McMillan was an affected area, and my wife and I were down the street in the newsagent at Pakenham in the immediate aftermath of this fire. She said to me as I walked in, ‘If this was John Howard instead of Kevin Rudd, he’d have rung by now; he’d have been talking to you,’ and the phone went, and it was Kevin Rudd. The best part was that we were being acknowledged as a community by the leaders of the nation. My speech of that time stands on the record, and I don’t step back from what I said at that time. I think I actually identified with where the community was at and where we were at, and how I was proud of the response of the federal parliament in regard to this horrific few hours.
Things can change in a day. In the morning, I thought my little farm was fine. We didn’t have a problem. So I rang others and said, ‘Look, you’re under threat. Send the animals here, load them up and bring them here’. Within an hour, we knew we had to leave. Being a 12-year fireman myself, from the early morning until the midmorning, my place had gone from a safe haven to one of the most dangerous places you could be in, because of the temperature. Even though I was totally prepared, nothing could have stopped it had that fired continued on its path towards our place.
Just recently, I was at Hedley, and I was hoping to come in and say that we’ve got a new generation of firefighters—that we’ve got all these young people and new equipment. But, at Hedley the other day at a hall committee meeting on a history matter, there was the head of the fire services down there, and—like, I bet, in your electorate and in your electorate the same—we haven’t got the numbers of people coming forward as volunteers and joining, and we just haven’t got the population in some cases in these small the areas. So it is the same people preparing for the fire. One of the difficult things as we that represent country electorates are reading our electorates all the time is this: the last tragedy we had was preceded by poor rainfall in the spring and poor rainfall in the autumn. This year, we have had poor rainfall in the spring and poor rainfall in the autumn and then rain at a time of maximum growth. Here we are just before Christmas. It is the most dangerous place. It was referred to by the member for Menzies and others; we’re in a dangerous time again. Queensland shows that we haven’t been burning off enough, as our Indigenous communities did for thousands of years before us. We don’t understand the threat even now, and we think we’ll be all right. As the member for McEwen said, very clearly: ‘You think you’ll be all right? Well, you have to consider whether you can survive such an onslaught when living in country communities.’ Even now, people are being caught out.
The tragedy of the personal lives has been raised by the member for Indi and especially, very well, by the member for McEwen. I join with you and say there are people grieving right now as they listen to this address for the family that they lost at that time. We can never understand the grief of a mother who has lost a son, daughter-in-law or children—never—and how they continue to survive and go on in their lives after being confronted with such tragedy in such terrible circumstances. We can only empathise with them, with those who have been hurt and knocked about. We can only do our best to make sure that our communities are prepared in a way that will protect them. We can only send out a message that says: ‘Don’t hang around. Your life is worth more. Get out of the place. Grab what you need to get and go.’ Bron took the dog before me, by the way, when we left; the dog got in the car first. You can understand that—I can! Thank you, member for Indi, for allowing me to speak on this.