WA bushfire report surprises premier

WA bushfire report surprises premier 

15 August 2011

published by www.news.smh.com.au

Australia — West Australian Premier Colin Barnett says he’s surprised by the strong line former federal police chief Mick Keelty has taken in his report into the Perth Hills bushfires.

Leaked details of the report into February’s bushfires indicate Mr Keelty has been scathing of WA bushfire management and will recommend separate firefighting agencies be controlled by one person.

WA Emergency Services Minister Rob Johnson has copped flak over the report for allegedly not doing anything to improve fire management and reduce tensions between agencies.
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The Perth Hills fires destroyed 72 homes in Kelmscott and Roleystone but there was no loss of life.

Firefighting roles are currently spread between WA’s Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA), the Department of Environment and Conservation and more than 100 councils.

Tensions between FESA and DEC have prompted calls for a major shake-up of firefighting control in the field.

The report by Mr Keelty, the former Australian Federal Police commissioner, has yet to be released publicly but he was to brief the WA Cabinet on it on Monday.

Mr Barnett said the government had no desire to delay the release of the report and would do so after thoroughly considering it following Mr Keelty’s briefing.

“I am not pre-empting anything, it is a very wide-ranging report, there are a lot of recommendations that some might see as contentious,” the premier told Fairfax Radio on Monday.

“Certainly Mick Keelty’s taken a very strong line, I was a little surprised by that.”

Mr Barnett said he had an open mind on all the issues and simply wanted to get the best policy result and for WA fire services.

“The history is there for everyone to be aware of, there have been rivalries and sometimes lack of cooperation between different arms of the firefighting services,” the premier said.

“I’d like to see that settled once and for all, there’s nothing new, it’s been going on for years and years and years.”

He said Mr Keelty did make recommendations about the overall control structure for firefighting administration in WA and any change in structure would be a big decision for government.

“We are going to take at least a couple of weeks to look at this thoroughly before we open it up to a wider public debate.”

Mr Barnett said another point that would come through in Mr Keelty’s report would be the extraordinary effort and bravery of firefighters during the Perth Hills blaze.

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