The Labor Government is persisting with Coalition policy on fire in the short term. This is confirmed in a statement released yesterday, announcing an independent review of the fuel reduction program. The statement, from the Environment Minister’s office, goes partly as follows:
‘The review meets the call for action from Neil Comrie, the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Dr Gillian Sparkes and others. It will consider the views of experts, current research and the work undertaken by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) since the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
‘Planned burning is an important part of a broader approach to community safety. Land management agencies and emergency services work together with communities, to prepare for, respond to, and recover from, natural disasters and other emergencies.
‘The review will examine a risk-based approach to bushfire fuel management against the existing hectare-based performance target program. The Inspector-General for Emergency Management has been asked to deliver his report by the end of March 2015…
- ‘The scope of the IGEM’s review is to provide independent advice, free of influence from external sources.
- ‘It will also consider the findings of the Bushfires Royal Commission Implementation Monitor and the reports of the Expert Reference Group- Bushfire Management Reform Program.
- ‘The IGEM may provide recommendations on complementary performance measures for fuel management on public land, but will not provide advice on a recommended target.
This statement contains a number of peculiarities. What on earth can be meant by ‘independent advice, free from external sources’, for example? Is the enquiry to take place in a kind of cone of silence?
It’s good news that the Government has decided to scrutinise the mindless commitment to the target espoused by its predecessors. It’s also good news that the Minister seems prepared to do something the Coalition seemed unable to do: that is, to see if risk management is compatible with an arbitrary target.
It’s sobering to be reminded, however, that in the mean time, the old order remains. The minister’s press release yesterday offered this:
“The review will not affect the Department’s planned burning program for 2014-2015. It will begin a process to develop an evidence-based approach to reducing the risk of fire and protecting lives, communities and the environment.”