New De­fence fire-force call

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWS - The­mer­cury.com.au CLAIRE BICK­ERS Fed­eral Bureau Chief SUB­SCRIP­TIONS 1300 696 397

AN­DREW Wilkie is dou­bling down on calls for De­fence to build spe­cial­ist air­craft to bol­ster Aus­tralia’s fire­fight­ing arse­nal.

The fed­eral mem­ber for Clark urged the Mor­ri­son Govern­ment to de­velop a spe­cial­ist RAAF heavy aerial fire­fight­ing ca­pa­bil­ity in Ques­tion Time yes­ter­day as the coun­try stares down a horror fire sea­son.

Mr Wilkie warned Aus­tralia’s do­mes­tic re­sources were hav­ing to stretch to fight si­mul­ta­ne­ous fires in dif­fer­ent states, while ac­cess to other na­tions’ equip­ment was re­duced by the northern and south­ern hemi­sphere fire sea­sons over­lap­ping due to cli­mate change.

Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud

knocked back the call, say­ing Aus­tralia’s ac­cess to for­eign fire­fight­ing air­crafts wasn’t prob­lem­atic “at the mo­ment”.

Fire com­mis­sion­ers had as­sured the min­is­ter in a let­ter three weeks ago they were com­fort­able with the cur­rent ar­range­ments with the Aus­tralian De­fence Force and the lo­gis­tic sup­port it pro­vided fire­fight­ers, he said.

Mr Wilkie said it was a dis­ap­point­ing re­sponse.

“The fact is that the na­tional fire threat will con­tinue to trend badly and any sen­si­ble govern­ment would see the im­por­tance of think­ing strate­gi­cally and plan­ning for the fu­ture,” he said.

“Re­gard­less of whether or not there are ad­e­quate fire­fight­ing re­sources cur­rently, and that is ar­guable, there is no doubt that in years to come the coun­try will need much greater ca­pa­bil­ity and that must in­clude a much en­hanced heavy aerial fire­fight­ing ca­pa­bil­ity.”

For­mer Tas­ma­nia Fire Ser­vice chief fire of­fi­cer Mike Brown, one of 23 for­mer fire chiefs in Canberra yes­ter­day to warn about the im­pacts of cli­mate change, said Tas­ma­nia was fac­ing a “potentiall­y dif­fi­cult fire sea­son” with “ex­cep­tion­ally

dry con­di­tions in the east and Der­went Val­ley”.

Mr Brown also said: “Fa­cil­i­tat­ing ac­cess to de­fence re­sources for fire and emer­gency ser­vices is cer­tainly one op­tion that can be ex­plored as pres­sure mounts.

“But ul­ti­mately, bush­fire dan­ger will only rise as long as emissions do. We need a na­tional re­duc­tion in green­house gas emissions.”

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