Stuart Electorate – Drought | SPEECH


The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (15:29): I rise on behalf of the people of Stuart to say a few words about the very difficult drought situation that is still affecting us and many other people throughout regional South Australia.

It has been a tough year, as I am sure everybody knows. We finished last year with very difficult drought conditions, we started off with bushfire conditions and we have moved into a global pandemic with the coronavirus. All those things would have been big enough, bad enough and difficult enough on their own, but the point I would like to make is that many of the people who were in drought before the bushfires and before the coronavirus are still in drought. It should not be forgotten that those people have been dealing with that plus the subsequent difficulties that have come along.

If I think about my electorate of Stuart, I think particularly about the people north and east of Eudunda and the people north and east of Orroroo. They are not the only ones doing it tough, but there are two very clear patches that really are still struggling, and there are certainly other patches further north in the pastoral zone as well. We have had very good rains in some places—in fact, outstanding opening rains for some of the cropping areas. We have had some very good patches of rain in some of the pastoral areas as well.

Most members of this house drive around, and if some of you head into country areas you will see crops coming up through the dirt and it will look green, shiny, fresh and lovely. That is terrific, but please do not let that be your assumed impression of all country and outback South Australia. There are people who have had several years in a row of well below average rainfall. Drought is a relative thing. Drought is very much about the rainfall you get in an area compared with the rainfall you would typically expect as an average.

You could have rainfall in an outback area that is lower than rainfall in a very good cropping area, yet that outback area might be having a good year and the cropping area might be having a bad year. So it is not just about the nominal rainfall; it is about rainfall relative to what you get because what you expect to get is what you invest for. What you expect to get is what you plan for, and what you expect to get is how you spend money sometimes that is expected to last for years and years in your ag business.

There are families who are wrestling not only with having to sell stock they do not want to sell, not only with having to try to pay bills they just cannot pay and not only with the prospect of potentially having to lose their properties, some of which have been in families for generations and generations, but there are people who are on top of all of that and dealing more with incredibly stressful mental health issues. Some of those people know it and some do not. Some of those who know it are seeking help, and some of those who know it are not seeking help.

Let me tell you that it is affecting everybody, and it is not only about agriculture. When you live and work in an agriculture district, everybody is affected: the pub is affected, the servo is affected and the schoolteachers are affected with regard to having to deal with children who are grappling with stress they do not even fully understand, and neither should they. Every single part of rural and outback life is affected by drought. I cannot make this point too strongly: there are still people in South Australia in my electorate and in other parts of the state who are under severe pressure from drought.

That might seem like nothing compared to a bushfire and nothing compared to a global pandemic, but that is not true. In many cases, the people still wrestling with drought have been affected by bushfires and the global pandemic. They are dealing with three out of three. I want to be absolutely sure that no member in this house forgets about the people in regional, rural and outback South Australia dealing with drought.