Sydney Alternative Media - independent, community, non profit, trustworthy

Home newswire ecology action

13 Dec 06 ...Howard's divisive politics - bushfire green baiting today, dog whistle yesterday

[Orginally posted on Sydney Indy Media]

Back in 1994 this writer was getting published in just about every regional and rural newspaper in NSW pointing out that forested wilderness areas had very little role to play in fires threatening land and people in NSW at the town bush interface. I still remember some people died in the urban bush interface in suburban Sydney at Jannali may they rest in peace.

There is nothing like fatalities to focus one’s mind on what is true and what is bullshit, and one’s own role in such things and especially
when the finger is pointing your way as a leader at The Wilderness Society.

 The truth in 1994 was large intact trackless wilderness areas were invariably way outside the geography of the fires dangerous to life
and property back in 1994 despite the nasty sniping.

I make this comment subject to one reservation today, the bushfires in Canberra (if memory serves in 2004) indicates a whole new more dangerous scenario around frightening climate change and drought where a fire in a national park that might have been resolved there, even hundreds of kilometres away can take a run up to bite
Canberra ferociously. A fire that runs over hazard reduced and bare farmland equally fast having achieved a critical momentum. Dangerous climate change indeed.

 But everyone is playing catch up on climate change: Not least the water resources, as for bushfire policy. So targetting the greenies on intensification of bushfires is quite the cheap shot.

The reports and investigations that came out  in the mid 90’s including Inquiries which I was requested to give evidence, both coronial and at State Parliament, proved that neither better
bushfire trails, or more hazard reduction burning or just about anything else would have saved the 2 folk in Jannali short of just getting out of the fire’s way. At Jannali it was a local fire, local flora, local climate factors, and local tragedy irrelevant to large conservation areas a long way away, burning or not.

 But woodchippers of forest like to fool with the public mind
that logging in remote forests, is helpful in reducing bushfires near their local town. The opposite is almost certainly true. For a start burnt bush including intact tree trunks regenerate amazingly well, while clearfelled woodchipped forest doesn’t to anywhere near the ecological value.

 It became apparent in 1994 that drought and climate, especially strangely low humidity, vicious winds, and hot days promoted the intensified bushfire at the interface.

 My broadcast letter in 1994 calling for teamwork and  acknowledging the state- wide contribution of greenies in local bushfire brigades was well appreciated. The politics of division was rejected. One green fellow told me he was the driver of the local firetruck and when he took my call up in the North East it was parked in his driveway.

So when Howard logging crony Minister Eric Abetz on AM this
morning plays the redneck card in the wake of the bushfires nationally today, it should be seen for what it is. Gross divisive opportunism similar to Pauline Hanson dog whistling, and scientific ignorance echoing a denial of the severity of climate change and
arsonist ignition issues. The dignity of Senator Brown’s response on the transcript in due course at AM was quite resonating:

 Similarly the details of fire resistant wet humid old growth forests versus the process of logging and drying out and promoting ‘fire weeds’ is contained here with introduction at

 bushfire science

......................................................

Postscript #1 13 Dec 06

Below are stories today [13 Dec 06] in

 

- The Australian

- Sydney Morning Herald

- Sydney Daily Telegraph

 

respectively, with the shadow of division politics in them, but holding back a little so far (Notice Howard [then PM]on ABC tv prime time last night was careful to avoid being seen to disrupt the "community spirit").

 

Be assured the green movement has nothing to be ashamed of with forest conservation for protection of water catchments, biodiversity and preventing the drying out effect of logging humid old growth which converts to dry schlerophyl and associated fire 'weeds'.

 

Indeed the fire risk is nearly always greater from outside national parks than inside them. This is the regular statistical finding after every bushfire season because the Parks Services in most states are so well aware of the politics of fires escaping from their tenure. The double standard is glaring with fires usually travelling from state forest and farms and other tenures (indeed this is why rednecks are so hysterically neurotic about forest reserves, because of their own long history of fire generation, and greenies being too nice or dumb to attack them on it). 

 

PM Howard really is a sleaze having sent Eric Abetz out to pre emptively sow dissension and smears on conservation policy as here rebutted by Senator Bob Brown:

 

 TRANSCRIPT

Forestry Minister blames fuel build-up for fires. The Federal Forestry Minister, Eric Abetz, is blaming a build-up of fuel in wilderness areas for the severity of the bushfires in Tasmania. Senator Abetz argues that if more logging or grazing had been allowed, there'd be less fuel to burn. He's been accused of trying to score cheap political points by the Greens Senator Bob Brown, who's been fighting to protect an area of forest in Tasmania's south-east, some of which has been burnt by the fires.

 

Notice the journalist on this first one is very credible, and this is a new variation on an old theme about lack of timely labour, but again ignores rampaging climate change and landscape change drying out forests by those very same loggers, these days higher intensity woodchipping than old style sawlogging. Probably is some truth in the story though that higher labour level sawlogging more useful to fight fires than low labour level high mechanised woodchip operations.

 

[#1 of 3 clips]

 

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20919273-2702,00.html

 

Empty forests blamed for crisis

Asa Wahlquist

December 13, 2006

SAVE the trees campaigners have been so successful they have been accused by two former fire chiefs of contributing to the Victorian bushfire crisis by stripping the forests of workers.

Athol Hodgson - chief fire officer with the Victorian Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands from 1984 to 1986 - warned that the state was at risk from feral fires due to flawed policies and blinkered politics.

Mr Hodgson said that in 1985 there were 111 lightning strikes in mountainous country that were "remarkably equivalent" to the current bushfire crisis. But in 1985 there was a different outcome.

"They flared into about 50,000ha in the alpine area and we stopped them at that acreage without the aid of rain," he said.

"We did it because at that time there was a very significant number of people who worked in the forests and parks earning their daily bread. The difference now is that when fires start, that workforce is not there."

Mr Hodgson said about 3000 people worked in the forests in the early 1980s, in forestry, the electricity commission and saw-milling. It was a condition of the saw-milling licences that if a fire broke out, the workers had an obligation to fight it.

"They stomped on fires very quickly and very, very effectively, and that has all changed."

Mr Hodgson said firefighters now had to be brought in from outside, causing a catastrophic delay. "Instead of having four or five fires running out of control, on this occasion they had about 50, and it became too big a job."

Rod Incoll, chief fire officer for the department responsible for Victorian forests and national parks from 1990 to 1996, says funds have been stripped from fire management, skilled foresters have virtually disappeared, and the culture that knew how to manage fire has totally changed.

Mr Incoll said the mountainous country, where many of the fires are now burning, "has become a wasteland. Nobody is managing it. No money is being spent on it, nothing is being done in it".

And he warned there would be worse to come.

"I think we're going to cop it in the first three months of next year," Mr Incoll said. "There's not much we can do about it."

...............................

[image of PM]

Caption: "Weather warning … the Tasmania Fire Service commander, Heath Bracey, shows Mr Howard some of the damage around Scamander where bushfires destroyed more than 20 properties on Monday night. Photo: Peter Mathew"

 

..................................................

 

[#2 of 3 clips]

 

PM's southerly change: expect extreme weather

Andrew Darby in St Helens,
Tasmania

December 14, 2006

THE Prime Minister, John Howard, last night embraced a key climate change forecast, warning Australians to prepare for more extreme weather events such as the current bushfires.

Visiting north-east Tasmania, he repeatedly made the point that the region was not normally associated with bushfires, and neither were they usually so common early in the summer.

On his last stop in St Helens, Mr Howard was asked if he accepted the scientists' predictions of more extreme weather events.

"Let me put it this way," he said. "I think the country should prepare for a continuation of what we are now experiencing … I think the likelihood of this going on is very strong."

In recent years there has been an almost global increase in extreme maximum temperatures and extreme rain, according to the Australian Greenhouse Office. By 2030 most of the country is expected to have 10 to 50 per cent more days over 35 degrees, and many fewer frosts.

CSIRO models show that in many places global warming is likely to increase the frequency and duration of heavy rains, droughts and floods.

Global warming has started to produce more severe bushfires, and much of the east coast and southern states can expect more frequent and intense fires, according to the Government's Bushfire Research Centre.

Mr Howard said more emergency services infrastructure was one answer, but after touring Victoria he emphasised the need to "get the balance right" in national parks.

"I hear people say that they couldn't get access to some of the national park areas because some of the fire trails were blocked off."

He said it was possible to protect and preserve the values of the parks but still allow access.

Earlier, in the King Valley in Victoria, the Prime Minister told a group of fire fighter volunteers he was in awe of their efforts.

"I've come here today to do two things, firstly to say to all of the people whose livelihoods and properties and futures have been under threat and continue to be under threat, that the rest of the nation is feeling for you at this very difficult time. You're not alone. And also, to express my personal admiration to the men and women of the Country Fire Authority."

Mr Howard announced extra Federal Government disaster relief measures including grants to help communities recover from events like the bushfires.

Up to $10,000 would be paid to small businesses, farmers and community groups to help with recovery efforts.

In Tasmania, firefighters were bracing to deal with the major east coast bushfire, with hot weather and high winds forecast for today. A total fire ban is in place.

Firefighters were working to build firebreaks, but were preparing for the fire to run south through inaccessible forest country into the Douglas Apsley national park.

The NSW Rural Fire Service said a fire in the Bondo plantation, 30 kilometres north-east of Tumut, broke containment lines yesterday and could threaten properties in the Upper Goobragandra River Valley today.

with Ben Doherty

.................................

 

[#3 of 3 clips]

 

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,20922596-1702,00.html

Parks must be firefighter friendly: PM

By Robyn Grace, Charisse Ede and Jane Bunce December 13, 2006 07:33pm

Article from: AAP

AUSTRALIA needs to "look again" at its national parks
practices to ensure proper access during bushfires, Prime Minister John Howard says.

Speaking during a tour of fire-ravaged regions of Victoria and Tasmania today, Mr Howard said he had received reports of firefighters unable to access national parks in Victoria because fire trails were blocked off.

"I don't know all the details of that, but we have to surely have a situation where you can have national parks properly preserved and protected ... but by the same token if there is a fire you should be able to get into that national park very quickly," he said.

Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz today blamed a build-up of fuel in wilderness areas for the severity of the fires on the state's east coast.

"I think there is always, when you have a bushfire event like this, I think there's always a case to see whether you've got the balance right," Mr Howard said.

"Everybody wants national parks, let me make that clear ... but I think you have to be very careful that you don't so close down national parks that you don't allow for ready access in the case of a bushfire."

The Prime Minister visited Whitfield and Wangaratta in Victoria, where residents have been facing the threat of bushfires for more than a week, and later flew into northeastern Tasmania.

He said his visit aimed to show firefighters and residents they had the
support of the Government and all Australians.

"Going there today shows directly to the people that their fellow Australians are thinking of them, they feel for them, they worry that these fires are starting so early and in such a large number of areas," he said.

"It's going to be a long, hot summer, to use that old cliche. These fires
have started very early."

Mr Howard's visit also included the small Tasmanian town of Scamander, where an extraordinary firestorm on Monday night gutted an estimated 14 homes, three businesses, 24 workshops and a wrecking yard.

The blaze in the region has devoured 12,000ha since Sunday.

When asked about his impressions, Mr Howard said: "What a beautiful peaceful spot that's been so badly scarred".

"The problem all over this country is that it's so dry with this drought.

"It really is quite an extraordinary experience to see what great work's
done."

Mr Howard had earlier announced new arrangements for fire and disaster relief, which will make small businesses and primary producers eligible for grants of up to $10,000 to clean up and restore.

Disaster-affected voluntary non-profit bodies and the needy will also be eligible for small grants, while affected individuals will be able to access financial counselling.

Mr Howard said further funding would be provided through a community recovery fund for activities such as recovery services and the employment of a community development officer to support disaster-affected areas.

The fund would also cover commemorative events, advocacy and monitoring services, business advice and support, and economic and tourism development initiatives, he said.

Mr Howard said the special community recovery programs would be triggered by agreement between the Federal Government and the states and territories, and would be funded on a dollar for dollar cost-sharing basis.

"The Australian Government will give sympathetic consideration to any request from the premiers to invoke these enhanced assistance arrangements," he said.

Funding will also be made available to upgrade essential infrastructure to more resilient standards.

The enhanced arrangements were in addition to the federal government's Natural Disaster Relief Arrangements, Mr Howard said.

.......................


[Image]

"Burning ambition ... Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd. "

[Image]

"Hot seat ....Prime Minister John Howard. "

 

[these images alternating puts PM Howard in a stronger light because it has more people around Howard listening to him, so Rudd gets beaten on this score (but at least Rudd is smart enough to leave Melbourne and pitch down at Bairnsdale a coastal tourism town, rather than logger town].

 

 

http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,20922937-5006009,00.html

Fighting fire with fire

By Joe Hildebrand

December 14, 2006 12:00

Article from:

PRIME Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd yesterday fought political fire with fire, with both men visiting Victoria's scorched frontline.

Mr Howard flew to Victoria to visit volunteer firefighters battling the worst bushfires Victoria has suffered, while Mr Rudd interrupting his national tour to do the same.

Mr Howard visited Whitfield, in the state's northeast, where residents have been facing the threat of bushfires for more than a week.

He said he wanted to show firefighters and residents they had the support of the Government and all Australians.

"Going there today shows directly to the people that their fellow Australians are thinking of them, they feel for them, they worry that these fires are starting so early and in such a large number of areas. It's going to be a long, hot summer," he said.

Mr Howard later visited the Country Fire Authority incident control centre in nearby Wangaratta, before flying to bushfire devastated areas in Tasmania's northeast.

Mr Rudd, who was already in Melbourne as part of his 10-day Fork in the Road Tour, made a last-minute decision to scrap a planned walk through St Kilda and instead headed to the Bairnsdale region in Gippsland, which has also been ravaged by fire.

Mr Rudd opened his tour on Sunday with a tribute to firefighters and the victims of the blazes in Victoria and Tasmania and yesterday again offered his prayers.

"Here in Victoria you just look out and see the smoke which is across the skyline and it's just evidence of the problem that we've got," he said.

"It's a massive bushfire crisis right across the state."

While both men were sincere in their support for firefighters and victims, they are also engaged in a race to present themselves as the most statesmanlike and compassionate.

High winds of up to 40km/h and hot temperatures will return today to fan Victoria's bushfires, which have burnt out more than 400,000ha.

Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) spokesman Kevin Monk said tomorrow would pose the biggest test since the weekend's extreme fire weather.

Two of the biggest fires merged into one overnight, creating a mega-fire that stretches 120km from Whitfield to Dargo.

Conditions were expected to be similar in Tasmania, where a total fire ban is in place after more than 12,000ha and an estimated 13 homes were destroyed on Monday.

 

 

Postscript #2 14 Dec 2006 [Green Party correctly identify climate factors]

MEDIA RELEASE

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Extreme fires, melting
polar ice put world on notice - time is running
out

All Australians should be alarmed at the accelerating rate of global
warming highlighted by melting polar ice and extreme fires, the
Australian Greens said
today.

"Climate change is exacerbating bushfires in Australia because of
higher temperatures, higher evaporation rates and changed rainfall patterns,
as confirmed today by the chief of the Bushfire Cooperative
Research Centre, Kevin O'Loughlin," Greens climate change spokesperson
Senator
Christine Milne said in Hobart.

"At the same time there is
more news about the impact of climate change
on the polar regions, with US
researchers having calculated that the
Arctic will be without ice in summer
by 2040 or earlier because of the
impact of carbon emissions.

"There
is no time to delay. Australia cannot afford to wait for
strategies like
nuclear power and carbon capture and storage that will
not reduce greenhouse
gas emissions by 2020, after which time it will be
too late to stop
catastrophic climate change.

"The federal government must immediately
introduce a national cap on
Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, implement
an emissions trading
scheme and set a national energy efficiency target with
policies to
achieve it."

.....................................

Howard Minister Campbell exposes the PM Howard divisive ratbaggery with this:

http://www.deh.gov.au/minister/env/2006/mr14feb06.html


Media Release


Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

14 February 2006

A new study funded by the Australian Government and some State and Territory governments will provide important new information to help communities across south-east Australia prepare for possible increased bushfire risk which may follow from climate change in coming decades.

Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, today released the report Climate change impacts on fire weather in south-east Australia, produced for the governments by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.

"Bushfire is a natural and devastating part of the Australian summer
landscape, with communities across our country regularly struggling
with the loss of lives, loss of property and huge financial costs of
bushfires," Senator Campbell said.

"Victoria's devastating fires of 1983, for example, cost the
community $138 million while the 2003 Canberra bushfires cost $342 million. The human impact of such disasters simply cannot be calculated.

"The south-east region of Australia is particularly vulnerable to
bushfire - along with southern California and southern France it is
identified as one of the three most fire-prone areas in the world. It
is therefore critical that we prepare for the potentional of increased
fire risk associated with the hotter and drier years we may experience in the future."

The report found that should the average summer temperature
increase, there will also be an increase in the frequency of very high
and extreme fire danger days, especially in inland areas. At most
places an increase in fire danger in spring, summer and autumn is also likely, which will move the periods suitable for prescribed burning towards winter.

"I am pleased that the Victorian, New South Wales and Tasmanian
Governments have joined with the Australian Government to begin the early planning needed to identify and prepare for the potential of
increased fire risks associated with changes in rainfall patterns,
temperature, relative humidity and windspeed," Senator Campbell said.

"This report is an important first step in better informing
governments, fire management agencies and researchers about those risks."

Funding was provided by the Australian Government's Greenhouse
Office, the New South Wales Greenhouse Office, the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment and the ACT Rural Fire Service.

The Australian Government provided funding through its $1.9 billion
climate change strategy which aims to enhance scientific understanding of climate change, build an effective global response to climate change, reduce national greenhouse gas emissions, and prepare governments and communities for the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

The report is available at www.greenhouse.gov.au

Media Contacts:
Renae Stoikos (Senator Campbell's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434

 

Enter content here

Enter supporting content here

non-profit media about your environment, in a human rights and social justice context