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Climate change is the excuse to hide an Inferno of Incompetence — heads must roll for the billion dollar bushfire mistakes

Posted By Jo Nova On January 19, 2020 @ 3:39 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

Whose fault was it and will they get away with it (like all the other times)?

Twenty seven people died, a billion animals, 2,000 homes, tourism wrecked and a plume of smoke stretched from here to South America. Unless heads roll, this cycle repeats every 10 – 20 years. Imagine if the media was demanding to know how State Premiers had allowed this catastrophe, or if the opposition was accusing the government of listening to the Ivory Tower instead of the firies? The problem is, they’re all complicit. Both sides of politics are guilty, and the media didn’t see this coming either.

We can recognise those avoiding responsibility by the way they fob off hard questions:

1. Let’s blame “climate change” (because these fires are “normal” now, get used to it. Plus luckily no one ever says — “you mean it’s China’s fault?”)

2. Let’s say “now’s not the time to play the blame game” and,

3. Coming soon:  “let’s wait for the Royal Commission, or Almighty Investigation, or 28th Fire Report” — or whichever comes last. (Who wants to preempt a report even if we already know what it will say. )

But we already know three State governments have not followed the advice from most past reports. They’ve ignored the fire and forestry scientists who warned them a disaster was coming and fuel loads were too high. They’ve ignored history.  Bushfires in Australia are one of the most obvious dangers to live and health and yet few state leaders have bothered to understand them.

An Inferno of Incompetence and Obfuscation

by Roger Underwood on Quadrant

Roger Underwood AOM spent years in bushfire management, and was General Manager of CALM in WA (Conservation and Land Management). He is often asked “who’s to blame” and he points at the State Premiers, Minister and Public Servants who listened to university fools and not the bushfire scientists who said “a disaster was imminent” and who told them to clear the fuel.

At the top of the list are the premiers and ministers responsible for land management, such as it is, and bushfire policy, and the public servants in their departments with jurisdiction over forests and national parks. State governments in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria have palpably failed to do the most important job they were elected to do: protect the lives and livelihoods of their citizens and the health of their environment. And their public servants have failed to do the job they are being paid to do: serve the public.

All Big-Government roads lead to death and destruction:

Yet despite the science, the evidence presented by bushmen, the dramatic history of this contininent’s relationship with fire, and the findings of numerous inquiries, successive governments in Qld, NSW and Victoria over the last 25 years have consistently failed to prepare potential firegrounds in the expectation of the inevitable. Not only this, they seem to have actually go out of their way to make things worse: the cut-backs to fuel reduction burning, the closure of access roads and trails in national parks, the decimation of professional forestry and fire management expertise, the turning of the blind eye to the creation of residential subdivisions incapable of being defended, the funding of “research” in the universities that is aimed at making the job of the firefighter more difficult, and the erection of a complex bureaucratic edifices that hinder sensible bushfire preparedness and make fuel-reduction burning almost impossible.

Local Councils are also responsible, but ultimately the State Government is responsible for allowing council nonsense. And State Governments are responsible for Crown land.

By destroying the forestry profession they dumped the job on volunteers:

One of the consequences of the deliberate destruction of the forestry profession and forestry district structures and crews has been that governments now have to fall back on volunteers to fight forest fires.

And, of course, we could have sold all those trees instead of having one big New Years Eve bonfire.

Underwood also describes something that sounds like a  Water Bomber Cargo cult. He says it is a futile fantasy with fires this big, a profligate waste of money. During fires ten years ago, government spent $10 million dollars on using a DC10 brought over from the USA. The plane was so big it could only take off and land at Avalon airport in Melbourne. It needed a smaller lead plane to follow, and couldn’t land with the full $45,000 load of fire suppressant, so once it was off the ground it had to dump that stuff somewhere, on fields, or forests or failing that — on whales. If an academic isn’t already asking for a grant to study the effects of fire retardant on wildlife, they will be soon.

*Postscript: NC in comments points out most of the planes used are smaller, which is true, but they’re also impotent against a pyroconvective infero. Plus in a drought especially, Australia just doesn’t have handy Hoover Dams of disposable fresh water to drop on a million hectares of fire. But in true big government style — the DC10′s are so ineffective, we’re getting more of them, due to arrive on Jan 11 and Jan 18, which means, just in time for the rain.

“Cost effective or not, the ABC reports today that such planes are shortly to return. As Talleyrand is said to have remarked about the Bourbons, our leaders forget nothing and learn nothing.”

Underwood doesn’t spare the Federal government either.  They were warned too, but they choose to fund knee-jerk “suppression” and “recovery” projects rather than funding prevention and mitigation. I suspect there is a federal government role in carbon accounting which encourages wildfires against prescribed burns. But again, it’s state laws that stop people clearing native vegetation. What Royal Commission would untangle those knotted incentives?

If the Feds were to set up a system where states were encouraged, through targeted funding, to establish effective bushfire management systems (with the emphasis on preparedness and damage mitigation), the eventual outcome would be less money needed for firefighting and post-fire recovery — a bill that these latest fires will likely see run into the billions.

Will those who are really accountable ever be named and shamed or, better still, sacked?

And for the first time — reports of one sensible government:

A final note: this article is specifically directed at the bushfire and land management jurisdictions in Qld, NSW and Victoria. In Western Australia, the penny dropped after the 2016 Yarloop disaster, and our Premier, ministers and public service agencies are now on the right track.

Roger Underwood AOM, spent more than 40 years working in bushfire management in Australia and overseas. He is a former General Manager of CALM in WA (Conservation and Land Management), and bushfire specialist.

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