robert Benny, who raised his children in his home and everything was lost—and then he had to go back and put down the children's pet horses. These are terrible scenes.

I want to assure the member that everyone in this cabinet, whilst they have not seen all the same things that he and I have seen, or indeed the Premier has seen—and I hope they do not in their lifetime—and everyone who drives through these communities after that type of devastation cannot help but be scarred by that memory, and trying to digest it and manage it and still be able to give support is difficult. However, I want to assure the house again that members of this government, and I would hope all members of this community, when their people are faced with this type of situation, do need to stick together to be able to provide that support.

Regarding '50 days, threats of this, failure to do this or that', I would remind the house that we are talking about a massive area, particularly on Kangaroo Island, where homes were built post-World War II. They are full of asbestos. They also have jarrah floors, in case anyone is interested in wood. It is very valuable wood, probably the most valuable thing left in some of these houses. When they get incinerated—because some of them were left vacant, or they have been added on to or had sleep-outs and sunrooms added to them over the years, again with asbestos-based building products—it is a nightmare when it comes to the disposal of them. Even the sheds, which again had asbestos linings along shearing boards, etc., all these things have to be tested.

The Minister for Environment has been absolutely impeccable in his response to quickly getting people on the ground to do the assessments, and that has meant sending teams from Adelaide to be able to do that and then to start the clean-up. So if people have experienced a delay and it has been confronting for them to go back to their properties and see the decimated structures, I am very sad about that, but it is also important that we protect the community against the deadly dust diseases that come from asbestos.