Greens federal election policy a disaster!

Monday, 6 Jun 2016

Last week in Sydney the Greens released their Federal Election Policy - LIVING WITH GLOBAL WARMING Backing firefighters and communities.

Although a more accurate title would be "backing the United firefighters Union of Australia and destroying community resilience". The basis of the Greens federal election platform on global warming has its genesis in a report prepared by the National Institute of economic and industry research (NIEIR) titled "firefighters on climate change: the human resources dimension of adapting to climate change". A report that was commissioned and paid for by the United firefighters union of Australia, and which not surprisingly, concludes that the only way communities can be saved from the impacts of global warming, is to dramatically increase the number of paid firefighters (and therefore potential union members) right across Australia.

In developing their global warming policy, the Greens unfortunately did not consult with the Council of Australian Volunteer Fire Associations (CAVFA) or their State counterparts such as the Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland (RFBAQ), who collectively represent the 257,000 brigade members across Australia, who in turn commit more hours and expertise to preparing for, mitigating from, and responding to natural disasters, than any other state or federal agency. In Queensland, the primary role of trained volunteer rural Fire Brigades is to protect local communities across 93% of the state from the impacts of bushfire.

They do this through developing bushfire prevention strategies, preparing communities and making them more resilient to the impacts of bushfire, responding to bushfires, and helping communities that have been devastated by bushfire in their recovery efforts. One would think that such a group of extraordinary people would be a valuable source of information and expertise in developing a national policy that dealt with bushfire fighting and the effects of natural disasters. But the Greens didn't. Sitting high in their lofty city based tower of power, the Greens, who purport to be the saviours of the Bush, failed to consult with those who actually are.

The Greens federal election platform does not even touch on a key platform of community defence which is hazard reduction burning and using fire in the environment as a land management tool. Preparation is one of the most important activities that community fire brigades undertake to support landholder use and management of fire in the environment.

The Greens climate change policy outlines how they will commit $120 million over four years to employ more paid firefighters (which not so coincidentally will deliver the UFUA more dollars in union fees) as recommended in the NIEIR report paid for by the UFUA. A report that mentions the word "mitigation" only once in its 73 pages, and makes no mention at all of hazard reduction burning, or burning off.  It does of course mention money, numbers of paid staff and the need for more money to hire more paid staff incessantly.  Additionally, this self-serving report, at the bottom of page 19, contains one of the most offensive statements to volunteer firefighters across Australia "This means assets and people roughly equivalent to Brisbane are without firefighters and totally dependent on volunteers".

It is inconceivable that any political party could adopt a policy that not only fails to acknowledge the hugely significant contribution trained volunteers make to protecting and defending local communities right across Australia, but actively seeks to contribute to their demise. This flawed report, that speaks so much about "firefighting" and "firefighters" fails to acknowledge the tremendous contribution and expertise of the 257,000 brigade members across Australia.

Instead it chooses to skew the data by only recognising as firefighters those who identify their occupation as being a firefighter in the 2011 ABS Census. If ever a report was commissioned to achieve a predetermined outcome, this report would be it.

If the Greens were actually going to look further than the United Firefighters Union of Australia to develop a policy that actually did back all firefighters and the diverse communities that they defend, for Queensland conditions, they could try something like this -

There are a number of diverse beliefs relating to 'Climate Change'. One being 'man made', another 'natural warming' and yet another that it is not happening'.

If as an organisation we develop mechanisms around the acceptance that there may be emerging needs for community protection in response to CSIRO modelling for Queensland, that predicts increases in annual temperatures of 1.7 deg. C by 2030 and for rainfall events to be more severe with greater periods of below average rainfall in between, then this prediction would see a higher number of Level 2 & 3 wildfire incidents as well as more frequent and severe flooding and coastal inundation events. To meet these challenges and to increase the ability for local communities to defend themselves, there would be a need for emergency volunteers to be trained to manage Level 2 & 3 incidents, as in other states and territories across Australia where volunteers fulfill these roles already in their communities.

Volunteers will be asked to undertake higher levels of training, maintain more skills, and in times of crisis to leave their families and undertake more arduous and hazardous duties more often. As unappetizing as this sounds, emergency volunteers will clamor for these opportunities to defend their communities so long as they are supported by their emergency organisations and government.

By the Emergency Service organisations moving to support brigades and communities, in the event that 'climate change' is happening, the RFSQ in Queensland will have started building a greater level of depth with rural fire.

If 'climate change' does not eventuate, then Queensland will have still moved towards the empowerment of local RFB's by increasing the training and depth of its volunteers' management ability for the good of all in the state and will have increased the capacity and depth of volunteer ability.


In conclusion:

  • To the Greens - To achieve a better policy for Queensland give us a call. Nationally - Contact CAVFA
  • To those who think the Greens need a better policy - Email
  • To those who think Volunteers are also firefighters - Email
  • To join your local brigade in Queensland and help defend your community link to RFSQ website

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