National plan ‘needed for bushfires’

National plan ‘needed for bushfires’

18 May 2009

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Australia — Australia needs a better national approach to fighting bushfires, according to the chair of a new Senate inquiry into bushfires.

Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan said today the inquiry was not about the recent Victorian bushfires but “the failure and decline in the capacity to fight bushfires”.

“Australia has no national bushfire policy,” he said. “The Commonwealth should take a leadership role in co-ordinating State and Territories to develop their policies based on national policy.”

The Weekly Times Now last week reported that the Senate select committee on agriculture and related industries would conducta sweeping inquiry into the causes, impacts and policy issues surrounding bushfires.

Senator Heffernan said the committee would initially inquire into and report on the incidence and severity of bushfires across Australia, including the impact on human and animal life, agricultural land, the environment, public and private assets and local communities. 

He said advertisements would appear shortly in major rural newspapers calling for submissions from interested stakeholders, and public hearings would be scheduled. 

“We must look at factors contributing to the causes and risks of bushfires across Australia, including natural resource management policies, hazard reduction and agricultural land maintenance,” Senator Heffernan said.

“We are prepared to receive confidential submissions so that witnesses can speak freely without fear of intimidation or retaliation.”

 The Committee is expected to report to the Senate by November this year.

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