A group of 29 former emergency chiefs say the federal government’s leadership vaccum on Australia’s bushfire and climate crisis has prompted them to announce a national bushfire emergency summit after the current bushfire season.
The group, Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ELCA), has recently expanded with six new members joining calls for the Federal Government to better prepare Australia for worsening extreme weather events. The new members include former Deputy Fire Commissioners, former Directors General of Emergency Management Australia, former Director General of NSW National Parks, and a former Deputy SES Commissioner.
Six representatives of ELCA, all former commissioners, spoke to media at the Royal Botanic Gardens, in Sydney this morning.
Deeply concerned with the unprecedented scale and ferocity of bushfire crisis
Greg Mullins, former Commissioner, Fire & Rescue NSW, said the group are deeply concerned with the unprecedented scale and ferocity of the current bushfire crisis. ‘Summer has barely begun but record numbers of homes have been lost in Queensland and NSW, major cities have been shrouded in smoke and destructive fires are burning across Australia.
‘Climate change is the key driver to the worsening conditions but the Federal Government remains in denial as far as credible action on emissions goes.
Mr Mullins says that over the weekend homes were lost near both Sydney and Perth, and a large 737 air tanker was sent from NSW to WA. ‘This underlines our grave concerns that despite the support and efforts of state and territory governments, of current fire chiefs and our brave firefighters, Australia does not have adequate resources to fight fires of this scale or to tackle worsening conditions and simultaneous fire seasons in years to come,’ he said.
‘Australia has become hotter and drier due to climate change, but politicians in Canberra seem incapable of admitting the link. There are no credible climate policies to phase out fossil fuels, or bring down emissions, and our government embarrassed us in Madrid.
A duty to fill Canberra’s leadership vacuum
On behalf of the group Mr Mullins said they feel a duty to fill Canberra’s leadership vacuum on the fires and will call our own national emergency summit after the current bushfire season to bring together a range of interested parties to look at how we can adapt to a far more dangerous environment. ‘The safety and well-being of communities, firefighters, and wildlife is on the line.
‘Our coalition of concerned leaders is growing, and we are not going away until we see action that matches the scale and urgency of the climate emergency and gives some hope for future generations,’ he said.
ELCA is releasing in full the list of recommendations it provided to Minister David Littleproud and Minister Angus Taylor in early December.
Worse conditions expected
Major General Peter Dunn (ret), Former Commissioner, ACT Emergency Services Authority, said that bushfires are burning simultaneously in several states and territories, and worse conditions are expected over the summer. ‘People’s lives and properties at risk; this is what climate change looks like.
‘Intense drought and extremely hot weather put unprecedented strain on firefighting agencies as well as firefighters, emergency workers, health services, and others. Australia needs a national approach to ensure that states and territories have the resources needed to keep people safe.
‘We have been calling for a bushfire emergency summit to work out a coordinated strategy for worsening extreme weather in the future. We will now take it upon ourselves to host it in March. The Prime Minister is invited to join us, and to show the leadership Australia badly needs on emergency management and climate action,’ said Mr Dunn.