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Increasing Bushfire Severity

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Tags: Bushfires, Climate Change

Increasing Bushfire Severity: Rosalie Woodruff, 13 November, 2019


Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I need to make comment on the responses to questions this morning from the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management and to his response during the Greens' private members time today. It is clear that Liberal Government inhabits a dangerous fantasy world. It is one which we need to strongly counter. It is a type of climate denialism and it is clear it comes from an inability to want to respond to the changes that are happening, both the climate changes and the social changes happening in response to it.

Evidence at the global level, the Australian level and the Tasmanian level within the last year make it apparent that the long held position of conservatives in Australia, including the Nationals and the Liberals, that climate change is not happening and that there have always been extreme events is untenable.

Members like Michael McCormack and Barnaby Joyce from the Nationals are ruining their careers and utterly disrespecting the people who voted for them by their hysterical comments and their attempt to find saboteurs for what is their own party's flagrant inability to comprehend the changes that are happening around us. It is people like Barnaby Joyce and Michael McCormack who are responsible for the most awful slurs on families who have experienced bushfires in New South Wales. People who have died have been subjected to the most disgusting comments by those two men. They are backed up by an over-arching approach in the Liberals, the Nationals and the federal Labor Party whose members have not been absent from making disgusting comments denying the climate reality and pointing the figure at the Greens. Pointing the finger at people who talk about the reality of climate heating and how it is creating supercharged mega-fires and the damage that is happening across Australia right now.

We heard the minister this morning talking about a fantasy story, a spurious idea that somehow the bushfires we have experienced in mainland Australia, the ones we experienced here in Tasmania only a couple of weeks ago, are due to inadequate backburning. Fuel reduction is somehow to blame for these ever-more-serious whole-region mega-fires. It is utter nonsense. We, along with every other scientist, every other member of the rural community across Australia, reject it for what it is. It is an attempt to deflect from years, from decades of inaction on climate change. The backburning excuse which the minister continues to peddle as an excuse for the fact that he and his colleagues before him have not acted. They have not put in place the implementation, the resourcing, in response to successive bush fire reviews.

The backburning excuse is the most destructive. I am reading some comments from Guy Rundle who wrote that the inquiry into the 1939 Victorian bushfires which killed 71 people established that excessive backburning was those fires' principal cause. If you start fires, go figure, fires can start. When conditions are hotter and drier earlier in the year, backburning becomes more necessary as well as more risky. Eventually the lines of necessary and risk cross and the risk outweighs the gain. As Guy Rundle says, 'Like the situation where chemotherapy would save a patient but it would also kill them, the technique defunct'.

So the relentless invoking of backburning and other techniques is just an example of the quackery and the pseudo-religious thinking that people in the Liberal Party have about this topic, as though there is something magical and fantastical about the Greens' power to create mega-fires in the landscape because once there was a change in fuel reduction policy for one year in one part of the landscape. What a joke and what a disgrace for the people of Hobart and across rural Tasmania who are at high risk of fires this season. This minister is a climate denier who is refusing to act now on the reality of climate change, let alone prepare us for the future. Today we are not prepared for this fire season because he is continuing to treat this as a business-as-usual situation. Megafires in the landscape are not business as usual. We are looking at the potential for collapse of parts of rural Australia because of the cycle of drought and megafire. As has happened in California, some communities are becoming uninhabitable because of that cycle. We will get to a point where we do not have time to change.