The following excerpt comes from a speech made to the Upper House of Parliament yesterday by the Greens Member for the South West Region, Hon Diane Evers:
Hon DIANE EVERS: The other issue that I should get everyone’s attention on is fires. First of all, I will give a little update on my brother’s home. I spoke about this last week. The fire is now less than 1 500 metres from his house. More than three million acres are burning across the western United States. The fire is 15 per cent contained, so they have started. But people are just starting to talk about when winter comes—and it is September!
When winter comes, then the fire will be put out. He is just one in three million acres. We can just imagine how many people are affected by this. It is deadly, and it could happen here. I notice that the fire control budget for the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions is the same amount as last year for addressing bushfires, but that was half of the amount for the year before. Did we have a worse year for wildfires two years ago than we had last year? If we have a bad year, that figure will change remarkably. It will just be coming out of somewhere, and I do not know where.
Hon Dr Steve Thomas: There is a fair degree of fire management funding coming in through royalties for regions, so make sure you check that cross subsidy.
Hon DIANE EVERS: I will do. I am pleased to hear that, because we will need it. We are tiptoeing around the edges. We have to look at it. Our efficiency indicator for that budget was dollars per hectare. That means, if we get in there, just let the fire burn. I know that some people like doing that, but I have to say, speaking from the Greens side of things, burning everything in sight is not the best answer to bushfire. Management and preparation are involved. We need to do all sorts of things, and we need to look at it really fast. There are people around here who know more about this than I do. We need to be putting in the money, because addressing it after it has happened is too late. One thing I found while looking at information about the GST, although it is sort of a side issue, is that $15 million of federal funding was allowed for fire mitigation efforts, including $1.5 million for a study into the manual reduction of the fuel load. This study was taken up by New South Wales. With that $1.5 million it engaged the University of Queensland, and chose three places around the country, including the south west. That study is supposed to be finished sometime this month, maybe next month. I have not heard any more on it, but it will be interesting to see whether manual reduction of fuel loads will be the way to manage the fuel load around town sites and home sites. We really need to get in there soon and do something to fix that.