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Ellis’ Aerial Fire Response Mess

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 14 November 2023

Tags: Bushfires, Fire Management, Firefighters

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Leader

The dangerous El Nino “summer” has already hit East Coast Tasmania. After Friendly Beaches was scorched in September, Dolphins Sands is burning, and homes have been lost. Despite all the promises, Tasmania’s nationally contracted aerial firefighting fleet look to be stuck on the mainland for months.

Last Parliament sitting, the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management assured communities the government had access to “20 locally-owned planes and helicopters”. Yet despite the dire situation at Dolphin Sands, only a handful of aircraft were dispatched.

We asked Minister Ellis whether this was due to the government's refusal to give aircraft operators the new radio network equipment required to be involved in an emergency response, but he refused to answer the question.

During a bushfire, immediate and direct communication is critical – as well as getting all the assistance possible. Yet under the Liberals, private aircraft operators must shell out over ten thousand dollars a unit to be part of the new emergency radio system.

As Dolphin Sands smoulders, Minister Ellis wouldn't tell Tasmanians how many of the 20 private aircraft he claims are available for fighting fires cannot be involved due to his government’s communication mess. He also couldn't guarantee the nationally contracted fleet would be kitted out to communicate with the rest of the fire fighting fleet.

The Liberals have reduced Tasmania's fire response capabilities by turning the old radio network off, without providing private operators the equipment to access the new one. 

With a very hot, dry fire-risk summer on its way, the government should be doing everything within its power to keep communities safe. Aircraft operators, both private and those in the nationally contracted fleet, must not be outside our emergency response network. The Minister should ensure all private operators are provided with the government-funded equipment needed to enable them to be part of the fire fighting communications network.