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Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for POLICE, FIRE AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, Mr SHELTON
Yesterday bushfires threatened Lachlan, Elderslie and Scamander for several hours. While those fires have been contained thanks to the hard work of the Tasmania Fire Service volunteers and other crew, the risks for the south of the state are very concerning later this week. There is a great deal of anxiety across Tasmania about the level of fire risk, with the memory of last summer's extreme fires still fresh for many. It is still October and TFS has accepted these earlier emergencies are unusual. Your hollow words last night talked about these conditions being normal at this time of the year, with your response being 'business as usual', even though rural area fire crews are still grounded.
People need to know you understand we are in a climate emergency. They need to know you are doing everything you can, and are told to do, to keep them safe and protected. Will you tell us which of the AFAC and the Tony Press review recommendations have been resourced and actioned to date?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. If the member had turned up to a briefing from the Chief Fire Officer that was accepted by many members of this House and the other place, she would understand -
Ms O'Connor - I beg your pardon, we sent our policy adviser.
Mr SHELTON - As a member of parliament who attended the Chief Officer's -
Mr Hodgman - Then they can pretend.
Madam SPEAKER - Order, Premier.
Mr SHELTON - recent fire session briefing would know bushfires in Tasmania in October are common.
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of clarification, Madam Speaker. The minister is misleading the House. The Greens sent a representative to that briefing. Would you please correct the record? We are very concerned about the state of fire risk in Tasmania and we take every opportunity to inform ourselves of the facts.
Mr Ferguson - This is just a disorderly rant. This is completely out of keeping, not a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER - It is certainly not a point of order.
Dr WOODRUFF - Madam Speaker, I was still on my feet when the Leader of Government Business got up, which was very disorderly of him.
Madam SPEAKER - Order. Let us all remember our manners. We have the minister on his feet and I will start the clock.
Mr SHELTON - I do not believe I was out of order. I believe I said that the member had not attended that briefing, and that is absolutely correct.
The information that was obtained there was that the Chief Fire Officer indicated that, in October, we can have strong equinox winds with warmer temperatures. That is what he indicated. It is astonishing that the members opposite, particularly the Greens, would be seeking to politicise any fire that happens while it is still burning. It is shameful that they would try to undermine -
Dr Woodruff - It's not still burning.
Mr SHELTON - I will say to the Greens trying to undermine the confidence of our fire professionals. The total fire ban yesterday and the foreshadowing of total fire bans for Thursday and Friday is prudent to ensure that the number of fires we currently have are not added to. At 9.25 this morning we have three fires at advice level, meaning that people need to stay up to date with the developments.
In preparation for this week, the Tasmania Fire Service and Parks and Wildlife Service established an incident management team at Cambridge. That is what I said last night. This is business as usual for the Tasmania Fire Service. They set up, whenever they have high fire incident days, then 'business as usual' will mean that they will strategically set up and position fire equipment in the relevant places.
Dr Woodruff - Did you read the review? They criticised the way that was running.
Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff.
Mr SHELTON - At all times Tasmania needs to remain vigilant and heed the advice of our experts, with our best bushfire defence always being preparedness. It is important that Tasmanians living in bushfire-prone areas should know and practice their bushfire survival plans and prepare their properties by removing flammable materials from their yards and gutters.
Like all Tasmanians, I should refer to the advice of our experts, including the Chief Fire Officer, rather than some members opposite. Regarding resourcing, the Chief Fire Officer has the necessary resources, so much so that at 6.30 a.m. this morning we sent a contingent of 40 firefighters to assist the efforts in New South Wales, and plans are in place to send a second contingent of 40 in other weeks.
As far as the Hobart-specific fires go, the statewide relative fire risk is now the lowest it has been in 15 years, thanks to this Government's investment in strategic fuel reduction burning, significantly decreasing the bushfire risk across the state.
Dr Woodruff - Did you listen to the Hobart City Council yesterday? Are you deaf?
Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff.
Mr SHELTON - As members of parliament who attended the Chief Fire Officer's recent fire season would know -
Madam SPEAKER - Order. We will have a bit of discipline for a few minutes and reflect on that. I thought we were a state of kindness and not saying things that are mean.
Ms O'Connor - As long as it applies to everyone.
Madam SPEAKER - It does apply to everyone in this Chamber. We have all signed up to it.
Mr SHELTON - The fuel reduction program we have in place has conducted a significant number of fuel reduction burns across the Hobart area since the commencement of the program. Madam Speaker, I will table this map. If the member had turned up and had a look she would have seen that all the blue area is areas around Hobart that have been significantly decreased in fire risk.
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker, under standing order 45, relevance. The question was about the AFAC review and the Tony Press recommendations, not about a briefing in private to members of parliament last week. It is about the AFAC recommendations. Have they been resourced?
Madam SPEAKER - That is not a point of order but the minister needs to be relevant, if possible.
Mr SHELTON - The member started talking about the fires around Hobart. I cannot get any more direct than that. I can advise that there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to adhere to the recommendations of the AFAC report. I am also pleased to confirm that the airdesk has been established and is delivering recommendation 6 of the AFAC report. There will be two personnel dedicated to the airdesk when the aircraft arrive in the state.
At the multi-agency statewide briefing on the upcoming fire season held in September 2019, the Chief Fire Officer stated we have a rapid rate of response attack, which includes the doubling of the fire brigades on these normal days. Inter-agency fire management protocols are currently under review and are intended to be authorised by the agency heads in place prior to the 2019 fire season. This will deliver recommendation 5 of the AFAC review.
Dr Woodruff - And all the rest of them?
Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff; I urge you to remain calm.
Mr SHELTON - There is substantial work going on on the AFAC review and it will all be in place by the start of the summer bushfire season.