Tuesday, 17 October 2023

SPEECH TO SENATE, October 17, 2023 – Queensland Government worsens bushfire risks

I rise because of this excellent motion that has been brought forward by Senator Pocock to address the very important issue of bushfires in this country. However, I want to speak with regard to the other parts of the country, the big, open parts of the country, particularly in northern Australia, where we are overlooking the very basic, commonsense approaches that are so important, like the rural fire brigades. The national highway to the Northern Territory has been cut several times due to bushfires just recently, and the threat of fires starting in national parks and spreading to grazing land and homes is very real.

In September this year, a bushfire came out of the Littleton National Park near Croydon in North Queensland and spread to an adjoining cattle property. It burned a 30,000-acre paddock, and, while a proper assessment is yet to be made, it’s almost certain there would be a number of calves lost and a great deal of fencing and other repairs required. This is the second time in three years that this property has been lost to fire spreading from the national park, and that is because there is no firebreak. Worse is that, in June, National Parks were approached by a private citizen with an offer to bulldoze a firebreak along the park boundary, but this was denied because National Parks did not have a budget to provide. Furthermore, National Parks said they could only use their contracted machinery from Atherton, even though there was suitable machinery available locally. There is no common sense, no flexibility and no grasp on the reality of what will save lives and save ecosystems. Australia’s horrific experience with bushfires means we should have more experience at vegetation management, but Labor is certainly asleep at the wheel. I can tell you that, in Queensland, the Queensland government’s neglect is putting lives at risk.