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Remarks at the electricity sector Bushfire Response and Recovery Roundtable

23 January 2020

Subject: Energy

E&OE

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thank you so much everybody for coming along this morning at relativity late notice.

It is obviously an extremely important discussion to have and we really do appreciate so many of you coming along at such notice, and from very high levels in your organisations.

I don’t need to tell any of you that these bushfires have been devastating for much of the country.

The sad reality is that 29 people have lost their lives and we know that six firefighters lost their lives bravely doing the incredible work that we saw them doing across so much of the country.

I really do want to extend my sincere condolences to the families of those brave people.

There are so many communities that have been affected by these fires.

We know as well that almost 3,000 houses have been lost, over 10 million hectares have been burnt, and that has had very real impacts on communities across the country.

I have seen that first hand in towns like Balmoral, Bargo, Wingello, Bundanoon in my own electorate, the devastating impacts of those fires.

The damage to electricity networks we understand much about - there is still things we don’t understand about it

But we know that in Victoria for instance it was 7,000 Ausnet customers were without power on the 1st of January across North-Eastern Victoria and East Gippsland.

We know that in New South Wales there were 57,000 customers without power at some point.

And in South Australia, tens of thousands of customers were without power.

Incredible work was done by many of you, or all of your companies and organisations in different ways with an unprecedented response.

We still have, as I understand, 2,200 who are not connected, although many of them have power through local generation that has been brought in and will continue to work hard.

We will talk today about who we will ensure that those remaining people are reconnected to the network as quickly as possible.

Thank you for the work that so many of you have done.

I have spoken to a number of you through the course of this and I do commend the extraordinary work you have done.

I know many of you have also provided financial support to fire fighters, to those affected through the course of this. Again I have had discussions with a number of you through the course of this and I appreciate what you have done on that front.

It has been wonderful to see the work that you have done alongside state governments and the Australian Defence Force in getting our networks back up.

With such loses to see them up as quickly as they have been has been fantastic.

I think we have learnt a lot about how to work across agencies and across different levels of governments through the course of this.

We need to cement those learnings and ensure that we are able to respond quickly and effectively in the future as well as we can and learn from the things we have done well and as well as the things we think we could have done better.

The focus of today will be on understanding where we sit and ensuring that the immediate assistance continues for those remaining people who need support. That immediate assistance is obviously our first and top priority and we will be discussing that today.

We will also be looking at how we can respond in the future, and of course that’s very important to take those learnings as I have said.

After our discussions today, my office and department will consider the outcomes and any suggestions and will seek to co-ordinate any requests for assistance or matters to follow up and we will work closely with the Bushfire Recover Agency in doing that.

So again, thank you for coming today. It is an important discussion. Thank you for the hard work you have been doing and I look forward to working with you not just today but in the coming weeks and months.