I wish all the very best, to all readers, for a wonderful 2020. Sadly, it certainly hasn’t been a good start. The bush fires have been devastatingly bad. We’ve lost lives, homes, property and countless numbers of both native flora and fauna. Compounding the drought, our farmers have lost livestock. For many, the emotional and physical toll has been shocking.
On the other side of the crisis, we’ve seen Australians at their best. Our volunteer firefighters and other emergency services personnel have been magnificent. People everywhere have been incredibly generous to those in need of assistance, including many who are under siege or suffering themselves. People have also been patient, I’ve seen no reports of squabbling among the thousands queueing for food, water or fuel.
There has understandably been some anger over the inadequacies of government responses and while now is not the time for debate, when the emergency is over many questions will require answers. But answers to questions will not be sufficient. People will want to be reassured that if future crises emerge, governments will be better prepared, and a national strategy can be relied upon.
A key part of the analysis of the current events will be the role of our Rural Fire Service volunteers. What we’ve asked and indeed expected of them has been ridiculous. We all know they give themselves unselfishly and without any expectation of thanks or reward. But the demands we have put on them have been unacceptable. It’s not only unfair to them; it’s unfair to their families, their bank account balances, and their employers. It has been particularly unfair for the self-employed.
When fire threatens Sydney residents, paid fire-fighters come to their aid. Here in regional Australia, we are expected to rely on volunteers. In other words, we rely on one another. It doesn’t add up and it’s not fair. Not fair to the firefighters – not fair to country residents.
Australians will rightly expect that bush fire management and back-burning should also feature in the assessments of what has gone so terribly wrong.
I again thank all of our emergency services personnel; paid and un-paid. I also thank all those who have responded to the needs of others in any way. We will be forever in your debt.
Another key part of any review will be an analysis of our changing weather patterns and the impact on our landscapes and farm production. We’ve spent too much time over the last fifteen years arguing about the relationship between changing weather patterns and human activity – greenhouse gas emissions in particular.
I voted for every Bill ever to come before the Parliament that designed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I did so because even if there is only a small chance human activity is affecting the weather, we should play safe and do something about it.
The Bill which passed the Parliament in 2011 set us on a path to lower emissions and it was succeeding without any impact on our coal industry or any signicant impact on household budgets. Sadly, the Abbott Government repealed the legislation in July of 2014. Emissions have been rising ever since but household budgets haven’t benefitted from the repeal. This was a huge error. It’s time to try harder.