16 November, 2022

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (15:57): Today, I rise to speak about the extreme weather events that caused major blackouts and damage across South Australia over the last weekend.

My heart goes out to everyone, every family and every business that has been affected financially and emotionally by the horrible storms and power blackouts.

The SA State Emergency Service reported that over 2,000 requests for flood and storm emergencies were received over a 24-hour period, and they have responded to over 1,000 requests for assistance on the weekend.

I ask Honourable Members of Parliament to join me in placing our sincere gratitude on the public record, to thank and acknowledge the SA State Emergency Service, the South Australian Country Fire Service, the Metropolitan Fire Service, South Australian Power Networks crews and hundreds of amazing volunteers for their tremendous work.

Those frontline emergency services personnel and volunteers worked tirelessly and selflessly, enduring strong winds, heavy rain and stormy conditions to keep the South Australian community safe.

They diligently responded to urgent requests for assistance, from restoring power lines, removing fallen trees and fixing up broken infrastructure to busily cleaning up after the weekend's long list of damages caused by the horrendous weather events.

The freak storm on Saturday 12 November cut South Australia off from the rest of the country's electricity grid and saw at least 164,000 SA Power Networks customers lose power. This equates to more than one in five households and businesses and up to 492,000 South Australians, based on a three-person household calculation.

As of Monday evening, nearly 25,000 homes and businesses were still in the dark, and some areas in the Adelaide Hills expect to be without power until the end of the week as crews work around the clock to undertake major repairs to powerlines.

Nearly 50 schools across the state were closed on Monday 14 November due to power outages or storm damage, and at least 24 public schools and kindergartens across Adelaide remained closed yesterday as it was still unsafe for children and students to return.

Among those worst hit were businesses in the hospitality and food sectors, some of whom lost power from Friday evening and were still waiting for it to be restored as of Tuesday.

While it is too early to quantify the total amount of produce and money lost, there were already reports of business owners dumping up to $60,000 worth of produce from restaurants and cafes.

The Australian Hotels Association of South Australia expects that the blackout has caused a multi-million-dollar loss for hotels and pubs affected and the many casual workers employed in the industry have again lost hours at a time when they are still recovering from the impacts of COVID restrictions.

The main electricity interconnector with Victoria was crippled due to the damaged tower near Tailem Bend, completely cutting South Australia off from the rest of the country's power network.

This blackout is considered worse than the one our state experienced in 2016. To put things into perspective, Business SA claimed that the 2016 statewide blackout cost South Australian businesses $367 million.

While the statewide blackout in 2016 was more wide reaching and resulted in the loss of power to over 850,000 customers, including hospitals, SA Power Networks has said this week that it will take much longer to restore power as crews work to rebuild the network in regional and metropolitan areas.

I would like to remind Honourable Members that the Marshall Liberal Government understood this risk and therefore introduced a new interconnector between South Australia and New South Wales to provide 800 megawatts capacity between the two states, stabilise the grid and help to support the continued take-up of household solar by South Australians.

Until that $2.3 billion interconnector is completed, we remain vulnerable to catastrophic weather events cutting off the sole interconnector we rely on from Victoria.

This week and in the last parliament sitting week, Liberal Members from this side of the Chamber have asked a series of questions to the Malinauskas Government regarding South Australia's energy security and we continue to call on the Labor Government to oversee the final delivery of an interconnector between South Australia and New South Wales as a critical priority so that our South Australian community can keep our lights on.