31 May 2021
Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (11:43): What a great private member's motion moved by the wonderful member for Macquarie, Susan Templeman. I've known the member for Macquarie for many years, but, since coming to this place, we now share another bond—that is, our communities have both been through the most horrific disasters we could imagine. There were the bushfires and there is the ongoing bushfire recovery that will take years. Then there were floods—many floods. In fact, four different floods were disaster declared in my electorate, and there were seven flood events in the Eurobodalla. Then there was COVID. It's perhaps easy to say that, but the reality is that drought, bushfire, floods and COVID and the ongoing bushfire recovery are having a long-lasting impact on my community.
Take the last flood declaration in the Eurobodalla Shire Council area. It was just five months earlier that a previously disaster declared flood had occurred in 2020, causing massive damage to Araluen Road, just west of Moruya. This road, which has been hit by flooding again in May 2021, has very steep and difficult terrain, has suffered multiple significant landslides and is proving extremely difficult to fix. It has impacted and continues to impact local residents and businesses, who either are unable to access the road or have to take alternative routes that are significantly longer or just not feasible. It's a really difficult situation, and I am thankful community members have been contacting me to voice their concerns. I also want to thank Eurobodalla Shire Council for their efforts in investigating both temporary fixes for this road and examining a longer-term alternative route. I can assure residents that I will continue to advocate on this issue. But, given the gravity of the situation, I ask that the federal government extend the time available under the National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, so that Eurobodalla council can deal with Araluen Road and the now very real problem of secondary tree death from the bushfires along our local road network.
During the floods and, before them, the bushfires our emergency services volunteers and workers are simply our heroes. Our SES and RFS volunteers were working locally, contending with local flooding. But they were also sending teams to assist around New South Wales. They did this quietly; that's just what they do. Wherever there is disaster, our local HMAS Albatross Australian Navy members are never far away. They were there during the bushfires, rescuing people and dropping supplies. In the 2021 floods Defence members from 816 Squadron at HMAS Albatross at Nowra were providing aerial search and rescue support further north in the state, when and where needed. Our frontline workers, our supermarkets, our pharmacies, our charities, organisations—everyone played their part, and today I say thank you. Of course, to our local community members who assisted with the distribution of supplies and relief efforts during and in the aftermath of the floods, thank you.
I commend part (3) of this motion. The federal government does need to step up and provide more support where it's needed. The alternative fix for Araluen Road will not come cheap. I implore the government to assure adequate financial assistance is provided to Eurobodalla Shire Council for both temporary work and a proper longer-term fix for Araluen Road. I also implore the government to do more to provide funding to fix the disastrous environmental damage caused by flooding to our riverbanks, lakes and waterways. A few weeks ago I was knocking on doors and talking with residents at Lake Conjola, in the Shoalhaven local government area. Conjola Park, just up the road, lost a devastating 89 homes in the Currowan bushfire. Not long after, at Lake Conjola, there was a massive flood. The lake flooded again. The contrast between bushfires and looking like a bomb had gone off and then a massive flood is just too much to take. But residence at Lake Conjola have been faced with this for many years. Residents were angry. They didn't have any problems telling me how it really was.
Sometimes I think governments at all levels can lose perspective and forget what it's really like to live on a day-to-day basis: bushfires and flood over and over, they take their toll. So I ask the government again: where is the $4 billion Emergency Response Fund, announced two years ago but never spent? This fund can provide up to $200 million per financial year to be spent on natural disaster recovery and mitigation. Now is the chance for the government to provide residents, businesses and communities the disaster mitigation they so desperately need.