The mismanagement of our bushfire crisis by the Liberal Government would have been avoided had Bill Shorten been elected, writes Emma Goldrick.
THE RECENT Australian bushfire crisis has left the country with 18.6 million hectares of lost land, one billion animals incinerated and at least 34 people dead, with these figures only increasing every day.
Despite leading climate scientists and former fire chiefs warning the Liberal-National Coalition that the 2019-20 bushfire season would be longer, hotter, drier and deadlier than ever before, the Government failed to prepare accordingly. Seemingly, during the 2019 Election, Australia elected the only major political party without a clear plan on tackling the bushfire crisis.
The unprecedented bushfire crisis required forward-thinking, First Nation expertise, emergency service preparation and higher funding allocation. However, this was not preferenced in the 2019 Federal Election. Australia is now facing the repercussions of electing a government sustained by climate change denialism, coal lobbyists and complete inaction.
The 2019 Federal Election was internationally dubbed as the election for climate change, with the Labor Party presenting a comprehensive, science-based climate action plan whilst the Liberal Party neglected to address the urgency of the matter. The victory of the Liberal-National Coalition came as a shock to many, as seemingly the only election promise made was “a fair go for those that have a go”, Scott Morrison's mantra that most Australians do not understand or know to be conditional.
The management of the bushfire crisis under a Bill Shorten Government would have been exponentially different to the devastation we face now, as the Labor Party had proposed actionable measures and appropriate funding that aligned with what experts were recommending. The Labor Party proposed an array of policies including a 45 per cent emission reduction target, $200 million for a native species protection fund, $200 million for Indigenous rangers managing the land and $80 million to establish the National Aerial Bushfire Fighting Fleet of aircraft, all of which would have substantially mitigated the devastation of the bushfire crisis.
The Labor Party under the Shorten campaign further proposed a National Firefighting Package which allocated $21 million towards the National Aerial Firefighting Centre. Had the Shorten Government been elected to office, they would have funded and trained Australia’s first smoker jumper units which involve specialised firefighters trained to deploy by helicopters into remote fire struck areas.
Whereas the Coalition, under their 2019-20 Budget, allocated $15 million to water-bombing fleets and only increased the budget after being urged by national fire chiefs in the midst of the bushfire crisis. Despite the Coalition being warned by Former NSW Fire Chief Greg Mullins that more funding would be required to deploy the number of aircraft required for this bushfire season, Morrison neglected to acknowledge this.
“If they (the Liberal Government) had spoken to us back then, maybe they could have allocated more money to have more of those aircraft, but they didn’t and they’re probably not available now.”
The Government is currently facing a plethora of complications as the fires rage across state borders and the onus of responsibility blurs. The Liberal Party are now arguing whether the onus of blame should be placed on the Berejiklian State or Morrison Federal Government.
However, whilst the blame game plays out, the Labor Party back in the 2019 Election campaign had already pre-empted and addressed this issue.
Bill Shorten and the Labor Party during their campaign proposed that the funding responsibilities of state services pertaining to bushfires would be split equally between the states and territories and the Commonwealth Government:
A Shorten Labor Government will stop the Federal Government’s reduction in funding for our firefighting capabilities by returning to a 50-50 funding split between the states and territories and the Commonwealth. Labor’s investment will ease the burden on state and territory governments, develop new national programs including a national risk management model, and national research and development programs including trials of new aircraft and night firefighting activities.
The result of the 2019 Federal Election has meant rather than adequately funding the fire and rescue emergency services, the Coalition has been preoccupied with funding climate denialism.
Despite the Murdoch press alongside the Coalition attempting to shift blame to The Greens, The Greens actually present a thorough bushfire plan that listens to the science behind the crisis.
However, in the face of electoral defeat in 2019, the Labor Party has drastically winded real action on climate change.
Emma Goldrick is a Political Science Honours Student at the University of Sydney.
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