Press Conference, Parliament House

October 28, 2020



SUBJECTS: Bushfire Royal Commission report; Scott Morrison’s slow response to bushfires; LNP inaction on climate change; not a cent spent from Morrison Government’s $4bn Emergency Response Fund.

MURRAY WATT, QUEENSLAND LABOR SENATOR: Well, today, we're going to be seeing a very important report handed down - the final report of the royal commission into last year's bushfires. Obviously, those bushfires were tragic events across much of Australia, losing 33 lives, hundreds of homes and millions of hectares of forest. This report will be very important for the Government to act on immediately. The report will identify the massive shortcomings in how Australia prepared for, and responded to, the bushfires last year. And the responsibility for that, of course, lies squarely at the feet of Scott Morrison.

We saw last year that Scott Morrison and his Government failed to prepare for the bushfires. They failed with the response to the bushfires. And now they are failing with the recovery to the bushfires as well. They ignored the warnings that the bushfires were going to be the biggest we had ever seen. The response was chaotic. And now in the recovery phase, we still have people living in caravans, living in sheds, waiting to move back into their homes. It's not acceptable. And the Government must implement the recommendations of the royal commission immediately. The time for ignoring these issues is well beyond due. The Government's got to take action straight away.

The other aspect of the Government's response that is absolutely vital is that it finally start taking real action on climate change. This Government has never wanted to take action on climate change. It has put up excuse after excuse for why it can't take action, really just to try to keep down and keep calm the extreme right wing of their own party. Well, Australians can't accept that risk. They need our Government taking action on climate change, and they need to start doing that today.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it's time for Australia to invest in full-time aerial firefighting aircraft?

WATT: Yeah, the lack of Australia's aerial firefighting fleet was really exposed last season when we had to try to bring in aircraft from other countries, even though they were still needing to use them themselves. The interim report of the royal commission identified that we need of a full scale review of our aerial firefighting fleet, and I'm expecting to see more in the final report today. In this day and age, when we know that we're going to be facing more extreme weather and more bushfires, more intense bushfires, as is the rest of the world, we need to be prepared here at home. We can't continue to rely on other countries to save us from our own bushfires. We need to invest in that aerial firefighting fleet ourselves.

The other thing that's related on that is that the Government right now is sitting on a $4 billion fund that it could be using to invest in disaster mitigation measures and the sorts of things that can actually keep people safe from bushfires, floods and cyclones. We actually know from the Bureau of Meteorology's forecasts that this summer, the biggest weather risk we face is actually going to be cyclones and floods in the north of our country. And yet the Government is still sitting on its $4 billion Emergency Response Fund that it announced in last year's budget, and it still hasn't spent a single cent from that. They've got to get moving, the longer they delay, the longer they don't take action, the more Australians who are going to be put at risk.