Brisbane Press Conference

November 14, 2020


SUBJECTS: Bushfire Royal Commission final report; Morrison Government ignoring recommendation to establish national aerial firefighting fleet.

MURRAY WATT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DISASTER AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Well, Labor is very disappointed by this decision from the Morrison Government to reject the recommendation of the bushfire royal commission to set up a national aerial firefighting fleet.
Last year, at the height of the bushfires, we remember Scott Morrison saying he 'didn't hold a hose'. Now he's saying he won't even pay for a water bomber.
This decision is actually going to put lives at risk in Australia. We saw what happened last year when Scott Morrison failed to act on the recommendations to get more firefighting aircraft in place when the country burned. Lives were lost, properties were lost and millions of hectares destroyed by fire. So to now refuse to accept this recommendation, is again going to put Australians lives at risk.
When Scott Morrison got through the bushfires, he set up this royal commission and said that he was really interested in hearing what it had to say, and now that it's made recommendations, he's ignoring them.
The bushfire royal commission has recommended that we need a national aerial firefighting fleet. A Senate inquiry into the bushfires has recommended it as well, and so have the ex-fire chiefs who Scott Morrison refused to listen to last year. I don't know what it's going to take for Scott Morrison to understand that having a national aerial firefighting fleet in place is essential for keeping Australians safe.
The problem we saw last year, and the problem we're going to continue to have, is that due to climate change, fire seasons are getting longer and more intense, not just here in Australia, but right around the world. And what we've traditionally had to do is to rely on bringing in aircraft from other countries to make sure that we've got enough water bombing aircraft in place here in Australia. The problem is that if fire seasons are being extended in places like California and Europe, those places need to hang on to their water bombing aircraft for longer. And it's just not possible for Australia to get them when we need them. That's why we saw delays in getting aerial firefighters in place last year. We can't afford to have that happen again. Scott Morrison has got to start listening to the experts and make sure that we have a national firefighting fleet to keep Australians safe.

JOURNALIST: How do you think the Australian public will react to it?

WATT: I think Australians will be incredibly disappointed to see Scott Morrison yet again, refusing to listen to the experts about what we need to do to keep Australians safe. I think all of us remember last year the ex-fire chiefs who repeatedly tried to meet with Scott Morrison to give him warnings and give him advice about how to prepare for the bushfires. Scott Morrison stubbornly refused to meet with those ex-fire chiefs. And, of course, their advice was ignored, and we all saw what happened. So here we are again, just like last year. He failed to prepare for the bushfires last year. And it looks like Scott Morrison is failing to listen to the experts and failing to prepare for this coming season as well.