Fire and emergency services amendment bill

2 March 2021

Mr DULUK (Waite) (17:05): I will be quite brief in my remarks. I just put on the record that I will be supporting the Fire and Emergency Services (Governance) Amendment Bill 2020. I note that some of the changes in this bill come from the many recommendations made in the Keelty review prepared in the wake of last year's devastating bushfires, commonly known as the Cudlee Creek fires. The member for MacKillop has been discussing at length some of the issues across his electorate. I know, sir, that through your electorate and my electorate these are significant issues that play on the mind of our communities.

One of the important recommendations in the Keelty review was the need for reporting to parliament and tabling reports. I think it is really important that parliament also has the opportunity to review, to scrutinise and to be involved in bushfire management and prevention. One of the really big aspects from of the Keelty review was what are we are doing to prevent and reduce bushfire risk. We all know that when a fire strikes the service of volunteers, especially our CFS and SES, obviously well supported by the MFS, in the battle to beat a fire goes above and beyond, and they do that all the time.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about appropriate resourcing for our CFS volunteers. It is good to see the government is moving in that direction, with investments in automatic vehicle location devices. That is something I talked about and I asked the minister questions about it. It is good to see it slowly starting to roll out across South Australia. Another issue is ensuring that our volunteers have the best equipment. Rollover protection for their vehicles is so important.

A lot of the Keelty review talks about prevention before bushfires start and how we deal with fuel load management. I am heartened that, in the lead-up to this year's bushfire season, there has been an increase in burning and fuel load reduction strategies in my community and across the Adelaide Hills. It is so important around reporting mechanisms and the ability for parliament to have a role. This is an issue that my predecessors have discussed in committees.

A former committee looked into bushfire preparedness. It was chaired by the former member for Ashford, the Hon. Steph Key, and the former member for Enfield, the Hon. John Rau. These are issues that the parliament has ventilated for over a decade now. I would like to commend the government for bringing forward some of the measures. I think they will go some way to ensuring that there is responsibility. Information flow is so important, as is people having a say.

One of the big issues from the Cherry Gardens bushfires last month is how the community prepare themselves and deal with the information before them. There have always been teething issues with CFS bushfire apps. We know the former government experienced a huge number of issues with this and, I think, dropped the ball in this regard. During the Cudlee Creek fire, a lot of South Australians were left vulnerable because the CFS app was not working. It was a poor rollout by the former government.

We have seen improvements in the last year or two in the use of those apps. Holistic long-term thinking on how we prepare our communities, especially our peri-urban communities that are built up, right from the member for Light's electorate across the peri-urban landscape and all the way to mine, is how we move thousands of residents if they need to evacuate their homes. Where do they go?

Bushfire refuges, engagement with the CFS, knowing what to do—with some of these changes, if the government is to roll out all of Keelty I think we will be going a long way to ensuring that our communities are safer each and every bushfire season.