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COAG bushfire report.



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KERRY O’BRIEN

LABOR SENATOR FOR TASMANIA

SHADOW MINISTER FOR RECONCILIATION AND INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS SHADOW MINISTER FOR TOURISM, REGIONAL SERVICES AND TERRITORIES

6 April 2004

COAG BUSHFIRE REPORT

Prime Minister John Howard must immediately release the completed Council of Australian Governments (COAG) report into the 2002-2003 bushfires and announce his government’s response to that report and the House of Representatives Select Committee findings on the bushfires tabled in parliament five months ago.

Regrettably, the House of Representatives Select Committee process was dogged by political shenanigans from the start, and never had a proper opportunity to consider the Commonwealth’s role in exacerbating the impact of the 2002-03 bushfires that ravaged Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

It is clear that the Howard Government ignored expert advice that might have made that bushfire season less devastating.

In the wake of the January 2002 Sydney fires, the Howard Government promised a national fire-fighting strategy and a national aerial fire-fighting strategy, and commissioned the Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC) to provide advice.

The AFAC report was delivered to the government in August 2002. It warned that 2002-2003 would be an exceptionally bad year for bushfires and made specific recommendations for short and long-term action.

Unforgivably, the expert opinion of Australia’s fire chiefs was immediately dismissed by then Minister, now backbencher, Wilson Tuckey.

In February this year I asked the Department of Transport and Regional Services when the government would respond to the House of Representatives Select Committee report and was advised:

…the response to that is likely to be after the report of the COAG bushfire inquiry is received. (Hansard, Rural And Regional Affairs And Transport Legislation Committee, 20 Feb 2004, p 33)

<< OLE Object: Picture (Metafile) >> The COAG report is now complete and sitting on the Prime Minister’s desk.

Labor calls on the Prime Minister to immediately release the COAG report and announce his

government’s response to its recommendations and those arising from the parliamentary investigation.

Once released, Labor will use the reports to inform our policy deliberations and update, where necessary, our National Bushfire Strategy released in December 2002.

For Comment:

Kerry O’Brien 0419 007 780

Paul Kindermann 0414 956 455