Bill's Speeches

 STATEMENT ON INDULGENCE: QUEENSLAND FIRES - THURSDAY, 29 NOVEMBER 2018

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I rise to associate the Opposition with the heartfelt remarks of the Prime Minister. 
 
I just want to add, Gracemere is not a town that perhaps every Australian knows where it is. 
 
About 8,000 people live there, it's a fast-growing satellite suburb of Rockhampton. It was the site of the first European settlement in the Rockhampton district. 
 
But I hope all Australians learn where Gracemere is now because last night, over 8,000 people from there had a very restless sleep at the showgrounds and the homes of Rockhampton people who invited them in, all away from their own homes. 
 
The reason why I think all Australians should know where Gracemere is, is it was actually the biggest evacuation in the history of the area. 
 
Massive cooperative effort, and it went seamlessly - exactly as the people there had planned to do. 
 
And, to me, that represents all of what's good about our volunteers and professionals when they do the work. 
 
Levels of government working together, 8,000 people moved in a very short period of time, done safely. And that should make us all very proud. 
 
I understand Premier Palaszczuk and the local member for Rocky, Barry O'Rourke, are in Gracemere right now, as we talk, or in just the last few minutes. 
 
And even more pleasingly so are relieved people are returning to their homes because, whilst evacuated last night, when the sun rose this morning on Gracemere, it was still standing. 
 
The fire did get under the railway bridge and it crossed the main road but the dedication and courage, and professionalism of firefighters and all the other support services kept
it safe. 
 
I think people in this place are relieved to hear that things are looking better today than they were yesterday there - but there are big parts of Queensland which are still exposed to severe fire danger. 
 
Only hours ago, residents of Winfield and Broken River were asked to leave immediately. 
 
It does remind us that we're a big country and that, all too often, natural disasters are a roll call of small towns. 
 
And when we see these towns, they remind us of an Australia which perhaps in our city life we forget still exists, but it does. 
 
But some of these towns and hamlets are still under great pressure; Mount Larcom, Agnes Water, Deepwater, Finch Hatton, Rules Beach and Oyster Creek are still on alert. 
 
The heatwave gripping this part of Queensland is expected to last another five days, with no significant rain on the horizon. 
 
Communities, people, volunteers, are battling the fire right now - they're not dealing in days, they're thinking in minutes and hours, they're thinking in direction of wind. That's how quickly things can change. 
 
Yesterday, I mentioned to the House Baffle Creek. 
 
How the Gladstone Mayor, Matt Burnett, explained to me that if the coast road was cut off, the people still there would be trapped. 
 
Well, hours later, after I spoke to the House, the remaining families in that area seeking to leave had to be evacuated from the boat ramp. The fire did, indeed, jump the road. 
 
When I think about the bushfires in 2009, Black Saturday, where 177 people perished, I learned talking to survivors that fire fronts are fast-moving, so fast-moving they change direction so rapidly. 
 
It is vital that everyone does, as the Prime Minister said: listen to and follow the warnings of emergency services, and do so immediately. 
 
We salute the hundreds of interstate firefighters, all the local brigades, all of those helping or going to help. 
 
I think the House might be interested to know, in conclusion, that one of the reasons a major disaster was averted in Gracemere yesterday was they used a fire simulation system designed and financed in Victoria after Black Saturday. 
 
It is proof that, whilst we never wish these disasters to happen, that Australians can learn from tragedies of the past, and we're cooperating to prevent them happening in the future. 
 
And speaking of lessons learned, following what we've seen from floods and fire and  previous events, I think it's appropriate to put banks and insurance companies on notice that this is not a time to reach for lawyers and litigation and fine print. 
 
It's time to reach for the chequebook, a helping hand. I'm sure they will. 
 
We don't know what tonight will hold. 
 
And be it the floods and rainstorms in New South Wales, or Queensland, I know that members of the House are hoping that Queenslanders and people affected by the storms stay safe in the days ahead. 


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