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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The Benefits of Fire

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Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The Benefits of Fire

Thanks to the generosity of everyday Australians, Hollywood and Instagram stars, the NSW RFS may be able to make up the deficit to their capital and expenditure budgets for 2019–20 incurred when the Berejiklian Government cut their budget by $49.9 million. That’s 75% of their annual operational budget. We’ve just given back what those arseholes took away. Gladys says, ‘Thank You!’

Conservative governments are becoming dependent on charities providing services that they should be funding through our tax dollar – our ‘common’ wealth. If you want to be re-elected, you need a surplus. I hear people in cafes talking about backburning like it’s been a plot by the Greenies to stop the RFS putting in containment lines. The reality is, the pre-emptive controlled burns that Aboriginal Australians have been doing for 60 000 years, that are usually done by Parks and Wildlife these days, didn’t happen, because of funding cuts – by the coalition. Not the Greens. That means more than 274 000 ha in NSW alone that weren’t subject to hazard reduction burns. A government that spends is seen as fiscally irresponsible. And now we’re all feeling the heat of governments who have been trimming back their expenditure on climate- and environment-related services. In a time of climate change, with longer, drier weather, with record heat waves, it’s never been more important to have fire strategies in place across the country.

One such strategy is to plant more trees. Millions and millions of trees. NGOs have been in your streets for years asking for donations for tree planting or forest buy-backs. Have you given anything? More and more of what should be government funded public or community service has been shaved back so severely many organisations are forced to rely on charitable donations and patronage to survive.

This fire crisis is the government’s shout. Their lack of action on climate change, their support of Adani, their reluctance to move away from fossil fuels – in favour of renewables – proves they are not prepared to put in the real and lasting containment lines that might give us more lasting and reliable protection from bushfires. This enormous environmental tragedy is on Scott Morrison and his government. It’s on any government who doesn’t recognise and respond to the danger we face. That includes the opposition, who’ve been very quiet on the matter. Could it be that they also receive party donations from fossil fuel interests?

The reality is, that while enormous amounts of money are raised to attempt to repatriate communities and bushland, if immediate systematic change isn’t achieved, then we’ll just burn again next year, and the year after that and the year after that, until our green planet is just a lump of charcoal orbiting the sun with a go-fund-me to Mars.

And what will happen to the millions of dollars donated to the RFS? The scope of the horror – the lost lives, the decimated landscape, the dead wildlife, the lost homes and livelihoods – it has touched everyone. People have lost faith in their government and shown that they are able to take things into their own hands, and use those hands to give. We can give. But can we affect change? Through concerts and crowd funding, comedy gigs and buckets in the street, Australia has dug deep. But how do we get that money to the people who need it most? It’s easy to give, but the bureaucracy of distribution is something else entirely. Unfortunately, no bureaucratic process was lost in the fires. Many have jumped in quickly to answer the call, without realising the complexity and inflexibility of the charters of the not-for-profits that they’ve fund-raised for.

Most people think they’re donating across the states. If you’ve given $ to wildlife and it’s gone to WIRES – be aware that they’re just in NSW. It’s not a Victorian or Queensland wildlife fund. Celeste Barber’s incredible campaign that has raised over $30 million isn’t for the families of those killed, or for those in hardship. It’s for the RFS in NSW. While extremely worthy, it’s not Victoria or Queensland. And it’s for equipment and operations.

There’s a definite frustration in not being able to target the human and environmental need more directly; those who lost their homes and were uninsured, those families who’ve lost loved ones, the incomprehensible loss of habitat and wildlife, and the loss of income and hardship faced by volunteer firefighters. Most of us want to put money directly in their hands, but it’s not that simple. The federal government has offered volunteer firefighters up to $6k, claimable at $300 per day for lost income while fighting fires. Many will be losing more income trying to wade through the complex and tricky eligibility criteria, showing a huge difference between the expectations raised by the promises made by the PM, and the reality. In bleak times, it’s good to remember the re-birth that happens after a fire. The green shoots that push through, despite the devastation. Let’s hope those green shoots are the beginning of the real change we so desperately need.

You want to backburn to remove danger? Let’s start at Parliament house.

For conversations about systemic change, check out the ideas of big-picture thinkers, like David Suzuki, and Charles Eisenstein at Going Local: Hope in a Time of Crisis, running 20–22 March, at Byron Community Centre. Early bird tickets until 20 Jan from localfutures.org.

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  1. Good Article, a royal commission will expose all !!
    Unfortunately we are one of the most over governed countries in the world , taking advantage
    Of privilege’s only one could dream of . Snouts
    In the troughs and how , in all political parties.
    Bureaucrats on almost 1 million annually ,
    In reality the country needs decent politicians
    And the remuneration should be reasonable
    As to attract good People , in reality its
    The responsibility of all governments to be
    Fiscally sound with the taxpayer’s money .
    The mere mention of surplus in this time of
    Crisis would be insensitive and how !!
    The government sat on its hands for far to
    Long to respond to this national Disaster .
    Cant believe it ,
    The country will get through this together as one !

  2. Elly Bird, Lismore Councillor suggested donating to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal’s Disaster Resiliance and Recovery Fund:

    She wrote on FB “It’s amazing how much money has been raised for the RFS but we need to be just as aware of the long hard slog of recovery that is now facing communities over coming years – recovery is a marathon. The good folk at FRRR are in it with us for the long haul they will continue to distribute funds to impacted community over coming years, once the initial spike of money dries up. They fund communities directly and the money is used locally on projects determined by the community. Please consider supporting them.”

    The fund writes: Wondering how you can help fire-affected communities get back on their feet?

    Consider splitting your contribution, directing some toward more immediate support, and donating to FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Fund, which will have a longer-term impact.
    Having actively supported rural, regional and remote communities in their recovery from disasters since 2006, we know that recovery takes time, and affected communities will need support for many years to come – we’re still supporting communities affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires.

    Donations made now will be invested, and the returns used to ensure funds are available for community-led initiatives when disaster-affected communities are ready for support. Pooling and investing these funds also means that one donation can have an impact for years to come.

    Go to frrr.org.au/bushfires or read more here: http://ow.ly/HIbd50xOIH4


  3. I agree with Barrow’s comments. We seem to have ignored the growth of an “entitled” political class (to sit alongside an entitled upper class) who have in turn built a framework within which gouging, cheating and fraud are either legalised or are simply ignored until someone blows the whistle and details leak into the public domain.

    In fact, I find one difference between the alleged “entitled low class” and the “entitled upper class” is that the “entitled low class” get nothing, although and because it is made out, by the entitled upper and political classes, that they get way too much already and get so much they can afford to spend their generous allowances on dope and ice. On the other hand, the entitled upper and political classes get what they want and think they are entitled to more, because they are “having a go”. It should not escape out attention (but it does), that tax fraud annually “costs” this country around 5 times more than Centrelink fraud. Guess which of those two captures more attention, more resources and is made out to be the result of the acts of bludgers and leaners.

    Worse is the fact that we seem to have crossed a point-of-no-return past which we now predominantly elect politicians who do nothing but let us down, although we are so averse to admitting that we made an error of judgement that we will obdurately and aggressively defend our bad choices. Hence a large proportion of Coalition voters (approximately 70%) still believe as of today, despite clear contradictory evidence, that Morrison the non-leader and the LNP is doing a good job for Australia and Australians. Under Morrison’s inept and self-infatuated tenure as PM, the only major legislation the LNP have passed or repealed impacts on a very select number of people. The Medevac legislation repeal was solely politically-motivated and “benefited” only a few who continue to believe that refugees would be able to exploit the rules to surreptitiously enter and stay in Australia and we, as a nation, should continue to effectively torture asylum seekers. Then the religious discrimination bill is focused solely upon religious institutions and enshrining into law their ability to discriminate in the name of their religion.

  4. Too easy to hide or lose information in a ‘royal
    commission’ & that’s the reason most State
    Governments have agreed to expose the info
    they are well aware of as well. It makes a lot
    of sense because our Federal leaders have
    been on the ‘let’s-cut-back-everything the low
    paid/ unemployed/ partly employed/ ill & aged
    have had real need of for years.’ The public
    want answers & the States will front-up with
    the truth during their ‘own royal commissions’
    because – after all – the ‘Commission’ idea
    came from the States; the Fed Gove just had
    to follow on. Think about Hockey’s BBQ in
    the US when Smoke-Oh visited Trump. A few
    investors [coal-oil-gas], the usual Rinehart,
    Rio Tinto GEO & Kerry Stokes etc. The cost;
    $91,789. Couldn’t be a beer & snag! We paid
    for a couple of hours of fun & contracts with
    the rich ‘n famous. That’s how the ‘other 7%

  5. According to an article in New Scientist in November 2019 – Vol 244 – No 3254- by Fred Pearce
    —It seems that large scale clearing of vegetation by humans has created deserts before. Take the now arid interior of Australia. It was much wetter until about 45,000 years ago. Today’s desert depressions were huge permanent lakes, kept full by strong monsoon winds. Lake Eyre, also known as Kati Thanda, back then extended to around 10,000 square kilometres, but is now usually a dry salt encrusted plain.
    Global climate factors can’t explain the dramatic drying, says Gifford Miller at the University of Colorado.
    ” The only variable that changed is humans colonized the continent.” He and Australian colleagues argue that the most plausible explanation is hunters burning bush to round up their megafauna prey. The loss of vegetation shut down moisture recycling and ” weakened the penetration of monsoon moisture into the continental interior” , he says. As a result today, ” precipitation diminishes rapidly inland , to less than 300mm within a few hundred kilometres of the coast.”
    In the past 50 years 130 square kilometres of forest along the western coast south of Perth has been replaced by wheat fields. While rainfall in this area has remained stable, there has been a 20% decline inland, leaving reservoirs that supply Perth parched, says Jorg Imberger, former director of the Centre of Water Research at the University of Western Australia.

  6. To add to the previous comments.. the ‘inspiration for this conversation was something I saw this morning with respect to the so called ‘introduced feral species’ of camels in SA, previously mentioned the comments I made was a story in the news that the camel meat ‘people’ were complaining that they could have got something from the slaughter of these beings. ‘There’s money in those there humps’. It’s just a no learn scenario. What will take has been the question? For me, that really says it all..
    wrote songs for a while.. haven’t for a long time.. that was my cranky pop song a few weeks before Christmas in my back yard.. in between ‘Om Gaia Maaaaa’! & a little bit of Doon Doon bashing… save the neighbours.. i’m Learning to multi-task! it is the most insane indoctrination I think I have ever had the misfortune to observe… not the drumming.. use it, we say!
    Write.. it’s good therapy..! This week’s little song drop sounds like an ode to the journey of misery from a mostly moderated, passionate Queen Eggplant.
    I really hope the fog lifts from between the ears of these artificial leaders in positions they are clearly unsuitable for & for those too impotent to move & recognise the only way forward is to drop the belief we are here to serve ourselves.
    We are here by privilege of this beloved planet.
    It is our responsibility to learn to live with all species here.

    Much love


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