Senator for NSW, Tim Ayres, and Shadow Minister for Disaster and Emergency Management, Murray Watt, said the interim report of the Senate Inquiry into the devastating Black Summer bushfires, tabled in the Senate yesterday, has found that the Federal Government failed to prepare for the 2019-20 bushfire season.

The report has made 13 interim recommendations to ensure that these failures are not repeated, and that Australians are kept safe in this year’s bushfire season.

Evidence given to the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee found that:

• In the lead up to the last bushfire season, the government failed to heed warning after warning from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, the Federal Opposition, their own departments and dozens of former fire chiefs about the unprecedented nature of the bushfire threat,
• There is an unequivocal relationship between rising emissions and climate change, resulting in more frequent and intense bushfires and other natural disasters,
• In these circumstances, national leadership in bushfire prevention and management is critical to keeping Australians safe.

Ahead of the 2020-21 bushfire season, the report urges the government act by:
• Urgently investing in resilience and mitigation works to keep communities safe.
• Building a sovereign aerial firefighting fleet so we can cope with the longer and more intense fire seasons that we face.
• Reversing cuts to the ABC and safeguard their emergency broadcasting funding.

Additionally, the report recommends that the Government support bushfire-affected communities by increasing payments to bushfire victims, and ensuring that support services are properly funded over the forward estimates.

The Committee’s final report will be tabled on the final sitting day of the senate in 2021.