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Bushfire Resources - Budget Allocation

24 September 2019

Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for POLICE, FIRE and EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, Mr SHELTON

The World Meteorological Organisation has just announced the last five years were the hottest on record. Our Bureau of Meteorology has told us to expect a whopper hot and dry summer with the east coast already tinderbox dry. Bush-surrounded Hobart is at high risk and Lord Mayor, Anna Reynolds, has confirmed it is not a question of if we get a big fire, it is when.

Last week in Parliament you denied Tasmanians their right to know how much resourcing you have assigned to implement the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) recommendations and prepare us for the fire season we are already in? The thousands of Tasmanians who marched for climate action demand your Government shakes itself awake and dramatically responds to the threat before us.

Will you tell us how much extra money you have allocated to implement the Dr Tony Press and AFAC recommendations before the summer?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. As members already know, in the northern and western parts of the state this season is predicted to be a fairly normal season. However, on the east coast it is predicted to be a higher fire danger than normal.

As far as the expenditure goes, members only have to look back at the Budget and in the Budget it is indicated there is more money allocated for firefighting in the TWWHA and more resources are being made available to the Tasmanian Fire Service in the recruitment course. That takes our recruitment for the Tasmanian Fire Service to 323. An extra 15 firefighters are going through their training at the moment.

As far as the preparedness for this season, Tasmania's nation-leading fuel reduction program has significantly reduced the fire risk across the state. We all have a role to play in being prepared for the upcoming bushfire season.

To reduce the risk of bushfire this season, the Tasmania Fire Service is declaring an early start to the permit period. It starts on 28 September this month for Break O'Day, Glamorgan Spring Bay and the Sorell municipalities. The Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service will also be implementing campfire restrictions in designated areas on the east coast and in the north-east from 28 September 2019. These restrictions will remain in place until the end of fire season and across those areas.

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.

Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker. Standing Order 45. It was about the specific allocations. If the minister could please turn his mind to the specific allocations for the AFAC and Press recommendations.

Madam SPEAKER - That is not a point of order. That was standing order 45, relevance? It is not a point of order.

Mr SHELTON - As the member has been in the Chamber for a significant period of time, the member knows there are budgets set and we allocate money and the resources to the Tasmania Fire Service. The experts in the Tasmania Fire Service prioritise the work they do with that allocation. I have every confidence in the Tasmania Fire Service of doing just that.

In that sense, I had the privilege of attending the multi-agency preseason fire brief only last Friday where the agencies talk about the season and work together to prepare themselves for the bushfire season that is coming ahead. There is much work going into the preparation for this bushfire season.

Ms O'Connor - The remote area teams are grounded.

Dr Woodruff - They have grounded them. There's no-one there.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor and Dr Woodruff.

Mr SHELTON - The provisional improvement notices - PINs - were not specifically mentioned in the question. Any suggestion that Tasmania has no capability is completely false, although it is not unexpected from the people whose policies are scaremongering and full of mistruths.

Managing fire is a risky business. Two provisional improvement notices were received by the State Fire Commission in July 2019. The safety of our emergency service personnel is paramount. We will put the safety of our workers first and as such, the Tasmania Fire Service will not currently deploy firefighters for remote firefighting activity until the safety matters are resolved.

The Parks and Wildlife Service is the key agency that provides remote area firefighting capability. Parks and Wildlife Service has a standing capability to deploy remote area staff should the need arise. As has always been the case, Tasmanians can always draw on the interstate resources through the national arrangements if needed.

The Chief Fire Officer has assured me that the PINs issue will be resolved in advance of the summer fire season. I ask members, do you even understand about what is being talked about when we talk about remote area firefighters? You have been too busy spreading fear in the community without even understanding the means. A location is remote if it is located 45 minutes walk or greater from support, or a guaranteed means of extraction. Therefore, remote area firefighters only represent one part of an important firefighting workforce. Make no mistake, the biggest firefighting risk to Tasmania is in fact Labor and the Greens.

Madam SPEAKER - Minister, you have gone well over five minutes.

Mr SHELTON - Tasmania is better prepared under this Government to respond to events of this nature unlike the previous Labor-Greens government that had no comprehensive fuel reduction program funded, despite reports telling Tasmania it was needed. This is why the Hodgman majority Liberal Government introduced the fuel reduction program in 2014. That is why we have so far had over 600 fuel reduction burns and that is why the program is ongoing. By the way, it was noted that it was recommendation 4 in the AFAC review.

An old saying, which is very true: an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you for that wise proverb.