Webdiary - Independent, Ethical, Accountable and Transparent
header_02 home about login header_06
sidebar-top content-top

‘Get the dog, get the bucket, put it in the car. The moment we see anything go up to our north, we move.’

The federal electorate of McMillan covers West Gippsland, from the mountains down to Wilsons Promontory. As I write, bushfires – including the Bunyip fire – are raging there and in many of the adjoining electorates. Russell Broadbent is the Liberal member for McMillan. Yesterday afternoon I heard him give this moving speech:

Mr BROADBENT—I want to identify, of course, with the remarks of the Prime Minister and thank him for his call of concern to my electorate, through me; it was passed on to my electorate. Prime Minister, I believe you were where you should have been these last two days—you were at the front in Victoria with the Premier and with Ted Baillieu, doing what we would have expected of you, and I thank you for that. When Ivan Smith’s face came on my television on Saturday afternoon—he was my district group officer during the Ash Wednesday bushfire—I knew we were in trouble. He is a very experienced incident controller. I knew that the fire was out of the Bunyip Ridge state forests and on the move. I was immediately drawn back to that day at Beaconsfield when my team was pulled from the fire 15 minutes before the crews that went in before us died. I was immediately reminded of the next day, heading with my crew and my truck up to Upper Pakenham. I had the best driver I knew in the town, Greg Atkins, a great team and a good truck, but I was wondering one thing: will I bring these people home? I know that goes through the minds of the Ivan Smiths and the Peter Schmidts—Peter Schmidt gave us a briefing yesterday—and the Brian Petries. They are all over this great southland, these people. Their names you do not know—they are just men and women who do their jobs extremely well.

It was hard coming in here yesterday, when the call came out from Churchill in Darren Chester’s electorate. We had fires last week near there and we had fires coming through there last night. The word was that it was too late to leave. The fear rips you when you know that one of the communities in your electorate—it was in my electorate; it is now in Darren’s electorate—has a fire fronting the homes. These are urban country areas where a fire is drifting through and then coming on at a rate about which the CFA is saying that it is too late to leave. When I was at Warragul on Sunday at the refuge centre, my friend Gary Blackwood, the member for Narracan, said, ‘I have just spoken to my mate. They stayed to defend the house. They expected the ember attack and then the fire front to go through. But instead of that, two lines of flame came at them, straight out of the scrub. They hit the shed wall and went straight up the shed wall, across the shed roof, down to the floor, across the ground and into the house, and the house blew up.’ This was in a matter of seconds. They were ready for everything, and they were mentally prepared too. The awesome fury of the fire coming out of the Bunyip state forest just before it broke into open ground ripped out a 200-foot mountain ash, threw it into the air and dropped it on the ground as if it were a twig. The awesome fury of this fire cannot be comprehended by the thinking of any reasonable person.

I say to the Deputy Prime Minister: thank you for your address yesterday. It may be looked back on as one of the most important addresses you have ever made to this House. To the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition: you identified with the broken-hearted, with the wounded spirits, with the loss, the grieving and the terrible unprecedented trauma that is being experienced right now. I know there are people who will wake every morning believing that it was all a dream; that it did not happen. And then they will realise it was not a dream and they will cry and they will cry again. Deputy Prime Minister, you identified with every man and woman right across Australia. More importantly, as I stood in my kitchen listening while you stood together as one in this House on behalf of all of those people, that was a proud moment for me because you all identified with what the others had just said. The people of Australia knew that each one of you stood as one with them. It is not just about David Hawker, John Forrest, Sophie Mirabella, Tony Smith, Jason Wood, Darren Cheeseman, Steve Gibbons—and Fran Bailey: I do not know how that woman is standing on her feet. I have known her since 1984 and she is tough as guts, and I know she is out there now doing what she can in her area, which has been so badly affected. Not just those I mentioned but all of you—many from New South Wales—have people who will be investing in the work that will need to be done over time. The six degrees of separation is a lot closer in Australia. I also do not want to leave out mentioning the Treasurer and his remarks yesterday in regard to these fires.

The Bunyip Ridge fire was an incendiary device sitting for four days waiting for the north wind. To give a bit of an outline for those who do not know where McMillan is, we are in Gippsland. If you imagine Melbourne and East Gippsland, it is around the centre, near the Great Dividing Range, Mount Baw Baw—that area. Bunyip Ridge is closer to Melbourne, sitting up there. I will not say how the fire started, but four fires went up at the one time on the one road way back in the forest. That fire sat there against as much effort as the DSE could put into it for that time, and we knew about it and we had a plan for it. We have fought many fires in that area. It was going to come out of the forest and it was going to come out on Saturday. We knew about what time it was going to come out, we knew where it was going to go and we knew what the worst case scenario was.

I paint that picture for you of where Bunyip is. Just to the east of that, you then have Noojee and Walhalla, where there are five fires burning. Way to the east, we have the Dargo fire. Behind us, we have the Churchill fire, which is just coming up again through increased wind right across Victoria. I paint that picture because there is also the Healesville fire closer to the north of Melbourne. What we are looking at is a fire that we are in and managing today, and each one of us in this room who has identified with the Australian community are all in this fire in Victoria today. And the worst case scenario is that if we do not have rain, those fires will join together. The Bunyip Ridge fire has a 21-kilometre front at the moment. That is going north by one kilometre.

In the worst case, the Healesville fire will join the Bunyip Ridge fire and the Noojee fires. I dare say, Prime Minister, that you have had the same briefing that I have. Therefore, if a northerly wind changes, we are then threatened all the way to the south from that fire. Those of you who have experienced the weather patterns that have been going on in Victoria recently will know that there have been hot days and then cool changes which hit hard and will go for an hour. That is how the great damage of Ash Wednesday and the incredible damage of yesterday was done. That is the situation we face today.

There are things we can do, but I want to pay tribute to the ABC: to Gerard Callinan and his team at the ABC at Gippsland. For those of you who were listening to channel 774 and getting all the information that you needed, how important are they to us and how important are they to every individual? I heard one man say how important it was: ‘Just to hear a voice in my house. I have nothing else. I am staying here to protect.’ I know how people felt on Saturday afternoon. I changed into my boots, my woollen socks, my cotton jeans and my pure cotton top, and I got my overalls ready and went outside and picked up the hose that was going to protect us. I turned it on and it blew straight back over my head and I knew then that what I was facing was nothing that we could normally do something about in our household. So I put it down and went back inside and said to Bronwyn, ‘Get the dog, get the bucket, put it in the car. The moment we see anything go up to our north, we move.’ There are many working in our community today who are still traumatised by what happened on Ash Wednesday. We are going to need every resource that this government and this parliament together can muster to respond to what has happened, what is happening and what is ahead of us. I know that you will do that as one.

Our firemen have been terrific and they are tired, but there are those who work in the back room. If you are a person anywhere in Australia who has experience in logistics, resource management or fire planning and you have not come forward yet, please come forward. And if you are someone who in the future might like to be trained in that area, these are the men and the women who have been working behind the scenes: in administration, catering—normal things that are not on the front page of the paper. But they are equally important as those who are on the fire front.

To those who pray, I say: pray now; do not leave it until next Sunday. To those who fight, I say: all strength to your arm; stay safe. To those who serve, I say: we in this parliament stand with you as one. There was a note from somebody else today that I read in all the information that comes through, but I added to it. In times such as these of unprecedented trauma when faced with an inescapable disaster from a near indestructible force, all we can rely on is each other. Sadly, as the Prime Minister has described today, there are so many who cannot even do that.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

This will be topical

"They were labelled law breakers, fined $50,000 and left emotionally and financially drained.

But seven years after the Sheahans bulldozed trees to make a fire break — an act that got them dragged before a magistrate and penalised — they feel vindicated. Their house is one of the few in Reedy Creek, Victoria,  still standing."

The dread news

They're all hanging back from Marysville. That will be the emotional turning point which will pale everything else.


At a special assembly for fire victims at my daughter's school this morning, a mother and ten-year old son ran from the room sobbing.  The boy's grandmother, according to the lad, had "melted."

These are the people that need to be cared for.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
© 2005-2011, Webdiary Pty Ltd
Disclaimer: This site is home to many debates, and the views expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the site editors.
Contributors submit comments on their own responsibility: if you believe that a comment is incorrect or offensive in any way,
please submit a comment to that effect and we will make corrections or deletions as necessary.
Margo Kingston Photo © Elaine Campaner

Recent Comments

David Roffey: {whimper} in Not with a bang ... 12 weeks 6 days ago
Jenny Hume: So long mate in Not with a bang ... 12 weeks 6 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Reds (under beds?) in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Justin Obodie: Why not, with a bang? in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Dear Albatross in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Michael Talbot-Wilson: Good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Goodnight and good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 3 days ago
Margo Kingston: bye, babe in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 6 days ago