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Implementation of Bushfire Review Recommendations
Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for POLICE, FIRE and EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, Mr SHELTON
Today, New South Wales is facing catastrophic fire conditions. Meanwhile, we have rubbish from the Government to try to prevent questions being answered. New South Wales is facing conditions that firefighters describe as the worst they have ever confronted. Businesses and schools across the Blue Mountains, Taree and Port Lincoln have been shut down and many people are moving to evacuation centres.
In Tasmania, the fire season is already upon us. It started with intensity and communities in Lachlan, Elderslie and Scamander have already suffered these experiences. You failed to prioritise the resources and training to keep many of our remote-area firefighters operational and they are grounded. You have failed to adequately train volunteers for remote firefighting, even though it was recommended by the independent Dr Tony Press Report from 2016 and this year's AFAC Review, both reviews in the last three years. Why should any Tasmanian have faith that you are taking this climate-heated fire threat seriously enough, and can you demonstrate exactly how you are implementing the AFAC recommendations?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. From her statement, and it has been identified prior to this, the pins have been lifted and -
Dr Woodruff - They are still grounded. You are playing with words. Don't play with words. You are misleading the House.
Madam SPEAKER - Order, please.
Mr SHELTON - This is a new low, even for the Greens, when you are attempting to capitalise on the disasters of New South Wales and Queensland and what our friends are facing there and the politicisation of these fires in this Chamber. My sincere condolences go to the families who have lost a loved one in these devastating fires. My thoughts and best wishes go out to all of those across New South Wales and Queensland who are continuing to battle the volatile and unprecedented fires. I commend the extraordinary display of bravery from our Tasmanian firefighters who are playing an important role in the efforts to fight these devastating bushfires in New South Wales and are supporting the communities that are affected.
Tasmania has approximately 45 Tasmanian firefighters and support crew on the ground today, assisting New South Wales, not counting the crews who have already returned. A further Tasmanian contingent of additional firefighters is likely to be deployed in the coming days of this week. We are also considering the request for additional crews to Queensland.
Dr WOODRUFF - Madam Speaker, point of order, relevance. The question is not about the resources we are sending interstate. The question is about this state right now; why are remote-area crews still grounded and why is the minister is failing to implement the AFAC recommendations for the season that has already started in Tasmania?
Madam SPEAKER - Thank you, Dr Woodruff. As you know, that is not a point of order. I hear you and ask the minister to try to be relevant.
Mr SHELTON - Thank you, Madam Speaker. What I find absolutely astounding is that the Greens members opposite would be seeking to politicise any of the fires while they are still burning to achieve political purpose. I read in the paper today that you were spreading lies by saying that we are not prepared for bushfires, and that is even more astounding. You are calling out the Tasmanian Fire Service as incompetent -
Dr WOODRUFF - Madam Speaker, I take offence at that statement. I am speaking on their behalf about the failure to resource the Tasmania Fire Service RATs who are grounded, 80 of them, until 1 December. This is outrageous. I ask the minister to withdraw.
Madam SPEAKER - We have an objection, minister, and you have been asked to withdraw because you have offended people.
Mr SHELTON - I withdraw the comment.
Madam SPEAKER - It is over. I do not expect any more interjections from here on.
Mr SHELTON - We will not be distracted by these false claims. We have been progressing the recommendations from the AFAC Review. As the Premier has already answered today, the short-term recommendations 4 and 6 are completed. The remaining short-term recommendations, being 1, 5 and 8, will be completed by the end of November. The medium and long-term recommendations, being 2, 3, 7 and 9, are just that. The TFS have a dedicated project management team working through those deliveries.
As I have already advised previously in the parliament, the Tasmania Fire Service remote area firefighting capability has been reinstated. Of the TFS firefighters who are trained and capable to be remote area firefighters, the actual number deployed at any one time is around 10, as it has always been. This has not changed. This is due to the need to maintain an urban firefighting response in our cities and towns.
As members are fully aware, our predominant cohort of remote area teams is in the Parks and Wildlife Service and that remains at the ready. As the member would know - or at least the staffer of the member knows and if the member had turned up to the briefing she would know - the Tasmania Fire Service has instigated -
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker. The minister left that briefing halfway through and he continues to peddle a mistruth. The Greens were present. The minister walked out of the meeting after half-time.
Madam SPEAKER - That is not a point of order. Please allow the minister to complete his answer. We are already hitting five minutes but there have been two big interjections, so you get another minute, minister.
Mr SHELTON - The Tasmania Fire Service has instigated a broad range of multi-agency measures in preparedness for the bushfire season, which include completing multi-agency briefings; undertaking fire brigade district briefings statewide; ensuring helicopter readiness; establishing national aerial firefighting contracts; implementing a combined airdesk, established and exercise prepared; fuel reduction burns in all regions as part of the Government's tenure-blind $55 million investment; establishing permit restrictions; activating the campfire management strategy; confirming that all high-risk areas have community protection plans; confirming the reinstatement of the remote area firefighting capability by the Tasmanian Fire Commission; engaging with Australasian peers regarding practice; continuing work to establish a cadre of volunteer remote area firefighters; undertaking public education campaigns; engaging with local communities to provide bushfire-ready information sessions; and holding fire station open days.
I thank our dedicated firefighters and emergency service personnel for the duty they perform in keeping our communities safe. It is deeply disturbing that those members of the Greens continue to politicise this issue.