Phone alert to be given priority

Phone alert to be given priority

16 February 2009

published by

Australia — Laws enabling the roll-out of an early warning system for bushfires will be fast-tracked through Federal Parliament so the system is in place next fire season.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Federal Government would take responsibility for introducing the scheme, which had been the subject of state and federal governments bickering for years.

“Work is already in train, legislation needs to be changed and legislation is being brought to the Parliament,” she said. “We’re bringing a spirit of determination to getting this done.”

State and federal governments have faced criticism over lack of action on the plan that had been put to the Howard government and tested four years ago, with Premier John Brumby discussing the issue with Prime Minister Rudd last year.

Fighting over funding and privacy laws between governments had delayed the national implementation of the scheme before this year’s bushfire season.

“It had been languishing around for several years and the Prime Minister pushed it forward,” Ms Gillard told Channel Nine. “I can’t answer for everything in the past. What I can do is tell you about our determination for a different future.”

Mr Brumby and Mr Rudd met after last week’s fires, committing to introduce the scheme, which has been described as an “electronic door knock” that would send messages to land lines and mobile phones.

“There are some technical issues here that are still being worked through about how it can give warning to everybody in the affected area — so it’s not about where your billing address for your phone is but where you physically are that day — those things are being worked through,” Ms Gillard said.

But she refused to commit to the Federal Government playing a greater role in reducing bushfire risk, including fuel reduction, saying she would wait for the recommendations of the royal commission.

“I think all of that is going to be on the table for examination by the royal commission that has been announced by the Victorian Government and we’ll certainly be all ears for the recommendations of that royal commission,” she said.

“I expect that it will canvass matters like the planning scheme, backburning, clearing vegetation around homes, communications systems, the whole lot,” she said.

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