New Defence fire-force call
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.”