It certainly has been a vigorous start to the fire season in Australia, and, while in South Australia we haven’t suffered fires of the colossal size of those in the eastern states, we’ve certainly had our own touches. It started back on 11 November in Port Lincoln—sadly, in an area that has seen a number of fires over the last 15 years. That brings into question things about preparation, but two homes were lost, nine outbuildings were destroyed and about 235,000 hectares were burnt. I must say well done to the firefighters: there were 25 houses saved. It gives you some idea of the response teams and just how well they work on the ground.
Then, of course, we were faced with a horrific day on 20 November in South Australia. There were catastrophic conditions, and we had two fires on Yorke Peninsula and one at the northern end around Port Wakefield. I must say there were no lives lost in any of these fires, but there was less property loss at the two on the northern end. Certainly around Ardrossan and Port Wakefield they were brought under control within the day. I visited the site of the fire that took off from Yorketown and stood alongside the power pole where the transformer, on the water tower that feeds the Yorketown community, shot out a heap of sparks that started a fire that burnt 5,000 hectares. It burned through virtually to the coastline, and then the wind swung around to the south and sent the fires north towards Edithburgh. Once again, the volunteers did an enormous job, a wonderful job, and that coordinated manner in which we deal these situations is to be applauded.
The last official count I had was 11 homes destroyed. I actually think the figure has risen higher than that, but I haven’t had a recent readout on it. Not all of them were inhabited, but I have been down there for a look and toured around with the mayor, Darren Braund, who has done a terrific job under some fairly difficult circumstances. He had to evacuate his own home, for instance. But I had a look and, while not all the homes were inhabited, I make the point that anyone who has lost their home has lost everything. For that, it doesn’t matter whether there are 100 homes, 1,000 homes or two homes lost; they’re all in the same boat. So I worked very hard last week to make sure the Commonwealth support mechanisms clicked in—that is, the $1,000 payments per person—and we had them activated by Friday night. It would have been better in the morning so people could have immediately got that before Centrelink closed, but those things have been put in place.
I congratulate Michelle Lensink, the state minister, who hosted a community meeting over at Yorketown on Monday. Over 200 people rolled up, so there are a lot of people interested in what they can access, what they can do and what they can do to help their neighbours. Well done to those communities.