Fires in Macquarie

December 05, 2019

I rise to speak about bushfires affecting my community. Twenty per cent of the Blue Mountains World Heritage area has been burnt already this fire season. More of it burns every day, and it is only the first week of December. How anyone can kid themselves that this is not being fuelled by climate change is beyond me. It was pretty obvious back in 2013, in the mountains fires where so many of us lost their homes, that we are seeing atypical by behaviour. We have to respond to the facts on the ground and the science that tells us we are going to see more of this without strong action.

Let us look at the facts for Macquarie, which covers the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury. It is week six of the Gospers Mountain fire and it has claimed two houses.

When I listen to long-term firefighters describe what they're seeing, they say the ground has never been as dry and the fire behaviour is really unusual. One seasoned former captain told me he had never seen anything like it before. The neighbouring Three Mile fire, sadly, claimed one home at Wisemans Ferry last night. The mountains have had the Woodford fire. Lightning strikes have led to the Ruined Castle fire, which has a really long way to run. There have been dreadful losses of lives and properties in northern New South Wales. The South Coast is now under attack, as are Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and WA. We know this is unprecedented, and it's not over.

Can we please not pretend that any single agency could have had the resources on the ground or in the air that people would love to see tackling something on this scale. We cannot sufficiently thank the RFS staff and volunteers, the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Fire and Rescue, the SES and all the associated volunteer, government and council workers for their efforts. The fact that in the Hawkesbury in particular so few homes have been lost, and no lives, is the result of their extraordinary and intelligent efforts in battling these blazes. But clearly there's more we can and should do as a result of this experience, and there will be more lessons to learn as summer goes on both at a climate policy level and at a health policy level—and, I should think, at an economic level as well, because there are going to be huge economic impacts on our communities and also on how we resource firefighting and firefighters. I'd like to look at how we could have a permanent firefighting aircraft fleet based at RAAF Base Richmond. Let's embrace technology and science even more in helping us find a way to adapt to these conditions and do all we can to ensure that heat, winds and drought don't make this the new normal.