Brumby Cabinet to discuss bushfire report

Brumby Cabinet to discuss bushfire report

01 August 2010

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Australia — The report made 67 recommendations, including an increase in controlled burns, a move to underground power cabling, property buybacks in high-risk areas and changes to how the fire services are funded.

It has also recommended minor changes to the contentious stay-or-go policy.

Premier John Brumby says he will not rush his response.

“It is exactly the right thing to do, to make sure that we give the community the opportunity to comment,” he said.

But Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu says an incoming Coalition Government would implement all of the recommendations.

“Some will take time, others need to be implemented immediately,” he said.

“It is now incumbent on the Premier to ensure that in the next few months as many these recommendations are implemented as possible,” he said.

Mr Brumby says the Opposition’s view is irresponsible as the community must be allowed to comment.

“I don’t accept that view. I don’t think it’s a responsible thing for government to do,” he said.

The Government’s interim response is due within about a week.


Anxious for change

Residents of Victoria’s bushfire ravaged communities say they are anxious for change now that the final report has been handed down.

Residents in areas which bore the brunt of the Black Saturday bushfires have received copies of the Commission’s report.

Marysville resident Dennis Brown says he wants to see change.

“I don’t think we want to find blame about individual people,” he said.

“The forces that were released on that Saturday were so huge, it didn’t matter what humans did, we just had to have somewhere safe to go.”

Murrindindi Shire Mayor Peter Beales from the Kinglake region says he welcomes the report’s findings, but communities will face significant problems implementing emergency evacuations.

“It’s a difficult issue in an area like this surrounded by bush with only a couple of roads coming in and out,” he said.


Union backs reform

Meanwhile, the United Firefighters Union is backing the structural reform proposed for Victoria’s fire agencies in the final report.

The commission has recommended appointing a new independent fire commissioner, who would oversee the state’s firefighting operations.

The union’s secretary, Peter Marshall, says that would help to address the lack of communication and duplication that occurred on Black Saturday.

“What the report, the commission has found, is that no one person was in charge on the day,” he said.

“This person will have operational expertise and will be the person in charge of situations similar to what we’ve seen that day. That is how it differs.

“It’s not three different chief fire officers. There will be one person in charge with operational expertise.”

Class action

Lawyers pursuing a class action against power company SPY Electricity say the release of the final report strengthens their resolve.

The lawsuit alleges the company’s inadequate maintenance standards caused a powerline to snap and start the Kilmore East-Kinglake fire.

The fire was the deadliest of the Black Saturday blazes, killing 121 people and destroying more than 1,200 homes.

More than 630 people have signed onto the class action.

The Commission has found the age of Victoria’s electricity infrastructure contributed to the fires and overhead powerlines should be replaced with underground cables.

The lawyers say they are now more determined to push for compensation for the survivors.

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