Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (16:34): I too rise in support of Ms Maxwell’s motion. The destruction and devastation of the 2019–20 bushfires across Victoria is something none of us are going to forget very soon.
Five Victorians lost their lives. More than 300 homes were destroyed. Approximately 1.5 million hectares of public and private land was burnt. It is estimated that bushfire smoke was linked to 120 extra deaths, 331 hospitalisations with cardiovascular problems, 585 hospitalisations for respiratory problems and 401 emergency department presentations for asthma, according to the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience. The 2019–20 bushfires took their toll on everybody, and it is a clear reminder of the Aussie battler spirit of giving a mate a hand no matter what the odds. I wish to take this moment to thank the thousands of CFA volunteers and career firefighters, the SES, the Australian Defence Force and the government, but I also want to make special note of the Minister for Police and Emergency Services at the time, Lisa Neville, forest fire services and the everyday Victorians who banded together in the face of these roaring firestorms.
At the very heart of this motion is one of the many devastating outcomes of fire: homelessness. As we know, hundreds of homes were destroyed by the bushfires across Victoria. This motion highlights that only one in 40 people have successfully moved back into permanent housing after nearly 16 months have passed. The stress of living in temporary accommodation for 18 months in a place that is not your own home can be immense. Living in temporary accommodation can be awkward, uncomfortable and stressful. When we add the financial troubles of the COVID-19 pandemic, plus the financial gap between insurance payouts and the cost of building a house in a bushfire area, I can only imagine that these individuals feel like the road to recovery is never-ending.
I note that it has been heartening to see the government instigate travel to these regional communities with monetary incentives to visitors, and this has been very successful. I too now call on the government to address the lack of local housing and accommodation in bushfire areas as well as the other relevant policies and regulations to help the lift the load off bushfire-affected Victorians. I also want to thank the people of Bright. It is an area I am familiar with; I did holiday here at Christmas time, so I am very happy to be back.
I also just want to say one thing to Claire. There have been a lot of very articulate people speak here today. Clearly I am not one of them. But I also want to think that there has been a bit of inspiration for you. We have got five ministers here today, four of them women, and there are opportunities coming. I often say to the people I work with that life is like a footy game and there are four quarters. I am playing the last quarter, but we are keeping the seat warm, so we are waiting for you to come on. I commend this motion to the house.