We have already had countless bushfire inquiries.
What good will it do to have another?
Posted on 17.01.2020
As our country battles the most extensive fires of our lifetime, there are increasing calls for a royal commission into the states and territories’ preparedness and the Federal Government’s response to the disaster.
A royal commission has coercive powers beyond a government inquiry, and the need for one implies there are facts and evidence that would otherwise be “hidden” to an inquiry or review.
Research I’ve recently conducted with other fire experts has concluded there have been 57 formal public inquiries, reviews and royal commissions related to bushfires and fire management since 1939, most of which are listed here.
I have given expert evidence to at least seven of them, including the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
That is more than one inquiry every two years in the past 80 years. Do we need yet another?
A comprehensive fire management plan already exists
In response to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission and various other inquiries, fire managers from government agencies in all states and territories prepared a National Bushfire Management Policy Statement for Forests and Rangelands.
This policy statement was signed off by all COAG (Council of Australian Governments) members by early 2012 and published in 2014. As yet, there has been little action on implementing this policy.
The policy had a stated vision that:
Fire regimes are effectively managed to maintain and enhance the protection of human life and property, and the health, biodiversity, tourism, recreation and production benefits derived from Australia’s forests and rangelands.
Central to this vision is:
The role fire plays in maintaining and enhancing biodiversity. Sustainable long-term solutions are needed to address the causes of increased bushfire risk.
Rather than using time and resources on (another) inquiry, we should instead commit to fully implement the recommendations of all the previous inquiries, reviews and royal commissions we have already held.
Another royal commission will only reiterate what we have known for decades.
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