GEPP (Northern Victoria) (11:54): When I first came into this place, people always said to me, ‘Be careful of Wednesdays’. Maybe that is the contrast between the last Parliament and this one, because it is wonderful to actually come here to discuss and debate some really good public policy propositions. I congratulate Mr Meddick on bringing this bill before the house. Since he first set foot in this place, Mr Meddick has been very true to his convictions and the reasons that drove him to seek a position in this Parliament. It is magnificent to be able to walk into the chamber and have a piece of public policy which excites debate, which engages people and which is really designed at its very, very core to do some real good in our communities around this wonderful state.
Of course we know that we are just still going through this pandemic of COVID-19 and some of our communities—the communities in Ms Lovell’s electorate along with my electorate and Ms Symes’s and Ms Maxwell’s—were devastated by bushfire only a few short months ago. That has been lost a little bit I think as the world has been grappling with this very difficult pandemic that has affected the entire globe. We saw, if we cast our minds back to that time, those communities were dealing with those horrendous bushfire scenes—not just here in Victoria of course. Who can forget some of the images that we saw from places in New South Wales? At the core, we saw people responding as they always do in these circumstances—not just to the circumstances that were confronting other humans but also our wildlife. And some of those images, both in the newspapers and on our TV screens, were just so, so powerful.
As I was looking through some of the media clippings going back to that time recently, there was an article that was actually produced in the New York Times in January and it was headed ‘How many animals have died in Australia’s wildfires?’. A professor estimated in that article that 1 billion animals died in Australia’s wildfires. That is a staggering number when you think about it—just staggering. This was an article on 11 January, and they broke some of those figures down:
Some 25,000 koalas feared dead … consumed by flames. Ten thousand feral camels— impacted by fires. And as I said:
… a whopping one billion animals estimated to have perished across Australia.
The contributions so far have touched on the animals that immediately come to mind when we think about bushfires. We talk about kangaroos and we talk about koalas. I have mentioned camels and we talk about livestock—cattle, pigs, sheep, for example—but of course there are so many more that are impacted by the devastation of bushfires.
That article actually quoted, for example, Kate Umbers, who is a biologist at Western Sydney University who, believe it or not, studies the Australian alpine grasshopper. She is worried about the fate of the nation’s grasshoppers, and not just the grasshoppers but the 250 000 insect species that we have in the country and the impact the bushfires had so dramatically on many of those species. We have got snakes, we have got all sorts of marsupials that were impacted by the devastation of bushfires, and it is so heartwarming to know that we do have so many volunteers, so many very well intentioned volunteers, who go into those places searching for animals that have been impacted by bushfire and are doing their best to rescue them and provide a humane solution for those animals.
So I am really pleased to be able to speak on this bill that has been brought before us by Mr Meddick. My colleagues that have gone before me have talked about the round table, and whilst that has been a bit disparaged in other contributions made today, I think it is an important part of continuing the conversation, continuing the discussion, on this very, very important piece of public policy. I commend Mr Meddick for bringing this debate to the house. It is a quality piece of public policy that is very worthwhile for this chamber to be considering, and I look forward to further contributions.
Business interrupted pursuant to sessional orders.