Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 February 2016



3:42 pm

Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I, and also on behalf of Senator Reynolds and Senator Smith, move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes the severity of recent catastrophic bushfires across Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, and extends its deepest sympathy to the families of those who have lost their lives, livelihoods, homes, property and livestock;

(b) acknowledges the impact of devastating bushfires on the community;

(c) urges the Government to work closely with the states and territories in bushfire prevention, preparedness, response and recovery;

(d) recognises that, in forests throughout Australia, combustible fuels have accumulated to levels that severely challenge safe fire suppression;

(e) encourages state and territory authorities to focus on bushfire prevention when developing strategies to protect their communities and the environment;

(f) recalls the practice of mosaic burning of the bush practised by Aboriginal peoples extending back thousands of years; and

(g) calls on more focussed work by fire agencies and research institutions to minimise the impact of devastating bushfires in affected communities.

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Leave is granted for one minute.

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

In supporting this motion we express our sympathies to everyone who has lost lives, homes, property and livestock to fires this summer. We also mourn the damage done to the World Heritage alpine areas of Tasmania and are enormously grateful to the people who put their own lives at risk fighting these fires. But the issue of bushfires is more complex than suggested in this motion. How severe fires are depends not just on fuel, but also, critically, on the dryness of our forests and grasslands and how extreme the temperatures and winds are. Increasingly, severe fires and the longer fire seasons that we are experiencing are consistent with the drier and hotter conditions that are already occurring and are expected to continue to increase in severity because of global warming. This underlines the urgency of reducing our use and mining of coal, gas and oil. Protecting people, homes, property and our precious natural heritage in a hotter, drier climate is a massive challenge. It is not going to be met by relying on simplistic solutions of more planned burns. We welcome the call for greater research, including acknowledging the contribution of climate change in determining how we respond.

Question agreed to.