Federal Emergency Services Minister David Littleproud told 7.30 Mr Mullins “should know better than anyone that the Government always takes the advice from current fire commissioners”.
“And his claim is disrespectful to our current fire commissioners in effectively claiming that they did not provide that advice,” he said.
The final report is expected to recommend a revamped role for Emergency Management Australia (EMA), the federal body responsible for emergency management coordination.
“The thing that we’re frightened of — and the fire agencies are frightened of — is that there’s a centralisation of administration and it just becomes a measuring, reporting bureaucracy that really adds very little value,” Mr Mullins said.
“It needs to be driven by the fire and emergency services.”
However, Mr Littleproud said: “Everyone just needs to cool their jets.”
“We don’t intend to take over the operation, operational management of fires,” he said.
He said instead, EMA could play “a pivotal role” in coordinating matters such as fire warning systems and hazard reduction burns.
“I mean, the states have really got to let go of some things in particular,” he said.
NSW RFS Commissioner Bob Rogers told 7.30 the royal commission’s recommendations would build on the lessons learnt last summer about cooperation between states and territories.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think fires are going to be managed from Canberra; they will be managed by state entities who have the statutory responsibility,” he said.
“But in saying that, I think there’s absolutely a role for the Federal Government and the coordination arrangements.”
‘What we need is a really landmark statement’
Fire ecologist David Bowman said his submission highlighted the complexity of the problem and the need to avoid simply investing more resources in firefighting.
But the University of Tasmania professor fears the royal commission will not lead to the rapid changes needed.
“If you look at some of the topics that the royal commission are touching on, you’re talking about everything from mental health, administrative reform, insurance, town planning, climate change, bushfire management, and pretty much everything in between,” he said.
“We’re talking about a massive program, and one of the major issues that is really requiring leadership — political leadership — is balancing centralising power into bureaucracies and empowering individuals and communities to take responsibility.
“And that is a very vexed issue.”
Professor Bowman said there was a real danger the royal commission would not recommend adaptations of a necessary speed and scale.
“[It] will basically be just kicking the can down the road a little bit here, a little bit there,” he said.
“What we need is a really landmark statement that we’re in a new place, or a new awareness … where we can actually see the sorts of changes that we need to get safe to coexist with bushfires.”
An interim report from the inquiry said floods and fires were expected to become more intense as the Earth warmed
Former NSW fire chief Greg Mullins says he wants to see the inquiry recommend more action on curbing emissions
Emergency Services Minister David Littleproud says states will continue to manage the operational elements of fire responses