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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Bushfire Preparedness

Parliamentary Activity - Wednesday, 13 November 2019


Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, that was a very revealing answer from the minister about the number of remote area teams that are not available in the south of the state today. This is most concerning. This Government has had since the bushfires were operational and the bushfires -

Mr Shelton - They will be ready by 1 December. That has always been the case.

Dr WOODRUFF - You did not tell the House how many. We also do not know how many people from Parks are available from remote areas.

Mr Shelton - I have said there is a training program in place.

Dr WOODRUFF - This is the same minister who gets up here every time and talks about the threat to lives and property. He is missing a word. That word is 'wilderness'. That is wilderness because this Government does not value wilderness. It does not value the integrity of the wilderness and understand that that is where bushfires generate a vast amount of heat and energy. If we do not have a remote area team response that is adequate for the situation for us, we will not be able to respond appropriately. We will have no hope.

Across New South Wales, communities have been doing fuel reduction burns. The Mayor of Glen Innes said that they have done fuel reduction burns twice in the past 18 months. They have done beyond the quota. The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service confirmed that they have done more fuel reduction burns than they were expected to do or planning to do. They have gone harder than they wanted to. They have done that. The Liberal Government has done that in New South Wales. They are in charge. They have exceeded their limits and we are seeing catastrophic bushfires burning. Despite this, parks, reserves and bushland across New South Wales are burning.

That this minister does not understand is very concerning. He is either ignorant or wilfully denying the change that climate heating is having on bushfires. How can we have a minister for Fire and Emergency Management who does not get climate heating and the change to the behaviour of bushfires? On behalf of Tasmanians, I am very concerned. This minister repeatedly talks about when the summer fire season starts. How can he do that? His own staff, the 5000 volunteers he talked about from TFS and Parks and the rest across the state, men and women, have already been fighting fires in Lachlan, Elderslie, and Scamander, but they have a minister who talks about when the summer fire season starts. This is not Dad's Army. We cannot have that response. We cannot have a Dad's Army response, as though we get up there with our little garden hoses as we have always done.

Mrs Rylah - Do not be patronising.

Dr WOODRUFF - This is not patronising. This is the way it is. This is the way this minister and this Government are responding to the climate changes that are happening. That is why we are seeing the intensity of fires -

Mr Shelton - That is rubbish. I will take my advice from the experts, not the Greens.

Dr WOODRUFF - It is why we are seeing a catastrophic bushfire alert for Sydney. A catastrophic bushfire alert in Sydney has never happened.

Mr Tucker - The Greens' fire policy is to lock even more of it up.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order. I ask members to allow the member to finish her contribution, please.

Dr WOODRUFF - It is comical, concerning and disturbing that people who are Liberal and Labor members of parliament talk about this as though the Greens have cooked it up. We are very powerful; we are very effective at fighting back and stopping dodgy proposals like the EOI process and fighting for Lake Malbena, fighting for the wilderness, but we are not that powerful that we can manufacture catastrophic wildfires. They are the responsibility of every single person on the planet. They are fundamentally the responsibility of Labor and Liberal parties in Australia that continue to take donations from the coal and gas lobby. It is the responsibility of people in those parties who continue to take money from the very companies that are causing the heating that is fuelling the intensity of the fires we are experiencing.

Every member of the Labor and Liberal party in this place, and at the federal level, is personally responsible for being in a party that takes money from coal and gas companies that are causing the damage to the planet and to our own landscapes and to communities who, today, are suffering.

Carmel Duncan posted on Twitter yesterday. She lost her house; her father lost his house; and her father lost two friends to a fire in New South Wales. She wants us to talk about climate change; that was her message. Her message is for us to talk about climate change.

Preparation for bushfires means accept that climate change is happening, accept the heating that is underway, having a minister who is able to understand the changing bio-behaviour, who understands he cannot just have a garden hose and that we cannot have the nice little breaks in between. We may be in bushfire season. The TFS staff, from the south, themselves said, 'for six months'. Forget six weeks, six months.

You might smile, Mr Tucker, but these things are always going to be unprecedented. The heating will build and we will get more intensity. That means we have to change what we do. We have to mobilise some money from other parts of the Budget and put it into preparing ourselves, ensuring communities are supported, and ensuring people have a realistic bushfire plan and know where to go. This requires more volunteer training, it definitely requires an expansion of volunteers and fire crews, remote and volunteer. This minister has failed to act on the independent recommendations from the Tony Press Report in 2016 and this year's AFAC review.