Stuart electorate – drought | SPEECH


The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (15:37): I follow the member for Mawson and before him the Minister for Education, both talking about the recent bushfire events, and I acknowledge them. The electorate of Stuart unfortunately experiences more bushfires than any other electorate in this state, but fortunately we have not had any significant bushfires just recently, and I do acknowledge the difficulties in other areas.

I also want to say, though, that an enormous part of our state has been suffering drought for a very long time. The bushfires are immediate. They are devastating quickly. They are visually impressive and terrifying. They have an extraordinary impact in a relatively short period of time. Then, of course, they can continue to drag on and on with highs and lows, whereas drought starts slowly and just gets deeper and deeper and grips more and more tightly for those who are affected by them.

In the electorate of Stuart, particularly people north and east of Eudunda, particularly people north and east of Orroroo and particularly people in the Flinders Ranges and the outback, have been dreadfully affected over many years. This drought, unlike others, gripped more quickly than most. It seemed that we went from higher rainfall to lower rainfall much more quickly than normal, and communities and families and people have been quite devastated. The bushfire is critically important, but I want this house to know that drought is also incredibly important. It should not be forgotten as another extraordinarily significant challenge our state faces at the moment.

The member for Flinders and I both approached the Premier and put this issue to him and explained to him that, yes, of course, we are dealing with the bushfires, but that we still do have this other issue and our communities need the government’s support as much as ever. It is not one or the other; unfortunately, now it is both these issues that we need to deal with. The Premier has responded by agreeing to come on a trip with the member for Flinders and me.

The member for Flinders, the Premier and I will be in Cleve at the member for Flinders’ request on Tuesday morning next week, and the Premier and I will be in Marree, then Hawker and then Orroroo, in my part of the world, on Tuesday lunchtime through to late afternoon. I acknowledge that the Hawker township specifically is actually in the electorate of Giles, and I know that the member for Giles has turned his mind to these issues, but the broader district affected by this issue is also, and perhaps more so, in the electorate of Stuart.

This issue is incredibly important, and I would like to also highlight this set of visits, as quick as it is. The member for Flinders and I are in our electorates and in these communities very regularly, but it is only possible for the Premier to come on a fairly quick trip. However, he will make the very most of that time, as he did when he joined me and the member for Chaffey, the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, in a similar trip very early last year. Issues such as the dog fence and financial support for drought, which were raised with us at that point in time, have been addressed by our government, so I am very optimistic that the issues that are raised with us this time will also be addressed by our government.

Finally, let me say that, while of course drought focus and support is primarily directed to primary producers—those cropping but more so those who are graziers and running livestock—it is also something that affects everybody. There is not a person in a country town or an outback town or a community who is not affected by drought even if they are not primary producers. Every child in every primary school is very aware of the stress and the challenge and the difficulty throughout his or her community. Businesses, whether they be tourism, a service station, a local pub, whatever they happen to be—families, communities, men and women, boys and girls—are affected by drought in country and outback South Australia.