The Hon Paul Brown, Nationals’ Member for the Agricultural Region moved the following motion in the WA Parliament yesterday:
That this house discusses the strategies for bushfire management and hazard reduction in Western Australia.
The hour long debate took contributions from 7 Members of Parliament (Hon Paul Brown, Hon Donna Faragher, Hon Michael Mischin, Hon Martin Aldridge, Hon Mark Lewis, Hon Kate Doust and Hon Dave Grills) and covered many issues beyond hazard reduction.
The Hon Paul Brown began his contribution like this:
The motion I just moved is specifically worded to encourage a broad discussion, particularly in light of the recent catastrophic bushfires in Northcliffe, Boddington and Bullsbrook, along with many small fires that have plagued our state this summer. Before I continue my contribution to this motion, I first commend all the thousands of career and volunteer firefighters who continue to put themselves in harm’s way to defend our homes, families and communities. The latest official number from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services website is that there are 29 033 volunteer firefighters across the state. I think I speak for all members in this house when I commend them all for their outstanding bravery and service.
And that support for our crews was echoed by almost every other speaker.
The general feeling from those who spoke was supportive of more hazard reduction, this comment from Attorney General Michael Mischin summarising the majority:
The issue of bushfire mitigation has been raised by several speakers, and it is a topic that excites some debate. Active forest management and fuel hazard reduction using prescribed burning across the landscape is, in the government’s view, essential in helping to protect our communities and the environment from damaging bushfires. It is also a critical mitigation measure that reduces the speed and intensity of bushfires, making them safer and easier to control. The Liberal–National government strongly supports the Department of Parks and Wildlife’s prescribed burning program, and, although ambitious, the 200 000-hectare prescribed burning target for our south west forests area is considered appropriate.
And there were also these interesting words from the mover of the motion, the Nationals’ Hon Paul Brown:
I would also like to quickly highlight a Nationals WA election policy that has unanimous support among our volunteer emergency services groups. Madam Deputy President, I have a bit of a show and tell here of the emergency service volunteers fuel card. At the 2013 state election, the Nationals WA announced the policy of a $2 000 fuel card for our state’s volunteer fire brigades, State Emergency Service groups, marine rescue, and St John Ambulance Service.
More than 700 organisations will be eligible to utilise the $2 000 annual contribution as an acknowledgment of the work that is done by those volunteers in our community. The eligible groups that receive a fuel card will be able to use it at the discretion of the local management committee, to be distributed between volunteers and the community as a way of recognising the time and resources that they give up for the sake of their community.
Discussions with the Minister for Emergency Services and Commissioner Wayne Gregson from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services are progressing to ensure that this commitment to our regional emergency volunteer groups is delivered. I would encourage Mr Wayne Gregson to support this very valuable contribution to our regional volunteers.