Do we need a Royal Commission into the recent bushfires?
Since 1939, there have been in excess of 50 inquiries into bushfires in Australia.
These have been reactionary in nature and provided opportunities to examine the cause and origin of fires resulting in recommendations directed at improvements in the way we manage natural disasters, and resources to minimise life and property losses.
Many of these improvements, particularly in the area of public awareness, were evident in the recent operational activity as well as greater use of aircraft.
Shouldn’t we then be focusing on the evidence produced during those inquiries and the subsequent recommendations before embarking on yet another costly exercise involving limited resources?
For example, in 2011, the NSW Rural Fire Service Association, as the peak body representing volunteers and staff of the NSW Rural Fire Service, produced a document titled ‘Building a Rural Fire Service for 2030’.
It contained 22 recommendations that considered the findings of the Royal Commission into the Victorian Bushfires in 2009 and a Senate inquiry into bushfires in Australia completed in 2010.
Some of these recommendations related to hazard reduction, recording and auditing by agencies, risk management and mitigation policies as well as volunteer recognition and tax relief measures for members.
These existing proposals could be reviewed and, if supported, rolled out quickly so that changes can occur before the next fire season in a proactive manner, rather than awaiting the outcome of a Royal Commission which may or may not result in new strategies and could take months or years to complete.
And while I welcome today’s announcement of an independent inquiry into the NSW bushfires – the issue at hand here is speed – so, let’s not reinvent the wheel.
As an organisation, we could not be more proud of the valiant efforts of our firefighters across this catastrophic bushfire season.
At the end of the day, we need to find a solution that continues to save the lives and protect the properties of everyday Aussies in the most efficient, safe, and effective way possible