Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:32): I rise today to show a level of concern in regard to question time today about the preparedness of this government for what is deeming to be one of history's high-flow flooding events in South Australia's history.
The first question today to the Premier was about his most recent visit to the Riverland. I acknowledge he did try to ring me at 6.30 or thereabouts on the day he came up, but I then texted him. I then rang him to see if we could meet. No response. I texted the Deputy Premier if we could have a conversation about coming together so that I could give them a better understanding of what this region was about to go for. No response. I then texted the Minister for Emergency Services to see if we could have a chat. No response. Really, it was about a photo exercise. It was about going up in a helicopter, having a look around—but with nothing. The Premier and his team went up for the day and left us with nothing other than hope.
I am very concerned that today the Premier said that he is prepared to work with me and share knowledge. Well, that day would have been the perfect day to do that. Will the Premier uphold his promise to the people of the Riverland, to those tourism operators, those small business operators that there will be a package there to help them? I hope so. Those tourism operators and small businesses have been belted from pillar to post, not only with COVID but now with the uncertainty and with high flows and water coming into South Australia.
The uncertainty the Riverland is living with is the continual moving of the goalposts. We saw those predictions start at 80, then went to 90 and then went to up over 100. Then it went to 120 and now it is 165. I think it is going to be closer to 200, but what we have to do is wait. I want to give the people of the Riverland, the people of the river communities, the certainty they deserve. Questions were asked of the Minister for Human Services about emergency measures, emergency preparedness for these high-flow events, and she talked about hotel rooms.
We are talking between 4,000 and 6,000 power disconnections due to that high flow. To put that into perspective, how many people in the river corridor will be displaced from their homes and from their businesses? What does that mean for the ability of irrigators to pump water? What that is telling me is that we are going to have an induced drought outside the flood zone, and that does worry me greatly.
We have many, many hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, if not billions of dollars of irrigated assets that SA Power Networks have not addressed properly. They have come to me at the last minute saying, 'We will give you a briefing.' Sir, give me a break! Give me a briefing? We have a lifetime of permanent plantings and businesses that have been built through generations of commitment to producing food, yet we have SA Power Networks not giving us one iota of understanding of what their support will be. I asked the Minister for Energy yesterday what he will do. Again, he pointed to SA Power Networks.
I am urging the government of the day to come out and give the Riverland, give the river communities, a level of certainty. In terms of health, I asked the Minister for Health about evacuation procedures at the Renmark hospital. I acknowledge that he gave me a reasonable answer, but where will those almost 100 residents and patients be relocated?
I can understand that the nine patients will be relocated to hospitals within the vicinity, but 77 aged-care residents will not fit into the current infrastructure we have locally in Chaffey, so those aged people under care will be displaced right around South Australia. Where is the plan? Where is the understanding of just where those people will be moved?
Again, with respect to emergency services, the minister was asked by the member for Hammond about preparing for flood mitigation. Sandbags are an issue, and I have talked to the minister about that. I can assure the minister that sandbags are available in this country. I have constituents who are buying them of their own accord. They are buying 1,000 bag bales as we speak here in Australia. We are not waiting for bags to come from India. It is a slow boat from India, let me tell you. We do not understand just how many bags are coming from India, and we do not know how long it is going to take.
Time is of the essence. The Riverland and its river communities are running out of patience through lack of preparedness by this government.