WOLLONGONG STORM DAMAGE
(Keira) [5.38 p.m]: I refer again to the storm damage which occurred in Wollongong on Monday, 17 August. Many stories have been told about this disaster. I and other members from the Illawarra region have spoken in the past about this matter in the Parliament. On Saturday, 12 September, because of the devastation experienced by families and their desertion by insurance companies in this State, Keith Nolan, chief executive officer of the Kembla Grange racetrack, the Illawarra Turf Club, decided to sponsor a race day to raise funds to assist families in distress. Keith indicated that he was targeting about $50,000 for the day. The racing industry and associated leisure organisations staged the lord mayor’s flood appeal race day and auction on Saturday, 12 September.
The race day sponsors included: Southern Classic Cars, which donated $15,250; the Registered Clubs Association of New South Wales, which donated $20,000; the Illawarra branch of the Australian Hotels Association, which donated $15,000; the Club Managers Association of Australia, which donated $5,000; the City Tattersalls Club, Sydney, which donated $10,000; the National Australia Bank, Wollongong, which donated $25,000; the Illawarra Business Chamber, which donated $5,000; the New South Wales TAB, which donated $10,000; the Australian Jockey Club, which donated $5,000; the Sydney Turf Club, which donated $5,000; and the Provincial Clubs Association, the Newcastle Jockey Club, the Hawkesbury Race Club, Wyong Turf Club, Gosford Race Club and the Illawarra Turf Club, which donated $10,000.
A further 26 donors contributed to the appeal. Two of the major prizes in an auction were a car donated by Southern Classic Cars at Wollongong, which was valued at $65,000 and had a reserve auction price of $34,000, and return air fares from Sydney to Canada for two, courtesy of Canada 3000 Airlines Ltd, Brighton-le-Sands, plus an accommodation package including tours, courtesy of Ambassador Travel Services, Brisbane. The appeal
received an incredible response. Indeed, the Premier attended the race day meeting on the Saturday afternoon to lend his support.
Last Saturday Bede McMahon, President of Illawarra Turf Club, handed to the Lord Mayor of Wollongong a cheque for $159,296. Insurance companies in this State should take note of our community’s efforts. Many companies have totally negated their responsibility to thousands of residents of the Illawarra. On Friday, 25 September, in a massive rally in Wollongong people marched through the central business district to the NRMA offices to criticise insurance companies in general and the Insurance Council of Australia in particular for their lack of intestinal fortitude in not ensuring that New South Wales insurance companies made the appropriate insurance payments to the people of Wollongong, who in some instances had lost everything.
At that rally I spoke about my disgust with the insurance industry and the Insurance Council. I said that not only were houses and property destroyed but families were psychologically affected by having to wait for insurance money to put their lives back together. In some instances those families are still waiting. The Insurance Council and the insurance companies of this State should be condemned for their lack of action. On 28 October many Wollongong residents will demonstrate outside the NRMA offices where the NRMA will hold its annual general meeting.
I compliment the Wollongong office of the Department of Community Services, which has already paid out approximately $2.2 million to families who were affected by the disaster. That money is part of the emergency funding made available by this Government after the Premier declared Wollongong and the Illawarra a disaster area following the incredible storm on Monday, 17 August. How could insurance companies claim that it was not a storm? How could there be flooding without a downpour? I can assure the House that the storm was devastating. The Insurance Council and the insurance companies of this State should be condemned for not acting morally and in a compassionate way. [Time expired.
(Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [5.43 p.m.]: I congratulate the honourable member for Keira on raising this matter. I commend the Illawarra Turf Club, its Chief Executive Officer, Keith Nolan, and the President, Bede McMahon, for their generosity and hard work. I know both of those gentlemen well and I consider them to be personal friends. Unfortunately, because of prior commitments I was unable to attend the race day. However, the Premier attended the meeting. A phenomenal amount of money, a little under $160,000, was raised.
Last week at a ball conducted by the Australian Hotels Association and held at the Illawarra Turf Club I said that the people of the Newcastle-Hunter region have a great deal of empathy with the people of the Illawarra, not only because of our historic industrial ties but because of our experience of the earthquake in 1989. We know that after a natural disaster the trauma continues for a long time. Like the honourable member for Keira, I deprecate the actions of some insurance companies. In the Hunter region whilst many insurance companies and the Insurance Council of Australia played a responsive role, some companies were outlandish in their behaviour towards people who were already traumatised by the natural disaster.
The Department of Community Services acted in a very positive way, as it did after recent hailstorm damage in Singleton and another natural disaster in Armidale. The department has become expert in dealing with natural disasters. I compliment the Illawarra Turf Club and extend my sympathy to residents in the Illawarra area. When I attend a registered clubs race day meeting in the Illawarra on 31 October I will pass on my personal compliments. [Time expired.