Thank you Speaker.
I may be late to the party, but may I extend my congratulations to you on your ascension to the Chair.
Last month the north-west of Tasmania was hit by a devastating storm. One woman, whose name has not been publicly released, lost her life, other locals suffered injuries and thousands of properties suffered damage.
In my electorate, people in and around the town of Sheffield were most affected.
People were left without power for as long as ten days during some of our state’s coldest weather.
That’s no reflection on Aurora, Tasmania’s state-owned power company, nor its workforce. They worked very hard in challenging conditions to restore power as quickly as was safely possible, and I extend my gratitude to them. Tasmania’s power workers and state emergency services personnel are often called out in awful weather to deal with downed lines and to re-connect electricity, and they deserve our thanks.
The storm resulted in badly damaged properties, with homes losing roofs, fences flattened, equipment broken and livestock scattered.
After the storm I visited numerous properties in and around Sheffield, kindly hosted by Brian Harris and Wally Crosswell from Kentish Lions.
I saw first-hand both the damage and the incredible efforts that have been made by the community to repair it.
Thousands of trees were toppled, many of them towering giants literally ripped out of the ground by wind. They took out power poles, roofs and fences and blocked roads.
Elderly residents were left to face repairs and farmers were confronted with rounding up wayward livestock.
Brian and Wally explained that after the storm the Lions, alongside the Kentish Council, SES and Fire Brigade were first on the ground.
Together they went house to house talking to residents, examining the damage, and offering food and fuel vouchers to those in need.
The council offered showers, an air bnb owner offered their investment property free of charge for emergency housing, local business Tas Pumps, Pipes and Rural Supplies offered the use of generators for free. And there were more, many more, similar examples.
This was a community that came together in a time of need. It was a privilege to see it.
It was clear though that government assistance was also required to ensure the region fully recovers.
I reached out to Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt to determine what assistance may be available and how it may be accessed.
He immediately got back to me to say yes, under Commonwealth-State disaster relief arrangements federal funding was being made available.
I’d like to express my thanks to Minister Watt and his office for the timely and compassionate way in which they have dealt with this.
I’ve got Senator Watt on speed dial because he’s also the Minister for Agriculture, so he’ll no doubt soon know my number by heart if he doesn’t already.
The federal funding being made available will assist the north-west to get back on its feet and begin the next step in the extensive rebuilding process.
We’ve seen this decisive action happening across the country under Minister Watt’s leadership, most notably during the flooding on the mainland and in recent days with the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Indonesia. He identifies the problem and he takes action.
It’s a stark and welcome contrast to what we saw under the previous government, with delays and “not my job” the all too common catchcry.
Speaker, the Albanese Government knows extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, whether floods, droughts, fires or storms.
It is a challenge we are prepared and equipped to face, and which we will not hide from.
Our communities need us, and we will be there when they do.
My thanks again to the many organisations and locals who assisted their neighbours and friends affected by this extreme weather event.
I am very pleased that as their federal member I was able to confirm that federal assistance was forthcoming.