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Bushfire Readiness

26 November 2019

 

Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER FOR POLICE AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, Mr SHELTON

For months we have been demanding that you provide information about what measures have been taken to protect Tasmania from bushfires this season. You have failed to reassure the community. Instead, you have denied the reality of climate heating charged bushfires and have not been able to answer basic questions about the AFAC Report's recommendations. There are reports you have had to curtail aircraft-based training activities to hold back some of the limited quota of contract flight hours that you have resourced for fighting fires this season.

This morning the ABC reports Tasmania Fire Service staff are worried about resources in the south, with hundreds of thousands of dollars of overtime paid in October to cover the shortfall in staffing. You said you have every confidence in the Tasmania Fire Service to protect Tasmanians this season but when we have firefighters telling us it is luck that is getting us by, how can Tasmanians have any confidence in you to protect them this bushfire season?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. It is a broad ranging question which is a political question that she raises over the preparedness. I have been through the preparedness a number of times. I will go to the point as far as aircraft goes. The chief executive officer of the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC), has expressed his view that Australia currently has sufficient resources and contingencies in place to manage the 2019-20 bushfire season. Aerial firefighting is a critical tool to the bushfire management tool box. Tasmanians have a new combined air desk to improve the aerial firefighting capability -

Dr Woodruff - We are talking about Tasmania.

Mr SHELTON - That is the air desk in Tasmania.

Dr Woodruff - There is not enough flight hours.

Madam SPEAKER - Through the Chair.

Mr SHELTON - Contracts are in place to call on 36 aircraft from across Tasmania right now. From 1 December, only a couple of days away, we will have a further seven aircraft, three positioned in strategic locations around the state, to fight the fire as soon as it is identified.

Dr Woodruff - You do not have enough hours to train people to do the work.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff, please.

Mr SHELTON - It is not practical or economically feasible for each jurisdiction to equip itself to meet all likely scenarios. The current model relies on the effectiveness and efficiency of sharing the resources to meet surge demand.

Dr Woodruff - Stealing from the north to come to the south because there are not enough people in the south.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff, please, warning number one.

Mr SHELTON - This is especially relevant in the case of aviation resources which are specialised and expensive. The advantage of sharing air resources is that they are highly mobile. By early December the country will have seven large air tankers, or LATs, to use if needed; more than the five that was previously used in past fire seasons. We are well- prepared. There are national sharing arrangements in place and from an intrastate perspective, the chief fire officer has the ability to move our resources around wherever they are needed.

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