It would’ve been my pleasure to second the motion. However, I’ve been jumped by the member for Indi, which I’m now crushed about. I’ve already told the story to the parliament of going to a dear friend’s funeral in Bairnsdale. Outside of that funeral centre was a massive electronic sign. In the middle or just after the crucial days of the fire, that sign didn’t say ‘look after yourself’ or ‘drive with your lights on’ or ‘bushfire area—be careful’, none of that. That massive sign said one thing and that one thing was ‘Fires and storms—tune to the ABC.’
You’re right, there were too many telecommunications that went down. There were too many situations where nobody could communicate anywhere with anybody except for one thing—the ABC. So I’m here to praise Laura Poole and her team out at Gippsland and of course, the member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, Minister Chester, who was also extremely effective in his use of the ABC to get the general messages across from the government as to what needed to be done on a daily basis and about what was happening at Mallacoota. But we know that this enormous tragedy affected everybody from Queensland through New South Wales down into East Gippsland, across to the Adelaide Hills and some parts of Western Australia. So it was erupting around us but there were Laura Poole and her team, all of them—I’m not going to name them individually because the list is that long. I’ll name Gerard Callinan, because he left the ABC some years ago and came back as a volunteer presenter to support the team, his old team. They were a magnificent team that went virtually 24 hours a day non-stop on behalf of the people of Gippsland, and everybody was tuned to the ABC. They were so important in this time of crisis.
The ABC, for me, have been a way in our rural area to communicate messages that local members need to get out in regards to any situations that we face, so they’re always there in times of trouble. They are the reporting agency. They are the people who take the responsibility to get the messages out when no-one else can get the messages out. So, Laura, I say thank you to you and your team at the ABC Gippsland, and to Gerard Callinan for coming back and giving his time and expertise and it has to be very effective communications as to what’s happening. We’re best off if we have presenters who can actually pronounce the names of the areas, know where the roads are, and are not challenged by the fact that they are tired and exhausted, but rather would relish the opportunity to be part of the community response to what was a tragedy in this area, and a national tragedy around the country. I’m not saying for one minute that my ABC was better than your ABC—I wouldn’t dare do that—but my ABC who I have supported my ABC forever in this place and I have supported Friends of the ABC. I have supported very clearly and forthrightly how important the ABC is to regional Australia and regional Victoria. It doesn’t matter where you go; it doesn’t matter how remote you are; it doesn’t matter how far away from city centres you are: you get an opportunity to tune into the ABC in one way or another.
When the nation’s under threat, we have the ABC to communicate to us. We must preserve that. We must look after that. And we must say, ‘How can we best do this job with the ABC?’
I know it all comes down to money. There was a $1.1 billion outlay for government, and what I do know is that every government—and I’ve been here from the Hawke government through, but not consistently, sadly—has had problems with the ABC. Every government has been through this. We work with them but I really thank them for the work they did during this bushfire season. Thank you.