Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (15:55): I would like to follow in a similar vein to the member for Light and thank some volunteers. I would also like to highlight that I did appreciate some of the comments from the Minister for Emergency Services when she talked about the first day of bushfire season, but it was very unfortunate that in her extensive answer to a question here today she did not thank the thousands of emergency services volunteers when she stood to speak.
I would like to personally thank the thousands of emergency services workers—volunteers and professionals—who support our state. In South Australia we have approximately 15,000 CFS volunteers working at over 423 operational stations; approximately 1,700 SES volunteers working at approximately 67 stations; and 1,500 South Australian Ambulance Service volunteers working at 70 stations. We also have 580 volunteers working in marine rescue or coast guard across 14 different flotillas.
That is 19,000 volunteers of which I am proudly one, in the CFS, and the CFS represents approximately 80 per cent of those people. I would like to personally thank every single one of those people, plus the paid staff who work in those agencies and others. There is the Metropolitan Fire Service, the police, and others—including, interestingly, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and ForestrySA. People who work in those departments also volunteer their time to support our state emergency services. They should all be recognised, particularly the volunteers.
The CFS makes up about 80 per cent of the total volunteer emergency service force that we have in our state. Fires are front of mind at the moment, on 1 December at the beginning of the fire season across our entire state, and I commend the minister for mentioning that today. Already this year in Queensland, the Northern Territory and north-east South Australia some very, very devastating fires have burnt out in excess of the same geographical area as the whole state of Tasmania.
Very, very sadly in the last couple of weeks we have also seen devastating fires in Western Australia that I think actually burnt out 32 homes. That would be tragic anywhere, and it highlights the fact that this is a remote (as in faraway pastoral country), rural and urban issue. Urban fringes are exceptionally at risk as we know in South Australia from unfortunate experience in the Adelaide Hills.
In the last few days (and it is still currently burning in one of these places) we have been very, very forcefully reminded of the risks that we face. Port Augusta, Gladstone and the north-west pastoral area near Bulgunnia have all fought fires lately. I was at the fire at Port Augusta, not in a CFS volunteer capacity because I was actually at work in Port Augusta at the time and my kit was at Wilmington, but I did go to the scene and talk to some of the volunteers there. They think they were within minutes of stopping that fire at Port Augusta from actually reaching houses.
I drove through and had a good look at the Gladstone fire ground when I was driving down to parliament yesterday evening just before dark. I spoke with some truck drivers who work carting grain at the moment, and there are actually burnt tarps and bunkers. One bunker nearly caught on fire at the Gladstone silos and grain receival area, and there is a fire still burning at Bulgunnia which is one of the McLachlan properties in the north-west of South Australia.
People think of emergency services workers (like we saw on the front page of The Advertiser yesterday) as people actively engaged in fighting fires. I would like to highlight that there are an enormous number of ways that people contribute, whether as radio operators back at the base; or catering; and also, very importantly, on strike teams. People leave their homes and their families for days at a time to go and fight fires in other parts of the state, and I think that is a tremendous sacrifice.
In the CFS, interestingly, motor vehicle accidents account for the majority of callouts. In fact, CFS crews attend motor vehicle accidents more often than they attend fires, and that is an important service that they provide as well. It would be remiss of people just to think of the CFS as a firefighting organisation, although it does that exceptionally well.
I would just like to say we need to be particularly aware this season. We have had reminders, but this will be a very risky, very dangerous fire season for South Australia, and I hope all people will be prepared for it. Thank you again to the volunteers.