Raging bushfires are Australia's Hurricane Katrina

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The bushfires in NSW have been grossly mishandled, writes Tarric Brooker.

IN THE WAKE of the recent catastrophic bushfires, supporters of the Morrison Government have taken to Facebook and Twitter to claim that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian must formally request assistance from the Federal government, for it to be provided.

Believe it or not, this actually 100% correct.

In order to separate the powers of the State and Federal governments, the Premiers have to formally request assistance from Canberra for it to be provided.

While it’s painfully clear that Prime Minister Scott Morrison failed in his duty of care by not meeting with the 21 former Fire and Emergency Services chiefs, who were attempting to warn the government about the dangers of the upcoming bushfire season.

A great deal of the responsibility for the current crisis and its catastrophic impact belongs to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. At the time of the writing of this article, there has been no formal request for assistance put forward by the NSW State Government to the Federal Government.

This is in stark contrast to the actions of former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, who repeatedly put forward requests to the Federal government for assistance during Queensland’s devastating floods back in 2010-2011.

With every hot and windy day between now and the end of the bushfire season a potential disaster waiting to happen, one would imagine that Premier Berejiklian would want every possible resource to keep the people and property of NSW safe.

If Federal assistance was requested, the armed forces could provide the Fire Services with all manner of logistical support, as it has in the past.  Military helicopters and trucks could be used to ferry supplies into isolated areas, sharing the load with an overstretched NSW Rural Fire Service.

The armed forces could provide shelter, hot food and other forms of support near the fire front, leaving firefighters the ability to rest before heading back into danger, rather than being forced to scrounge up food from local donations.

Military mechanics could help fix and maintain fire engines while most of the firefighters got some much-needed rest. The list really does go on and on. Yet for reasons that frankly escape even the most basic logic this help hasn’t yet been requested.

Not to compare the very different scale of the disaster and the scope of human suffering, but this feels eerily similar in principle to the response of the Bush Administration to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In the wake of the powerful "Category 5" Hurricane, the Bush Administration and the local and state governments were all criticised for their lack of planning and insufficient resources that were given to disaster relief.

Like President Bush before her, Gladys Berejiklian can help solve this crisis solely by making a phone call. By making the request to the Federal Government, within hours help could be on the way.

Homes could be saved, lives could be spared and our wildlife could be better protected. Whether or not the bushfire crisis gets worse from here remain to be seen, but our firefighters risking their lives and wellbeing on the frontlines of these blazing infernos deserve every single bit of help we could possibly provide.

This bushfire season has already gone down in history as a disaster. Hopefully, Premier Gladys Berejiklian ensures it doesn’t join Hurricane Katrina, as a disaster where the worst could have been prevented by the actions of an attentive government.

Tarric Brooker is a freelance journalist and political commentator. 

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