Lives are the first priority in bushfire debate

Lives are the first priority in bushfire debate

31 October 2012

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Australia– SAFEGUARDING Victorians against an outbreak of bushfires this summer appears to be less important to the Gillard Government than making a profit.

As reported in the Herald Sun, the hi-tech broadband spectrum has the capacity to carry live vision from helicopters and crews at a bushfire to the state fire control centre.

But it comes at a cost the Baillieu Government says it cannot afford.

Canberra says it is willing to make some emergency service spectrum available, but it wants the states to pay if broadband services have to be scaled up in the event of a disaster.

Emergency services say they need at least 20MHz of spectrum put aside for communication, but the Federal Government has offered only 10MHz.

This is putting profit before the lives of those who may be in the path of a major bushfire. Alarmingly, the war of words that has broken out between Premier Ted Baillieu and Prime Minister Julia Gillard comes as Victoria faces another summer of high temperatures that could produce conditions similar to those that led to the loss of so many lives on Black Saturday in 2009.

Victorians need to be reassured that the fires that killed 173 people and cut a swath through towns and farms will not be repeated.

Avoiding another disaster not only requires early-warning systems. It also requires replacing much of the state’s powerlines and poles, which were flashpoints for the Black Saturday fires.

Mr Baillieu committed to all 67 recommendations of the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission when he was elected. But not nearly enough has been done to buy back land at extreme fire risk and federal Labor’s insistence on money upfront will further erode public confidence.

No one wants to experience another Black Saturday, but if it comes Victoria must be ready.

Based on these latest claims and counter-claims, more lives are being put at risk this summer.



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