By Michael Giles
NOW’S probably not the time for recriminations.
Traditionally, the worst month for bushfires in Victoria is February.
So, all our efforts at the moment should be concentrated on supporting the absolutely crucial work of firefighters from all agencies, the heavy machinery contractors and ADF personnel and all the other emergency service volunteers and support people.
And we can’t allow ourselves to grow weary of the task or the message.
This will be a marathon, not a sprint.
Even before the fight is over, the recovery will begin and if you can assist in anyway with a donation of cash, hay, accommodation or other offer, you should do so.
The State Government might also consider rolling out a tourism campaign to support those areas not affected by bushfire, and be ready to encourage visitors to return to areas that have been affected.
But, as foreshadowed by our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, there will ultimately be a Royal Commission and notwithstanding the position taken by CFA chief officer Steve Warrington, and the high level of cooperation between agencies, the impact of government policy on the CFA over the past few years needs some honest assessment.
Mr Warrington claims the issues raised by the UFU have not impacted the numbers of active firefighters available for call-up by the CFA but anecdotally at least, in the country, that’s not the message we get.
Volunteerism has always played a huge role in country communities and deserves support at the highest levels.
And the inability of government to manage its parks and public land while failing to achieve its fuel reduction objectives should also be included.
Former lead researcher with the CSIRO, scientist and bushfire expert David Packham AO warned of “a massive bushfire disaster” five years ago unless there was a dramatic increase in annual fuel reduction burns but the fact is, we can’t even meet the present, modest targets.
And talk of a “smaller window” is simply a resourcing issue – either you want to do it, or you don’t.