Debate resumed from 10 March 2009.
The Hon. HENRY TSANG
(Parliamentary Secretary) [4.56 p.m.]: I continue my condolence speech on the motion moved by the Hon. Michael Veitch relating to the Victorian Bushfires, which states:
1. That this House:
(a) notes the devastation caused by the Victorian bushfires of Black Saturday,
(b) notes the tragic loss of more than 200 lives and the destruction of thousands of homes and properties,
(c) recognises the heroic efforts of both Victorian and New South Wales emergency service personnel in fighting the bushfires and providing other support to those affected by the disaster, and
(d) extends its condolences to all those who have lost family, friends, homes and possessions in this terrible tragedy.
2. That this resolution be communicated by the President to the President of the Legislative Council of Victoria.
In a national disaster as immense as the Victorian bushfires I draw attention to the great work of the Australian Red Cross, which has played a leading role in the humanitarian response to this disaster. Red Cross teams have been providing personal support to all those returning home. Clearly this is a very difficult time for them as they try to come to terms with the sheer scale of the disaster.
The Red Cross inquiry centre has dealt with more than 40,000 calls from the public, and more than 1,000 volunteers and staff have been involved in responding to those calls. I understand from the Australian Red Cross that Australians have donated $227 million to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. As Lewis Kaplan, Executive Director New South Wales, Australian Red Cross, stressed when acknowledging the donations of the Australian Chinese community to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal, the Red Cross is taking no administration fees. Every dollar donated to the appeal has gone into a trust fund and is being distributed under the supervision of an independent advisory panel chaired by John Landy, former Governor of Victoria. Other panel members are Robert Tickner, Chief Executive of the Australian Red Cross; Pat McNamara, former Deputy Premier of Victoria; Lyn Gunter, Mayor of Murrindindi Shire Council; and Professor Glyn Davis, Vice-Chancellor, University of Melbourne. I quote Robert Tickner, who said:
It is truly an amazing response from the Australian people. We have heard reports of people affected by the floods in Northern Queensland donating their assistance money directly to help those devastated by the fires in Victoria.
This is what it is all about. The power of humanity—people coming together to help other people. Not everyone can be on the frontline as a fire fighter or a first aid worker, but everyone can make a difference by contributing to the appeal.
The power of humanity is also international and crosses national borders. This is reflected in the assistance of the Chinese Government in providing high-quality satellite images and data to Australia. Those images and that data have greatly assisted in the rescue efforts. As Professor Mark Wainwright, Chairman of the Australia-China Council, whose role is to promote cultural and educational exchange, said, the council will now also encourage science and technology cooperation between the two countries. Professor Mary O'Kane, the New South Wales Chief Scientist and Scientific Engineer, praised the productive relationship that has developed between the Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information and the China Centre for Earth Observation and Digital Earth, particularly during the bushfire.
I thank the Australian Red Cross for its efforts in helping the victims of the Victorian bushfires. Red Cross staff have been working tirelessly to process the donations. I also thank the Australian Chinese community for its generous support of the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. On behalf of the Government I also express my sincere appreciation to the Chinese Government for its timely assistance in providing satellite images and data on the bushfire sites. I congratulate Premier Rees for his initiatives in response to this disaster and for his leadership in motivating people to support those in need, which shows that we Australians do care.
Debate adjourned on motion by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile and set down as an order of the day for a future day.