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Climate Emergency

22 May 2019

 

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

We have already increased the planet's temperature by 1.1 degrees and we are seeing devastating impacts in Tasmania. Last summer's massive fires burnt 6 per cent of the World Heritage Area and threatened communities for weeks. The leatherwood honey industry was devastated and our wine industry was rocked by smoke taint. This summer an El Niño is predicted. Our best response to these life-threatening climate changes is to urgently act and change our business-as-usual approach. Today is the day we recognise our SES volunteers, who are on the ground and seeing first-hand the escalating climate change risks. They protect us from catastrophic fires, clean up after wind storms and floods and experience exhaustion and burnout. Do you accept Tasmania is facing a climate emergency and that we need to dramatically change our response?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank Dr Woodruff for the question. The Government has already outlined a very strong response to the previous question posed by Ms O'Connor to the Premier. The Government takes climate change very seriously. In fact, while there are national policy debates and responses at a state level, we know we can act in a way that protects our state's interests and ensures we are best prepared for the future.

I will have to commend you at this point to our Minister for the Environment, Ms Archer, who has put together a comprehensive response and an action plan, which your party continues to deny is in existence. It is a strong response and it is practical.

In my portfolio of Police, Fire and Emergency Management I draw your attention specifically to the very excellent work our agency is doing to protect the state from future bushfire risk. In fact our nation-leading fuel reduction program is all about a risk-based and tenure-blind approach so that we are reducing every year the risk of our state to bushfire, including the increased elevated risk due to climate change. I am still waiting for the Greens to say something good about our fuel reduction program because already in the first five years, with more than $70 million of investment directly going on to the land -

Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I take offence at the minister making those comments. I have stood in this place for the past four years talking about the importance of fuel reduction burns and community protection.

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you. Minister, could you just apologise?

Mr FERGUSON - No, I will not apologise because I stand by the comments.

Madam SPEAKER - I am sorry, I beg your pardon?

Mr FERGUSON - I will not apologise. Why would I?

Madam SPEAKER - Because I have asked you to do so. She said she is offended.

Mr FERGUSON - Well, I apologise, but I will not apologise for criticising the Greens on our differences of policy on fuel reduction. The Greens have consistently opposed measures to protect our state. They talk fuel reduction but they never back us when we need it.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. The minister is misleading the House and I ask him to withdraw that statement. It is false to state that.

Mr BARNETT - On the point of order, Madam Speaker, there is no point of order. It is a debating point that Ms O'Connor is putting. The minister has put his point. It is a different view to the Greens and the Greens are acting in breach of the Standing Orders.

Madam SPEAKER - It is very difficult to get any point of order through this place, I cannot believe it. The member says she was offended and she is offended on behalf of her party. I ask the minister to kindly consider his words when he is approaching this subject.

Mr FERGUSON - I am apologetic for any offence caused to your feelings on this matter but I will be very clear.

Dr Woodruff - It absolutely demeans you. You know you are not speaking the truth.

Mr FERGUSON - If you are prepared to hear, I will be very clear on this. The Government stands by our fuel reduction program. We called for it from opposition. Labor and the Greens in government opposed our call for better fuel reduction measures.

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order! For goodness sake, I am turning into a cranky old Speaker here and it is not my fault. I am sick to death of this rabble. Calm down and be civilised and respectful to each other.

Mr FERGUSON - Thank you, Madam Speaker. We are pleased with our agency. The latest advice I have is that pre the 2018-19 bushfire season, as a result of our initiatives the state's exposure to fire risk has reduced by a net 5 per cent. That is an astonishing reduction. In many Tasmanian communities, because that is a statewide figure, it was double-digit reductions in risk. It is a credit, not just to the Tasmanian Fire Service, but also to Parks and Wildlife Service and Sustainable Timber Tasmania partnering with local government. I thank them for their efforts.

I assure the member that the Government is taking practical steps to protect the state from current and future risks, including that due to climate change.