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Bushfire Inquiry Submission

bushfires mallacoota

Submission by Rite-ON! Pty Ltd

Committee Secretariat, Environment.Reps@aph.gov.au

REFERENCE: Inquiry into the efficacy of past and current vegetation and land management policies, practice and legislation, and the effect of the intensity and frequency of bushfires and subsequent risk to property, life and the environment.

This submission will seek to address the ‘terms of reference’ of the inquiry, covering;

  • Past and current practices of land management
  • Current legislation and conflicts with landowners
  • The science and previous recommendations behind hazard reduction burning
  • Local, state and federal government responsibilities
  • The impact of severe fires on regional and rural areas
  • Progress and implementation of past recommendations
  • The role of emergency services

A series of fully referenced discussion papers on the bushfires were published recently on the Rite-ON! website. www.riteon.org.au

These papers included recommendations and solutions, a short history of bushfires in Australia, the impact of  increases in areas designated as National Parks and State Forests and an investigation into ‘who and what’ was responsible for the intensity and spread of the fires through land management, legislation, fire services, budgets and community safety practices.

The submission includes the following topics

  • Introduction
  • 1:0 INITIATIVES AND SOLUTIONS
  • 1:1 Federal Government Initiatives
  • 1:2 State Government Initiatives
  • 1:3 Local Government Initiatives
  • 2:0 AUSTRALIA’S UNIQUE CLIMATE GEOGRAPHY 
  • 2:1 Australia has unique climate and solutions
  • 2:2 Bushfires are nothing new in Australia
  • 2:3 Major bushfire events over past 170 years
  • 2:4 Weather patterns and a changing climate
  • 3:0 THE ROLE OF NATIONAL PARKS IN BUSHFIRES
  • 3:1 Queensland NP
  • 3:2 New South Wales NP
  • 3:3 Victoria NP
  • 3:4 Highly flammable trees and vegetation in National Parks
  • 4:0 STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT VEGETATION LEGISLATION                     
  • 4:1 The impact of legislation
  • 5:0 THE IMPACT OF INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS AND CLIMATE CHANGE 
  • 5:1 Kyoto Protocol
  • 5:2 The Doha Agreement
  • 5:3 Agenda 2030
  • 5:4 The Paris Agreement
  • SUMMARY

1: INITIATIVES AND SOLUTIONS

To address the legislative capability and necessary changes at local, state and federals levels it is necessary to consider a full suite of suggestions and recommendations.  Allowing landholders to reduce fire risk on their properties will require significant amendments to State Vegetation Management Laws. To seek the Australian Defence Forces assistance in times of national disasters, will require ‘constitutional understanding and agreement’ between the states and territories and the Commonwealth. To reduce the risk of bushfires in urban areas, changes to buffer zones must occur under Local Government Planning Laws.

In essence, to change future bushfire outcomes, we must change the way we manage a range of contributing factors. 

Australia has had no less than 56 inquiries and Royal Commissions into bushfires.  The following are a collation of previous recommendations and new initiatives in response to the 2019/20 bushfires. Recommendations from previous inquiries marked in red, new initiatives marked in green

1:1 Federal Government Initiatives

  • Hold a CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION to remove ambiguous responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories, in addressing all National Disasters, including bushfires, floods, cyclones and droughts
  • To create a NATIONAL RESPONSE to bush fires; in conjunction with the states and territories, underpinned by clear lines of reporting and responsibilities
  • Implement MILITARY STRATEGIES to detect and prevent arson attacks
  • Use MILITARY GRADE EQUIPMENT to fight catastrophic fires where commercial vehicles are unsuitable and to provide better safety for Emergency Services
  • Create a NATIONAL REGISTER of all National Parks, State Forests and Publicly owned land to monitor hazard reduction burning; tied to state funding.

1:2 State Government Initiatives

  • A thorough and strict regime (with associated KPIs) of COOL BURNING to reduce fuel loads in National Parks, State Forests and heavily wooded areas monitored thru digital aerial technology
  • TIMELY PERMITS for local Rural Fire Brigade Captains to undertake BACKBURNING (some permits take up to 2 years)
  • A RELAXATION OF ‘GREEN TAPE’ legislative restrictions on private property owners attempting to reduce fuels loads and create fire breaks on their properties
  • An investigation into re-introducing CATTLE GRAZING in National Parks and State Forests to reduce fuel loads
  • Giving greater access to (or creating new) WATER SOURCES close to National Parks, State Forests and heavily wooded areas to help fight fires
  • Run a state-wide FIRE EDUCATION PROGRAM through schools and libraries, to teach fire dangers, fire mitigation and prevention
  • Investigate the reintroduction of SELECTIVE LOGGING in state forests and national parks to reduce fire risks
  • Implement a research program aimed at refining ARSON PREVENTION and detection strategies
  • Create a REGISTER OF ARSONISTS along with reparation requirements (e.g. community service or jail)
  • Start an ERADICATION PROGRAM for the removal of combustible LANTANA INFESTATIONS in State National Parks
  • Introduce NATIONAL PARK FEES for all visitors in ALL National Parks, to monitor access and provide vital funding
  • Encourage new ECO-TOURISM in NATIONAL PARKS to provide business opportunities and increase tourism and visitor appreciation. Funds from eco-tourism could go towards funding safe hazard reduction, fire mitigation and weed infestation reduction enhancing the value of both the businesses and the state-owned property.

 1:3 Local Government Initiatives

  • PLACE APPROPRIATE RESTRICTIONS on all new housing developments in FIRE PRONE AREAS
  • INCREASE BUFFER ZONES between rural and urban interface – to 120 metres
  • Mandate RAINWATER TANKS in all new residential developments and investigate the use of GREY WATER
  • To apply a FIRE-LEVY on all landowners’ through local council rates – similar to the Earthquake Levy in NZ. (this would replace any current levies on Insurance Policies)
  • Start a EUCALYPT ERADICATION program in URBAN AREAS due to their highly combustible nature and danger to property and life
  • Relax RESTRICTIVE GREEN TAPE LEGISLATION on landowners, for hazard reduction and fire breaks

2: AUSTRALIA’S UNIQUE CLIMATE GEOGRAPHY

Solutions are urgently needed to ensure this seasons’ bushfires are not repeated. Consideration of the factors that affect our climate and unique flora and fauna, how first nations people managed the land, and our history of bushfires, are necessary, in order to create effective solutions.

2:1 Australia’s unique climate challenges – requiring unique solutions

It is apparent that some well identified vital aspects of fire mitigation and prevention has been neglected for decades and this has significantly impacted this season’s catastrophic fires.  We are seeing the result of decades of denial.  We suspect ‘international pressure’ could have played a role in Australian politics and this may have influenced the way we manage our unique environment.  We must deal with the effects of a dry continent and longer, warmer summers which, on this occasion, is at least in part due to a significant Indian Dipole weather system.

To achieve our emissions reductions under Kyoto and Paris, we have used our forests and national parks as ‘vegetation carbon sinks’.   Applying environmental practices of ‘vegetation carbon sinks’ that may be better best suited to a temperate-northern-hemisphere climate to help with offset emission-targets in the driest inhabited nation on the planet, without proper fire mitigation and prevention has proven foolhardy at best and fatal at worst.  The recommendations from the 2003 Federal Parliamentary Inquiry and 2009 Victorian Royal Commission presented a blueprint for the future management, minimization, suppression and prevention of catastrophic bushfires. Had the majority of these recommendations been adopted, the impact of the current fires could have been significantly less extreme.

2:2 Bushfires are nothing new in Australia

Some Australian native  flora has evolved to rely on bushfires as a means of reproduction. The grass tree following fire duress will send up large flower spikes to assist in procreation of the species, and Banksias need fire to release seeds from their strong pods.  Eucalypts have vigorous epicormic re-sprouting that allows them to regenerate after intense fire events.

Fire events were, in the past, an interwoven part of the ecology of the continent.   For thousands of years, Indigenous Australians have used fire to clear grasslands for hunting and to clear tracks through dense vegetation. These fires today are known as ‘cool burning’ or hazard reduction burning.

In comparison, hot and intense bush fires – due to excessive fuel loads and prolonged dry periods- are the worst at destroying vast swathes of forests and pastures. They kill animals and destroy their local habitats, leaving survivors vulnerable once the fires have passed. Professor Chris Dickman at Sydney University estimates that in the first three months of the 2019-2020 bushfires, over 800 million animals have died in NSW and more than one billion animals have been impacted nationally.

Living in Australia means living with bushfires in the driest inhabited continent on the planet.  To put this into perspective we investigated the number of bushfires in Australian recorded history and where they were located. We detail a list of the major recorded fires below, and ask ‘are the current fires unprecedented in Australia’s recorded history of bushfires?’

2:3 Major bushfire events in Australia over the past 170 years

We are told this season’s fires and temperatures are ‘unprecedented’, however that is not entirely true. Please see below a brief history of catastrophic bushfires over the past 170 years: 

Bushfires in Australia

It is known that major bushfires often start in National Parks, State Forests or heavily wooded areas. Alarmingly more bushfires are human induced through carelessness or deliberate acts of arson. In the latest 2019/20 fires 87% of fires were human induced with 51% of these being acts of arson, and only 13% due to lighting strikes. 

2:4 Weather patterns and a changing climate

The issue of climate change has become highly politicized and monetized. Whether we accept the ‘science’ of anthropogenic warming from increased CO2 emissions or not, the climate has changed in the past, and will continue to change in the future, with or without human intervention. 

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent with a long history of droughts, flooding rains and bushfires caused by global weather patterns.  These global WEATHER PATTERNS affect the Australian Continent delivering either prolonged droughts or wet seasons. i.e. The Indian Dipole,  La Nina and El Nino.

In 2019, short term weather fluctuations in the Indian Ocean—the Indian Ocean Dipole, pushed moist ocean air away from Australia’s shores, causing a severe drought, and drying out the leaves, sticks and soil on the bush floor.

As recent events show, variations in the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) can make Australian weather patterns inherently volatile, especially since the drying effects of a positive IOD phase often coincide with El Niño events in the Southern Pacific, which weaken (or reverse) the trade winds that bring rain to Australia from the east.  Indeed, an El Niño did arise in 2018-19, though its effects ended in late summer

It is worth noting that when the Black Saturday bushfires occurred in 2009, killing 173 Australians, the IOD was in a positive phase, as it is now. The same was true of the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1982, which killed 75.

Comments:

  • Australia has a long history of bush fires. Until we accept and adapt to our unique environment, we will continue to experience loss of life, property, wildlife and vegetation through bushfire.

  • The bushfires this season have been blamed on ‘climate-change’ – without consideration to numerous other contributing factors. This is disingenuous and dishonest.

  • Bushfires have become political footballs.

  • Until we take politics out of bushfires and make them issues of state and national security, Local and State Governments will fail their ‘duty-of-care’ and continue to make bad decisions.

3: THE ROLE OF NATIONAL PARKS IN BUSHFIRES

 State Forests and National Parks with reduced budgets and insufficient hazard reduction have played a major role in the 2019/20 bushfire season.  A succession of state governments has largely ignored the recommendations of 56 previous bushfire investigations and instead have imposed prohibitive environmental land clearing controls, closed state-owned forests and allowed weed infestations to colonize national parks.

State Governments are always quick to declare new national parks – but slow to fund responsible land management and hazard reduction.  Without proper hazard reduction management, National Parks and State Forests have created fire- disaster-zones. According to reports, ALL states have been negligent in managing these areas which has proven to have contributed to the bushfires experienced this fire season. The solution is clear: reduce the intensity of the fire by reducing the build-up of fuel on state owned land.

It is worth noting that National Parks and State Forest vegetation contribute significantly to Australia’s emission reduction commitments as carbon sinks, under the Kyoto, Doha and Paris agreements.

3:1 Queensland National Parks

The Queensland State Government manages and controls over 1,000 national parks, state forests, marine parks and other protected areas, plus five world heritage areas. Over the past two decades public access in State Forests and areas of National Parks has been severely restricted, the grazing of farm animals discounted, fire trails closed, and weed infestations allowed to spread.

Backburning: By late last year (2019) the Queensland State Government had failed to meet its hazard reduction burning targets as part of a bushfire mitigation operation for the previous four years in a row, in an extraordinary revelation slammed as “gross negligence”.

In addition, state budgets were slashed by 25% for the Queensland’s Rural Fire Service at a time the state was expecting a catastrophic fire season.  The Queensland Government further cuts budgets by almost $13 million to the Queensland Volunteer Fire Service.

 3:2 New South Wales National Parks

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service manages and controls more than 870 national parks and reserves, covering over 7 million hectares of land.  Areas designated as National Parks in NSW have increased year on year.

In 1987, the NSW Wilderness Act was passed by Bob Carr as Environment Minister. Wilderness is ‘in a state that has not been substantially modified by humans and their works or is capable of being restored to such a state’, effectively prohibiting access to the public and prohibiting the removal of fuel loads in these areas.

Comment: This is unrealistic as humans have modified our flora by cool burning for over 60,000 years.

In addition, in July 2005 the NSW State Government purchased the 80,000-hectare Yanga Station for $30 million to add to their areas of national parks.  Another 348,000 hectares in the state’s west was then purchased for the same reason at an approx. cost of $80 million. Now the current State Environment Minister Matt Kean has plans to further increase the NSW National Parks area by another 200,000 ha over the next 2 years. Without increased funding for these increased areas of National Parks, the risk of bushfires will also increase.

Comment: In essence, if you cannot properly manage it – don’t make it ( increased National Parks) in the first instance

Backburning: Figures differ as to the amount of back burning completed in NSW before the 2019/20 bushfires season began, however, volunteer firefighters advise targets are not even close to being met.   NSW has 27 million hectares of State Forests of which bushfires have burned almost 10% (so far). Fuel loads allowed to accumulate in state forests have contributed significantly to the severity of the fires in this state. 

3:3 Victoria National Parks

Victoria is the smallest (by area) of the mainland states yet has the largest area of designated National Parks. Parks Victoria is responsible for managing a diverse estate of more than 4 million hectares including 3,000 land and marine parks and reserves making up 18 per cent of Victoria’s landmass, 75 per cent of Victoria’s wetlands and 70 per cent of Victoria’s coastline. Victoria’s parks are home to more than 4,300 native plants and around 1,000 native animal species.

Victoria is no stranger to bushfires. A history of fires has shaped the landscape and some of Australia’s worst bushfires have impacted this state.  In a state with great reliance on firefighters, Premier Daniel Andrews has created discontent – in CFA members, and divisions between paid fire fighters and volunteers.

Backburning: An analysis of annual reports from the state Department of Environ­ment, Land, Water and Planning found planned burns had returned to pre-Black Saturday levels of just 130,000ha a year — only one-third of the 5 per cent or 385,000ha recommended by the royal commission in 2010.  Hazard reduction burns, conduct­ed in Victoria over the past three years combined did not reach the level recommended for a single year by the Black Saturday Royal Commission. 

3:4 Highly flammable trees and vegetation in National Parks 

Australia unique flora and fauna has been shaped by Indigenous Australians over tens of thousands of years. Fire events were, in the past, an interwoven part of the ecology of the continent.  Some native species did not survive, while others colonized vast areas of the landscape. Eucalypt trees were one of these species, and as a result, dominate the Australian landscape.   Respected biologist; Geoffrey Griffiths says eucalyptus trees are incinerators from hell dressed up as trees’ due to their numbers and highly combustible properties. While necessary as a food source for the native koala, eucalypts contributed significantly to the severity and spread of the recent bushfires.

Eucalypts are unique among trees with a unique ability to survive fire.  Fueling fire storms and ember attacks, due to their highly combustible eucalyptus oil, large canopies and open spreading habits – they help to create perfect fire conditions. Therefore, it can be argued that eucalypt trees contributed to the intensity and severity of bushfires and were especially dangerous to property and lives in urban environments.

Comments:

  • The Australian bush is prone to extreme bushfire risk because of the extreme flammability of eucalypts and this risk is further exacerbated by heavy fuel loads on the forest floor, which quickly take fires into the forest canopy.

  • Greater attention to hazard reduction in thickets of eucalypt trees is highly recommended.

  • Stands of eucalypts should only be allowed at a safe distance from communities and be carefully managed.

  • Eucalypts should be progressively REMOVED in urban environments. 

Lantana, a native to South America, is a bio-diversity hazard for Australian native flora and fauna and a highly flammable fuel for bushfires. Lantana has been allowed to colonize and infest vast areas of National Parks and publicly owned land, preventing the movement of native animals along the forest floor, and forming dense thickets shading out other native plant species. Koalas are particularly at risk of predation or starvation when caught in lantana thickets.

Lantana is listed as one of Australia’s top ten weeds. Successive state governments have allowed it to proliferate in areas of designated National Parks, road verges, State Forests and publicly owned land. It’s quick-growing woody nature increases the frequency and intensity of fires in dry rainforests. Scientists also suspect that lantana changes the fire cycles of forests, acting as a ‘ladder fuel’ taking fire from the forest floor into the canopy, causing more intense and destructive fires. It survives fire and quickly re-infests burnt areas.

The Queensland Government has warned that lantana is highly toxic to many animals including cattle, sheep, goats, guinea pigs and rabbits — but children could also be poisoned by eating the berries. “Under the Biosecurity Act 2014, all lantana species are restricted invasive plants and must not be given away, sold, or released into the environment without a permit,”, however, vast areas of Queensland and NSW publicly owned and maintained land is heavily infested with lantana.

Comments:

  • The cost of lantana removal is huge, however, to reduce the severity of bushfires, to stop the spreading of a toxic weed, and to maintain our flora and fauna diversity – lantana HAS TO BE REMOVED.

  • Lantana infestations devalues property. Infestations from publicly owned land to privately owned land is a large financial burden on landowners and State Governments should be required to pay compensation.


4: STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENT VEGETATION LEGISLATION

 4:1 The impact of State and Local Government Vegetation Legislation

Restrictive State and Local Government Vegetation Legislation has contributed to excess fuel loads and lack of hazard reduction, that significantly contributed to this season’s bushfires. ‘Fire devastation due to restrictive legislation’ must be addressed.

Time consuming and complicated applications have resulted in delayed permission and restrictions on landowners seeking to clear vegetation and debris for fire breaks along boundary lines to protect their properties.

Excessive vegetation in State Forests and National Parks, and a lack of sufficient buffer zones between these areas and privately owned land exacerbated the fire risk to people and communities. Applications to local council for vegetation clearing, has taken, in some cases over 2 years to process. In the interim, devastating bushfires have consumed these same properties.

Emergency Services access has been severely restricted through excess vegetation on private and public lands, due to restrictive green-tape legislation. This can be avoided, and lessons must be learnt.

Many personal stories of devastation because of legislation have been told in the past, and no doubt more will come to light during this bushfire inquiry.

We list several examples below:

  1. The Canberra fires of 2003 resulted in Brindabella farmer Wayne West, whose property was wiped out in the fires, suing the two agencies: Kopersberg’s RFS and the green-influenced NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. The ACT Supreme Court, Chief Justice Terrence Higgins found them both negligent as a small fire at McIntyre’s Hut in the Brindabella ranges was allowed to rage out of control through the national park to emerge 10 days later and burn lethally through Canberra’s suburbs. Unfortunately for West and his insurance company, government agencies are protected by statute and don’t have to pay compensation. But West had won a moral victory.
  2. Blue Mountains resident Martin Tebbutt fought for permission to hazard-reduction-burn his property for two and a half years – the result: On December 21 last year (2019) his farm in Bilpin was completely charred when the enormous Gospers Mountain blaze ripped through the area.
  3. Another NSW farmer warned Premier Gladys Berejiklian 18 months ago that ‘south coast towns were bushfire death traps’ Result: State and Local Governments failed to act on heavy fuel loads on protected land and catastrophic bushfires burnt the area.
  4. Bega Valley Shire Farmers and Land Owners Group member Wayne Doyle wrote to Ms Berejiklian in April 2018, following the Tathra fires, saying a ­decision to slap environmental zonings on farmland by the local council posed a safety risk to other towns, including Eden — one of the worst hit communities, along with Merimbula.
  5. Charleville grazier Dan McDonald, 47, says he was simply doing what farmers his way has always done in tough times when he pushed more than 1800 hectares of native mulga trees on his 14,000-hectare property between 2013 and 2015 ( to feed his starving cattle). Mr McDonald was convicted of six counts of carrying out development on his property without a permit in 2017 and ordered to pay fines and costs of $112,000.

State vegetation legislation under which local government legislation operates, has extensive powers. They can, under the various state acts, enter private property (without a warrant) to inspect suspected vegetation clearing. Fines for infringements are large. Applications for clearing permissions are complicated and time consuming due to extensive ‘green-tape’. Many landowners are therefore reluctant to break the law by clearing vegetation without a permit; however, many have lost their homes, businesses and livelihoods as a result of this exhaustive legislative process.

Each state and territory government has its own vegetation management laws.

  • Commonwealth: Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999
  • Queensland: Vegetation Management Act 1999
  • NSW: Native Vegetation Act 2003
  • Victoria: Native Vegetation Act 2017
  • South Australia: Native Vegetation Regulations 2017
  • West Australia: Environmental Protection Regulations 2004
  • ACT: Planning and Land Management Act 1988
  • NT: Planning Act 1999 or Pastoral Land Act 1992
  • Tasmania: Nature Conservation Act 2002

Land management is important for the preservation of biodiversity and habitat; however, the prescriptive and restrictive nature of these acts has resulted in a lack of managed vegetation clearing on both publicly managed and privately owned land.  Excess fuel loads have resulted, contributing significantly to the recent catastrophic bushfires. The result has been the destruction of local habitat, flora and fauna, private properties, businesses, human lives and whole communities.

Comments:

  • Landowners cannot manage vegetation on their land without application to the relevant government bodies. Whenever reasonable requests are denied, legal liability for negative outcomes should lie with the relevant authority/s and person/s making the decision.

  • Restrictive green-tape legislation must be amended to allow landowners to protect their properties (and animals) in times of drought and bushfires. Landowners have a primary interest in proper land management and are the nation’s best husbandmen and women of the natural environment.

  • Legislation written by city-based staff for rural-based landowners, is a recipe for failure. Rural people must be an integral part of the legislative process.

  • National Parks, State Forests and publicly owned land must be properly managed by the relevant state authorities; removing weed infestations, reducing fuel on the forest floor and creating clear fire trails and fire breaks between the rural and urban interface. Legal liability must be placed on authorities and persons with the power and responsibility to properly manage these areas.


5: INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS AND CLIMATE CHANGE

 Australia is signatory to numerous international agreements that have had an impact on the way we manage the landscape and natural environment.  The ‘unprecedented’ bushfires this season have been blamed on ‘climate change’. What IS unprecedented is the naïve belief that miniscule differences to Australia’s 1.3% CO2 emissions, will affect global temperatures and stop bushfires!  Climate change is one of the key drivers of the United Nations Agreements.  The following UN agreements are pertinent and should be part of the bushfire discussion and debate. 

5:1 The Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is a UN International Treaty that extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and which commits state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on the scientific consensus that (part one) global warming is occurring and (part two) it is extremely likely that human made CO2 emissions have predominantly caused it.

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005 under Prime Minister John Howard.  PM Kevin Rudd signed the instrument of ratification in his first act after being sworn in 2007.

5:2 The Doha Amendment

This amendment was implemented in 2012, as a second commitment period, in which 37 countries, including Australia, were obligated to binding targets.  

Carbon Sinks to counter emissions under the Kyoto and Doha agreements, were utilized in National Parks and State Forests. (A carbon sink is a natural reservoir that stores carbon-containing chemical compounds accumulated over an indefinite period of time)  Public awareness of the significance of CO2 sinks has grown since the passage of the Kyoto Protocol, which promotes their use as a form of carbon offset. State Forests, along with National Parks, became valuable assets to claim reduced CO2 emissions to comply with targets under the UN Kyoto and Doha Agreements. Not long after these agreements were signed, National Parks were closed to the public, fire trails closed, and cattle removed from grazing the forest floor, which inevitably increased fuel loads.

5:3 Agenda 2030

In 2015, following the implementation of Agenda 21, Agenda 2030 was created under the auspices of the United Nations.  Agenda 2030 was essentially a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)  Number 13 of 17 SDG’s is CLIMATE CHANGE.

Alarmingly, in 2015 at a news conference in Brussels, Christina Figueres, the UN Executive Secretary for the Framework on Climate Change said: “ This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT MODEL that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial revolution”.

On 1 January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, was adopted by world leaders, at an historic UN Summit.  This helped set in motion ‘cascading-legislation’ in signatory nations around the world – including Australia, across all levels of government (federal, state and local).

Comments:

  • In essence the UN, from 2016, was in control of Australian legislation for land management, water and property rights, vegetation management, biodiversity and hazard reduction (among others).
  • Legislation changes across state and local governments, have directly contributed to the recent catastrophic bushfires.   

5:4 The Paris Agreement

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the Paris Climate Agreement came into force on 4th November 2016.  Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement was ratified under Malcolm Turnbull on 10th November 2016, despite strong opposition within the government’s own ranks.  

Australia will implement an economy-wide target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.   Australian taxpayers must fund the transition of developing nations to renewable energy sources.  This includes countries such as China and India.  While helping fund other nations Australia must also meet its own target reductions while China and India are permitted (under the same agreement) to continue to INCREASE their emissions until 2040/30 respectively.  

Australia is meeting its emissions targets and may NOT need to use its Kyoto credits which include vegetation carbon sinks, however there is increasing pressure on Australia to ‘do more’ to address climate change.  It appears Australia’s bushfires are being used by the UN and the broader international community as a ‘model for climate disaster’ due to our reliance on coal-fired power. Increasing calls for more intermittent, unreliable and expensive wind and solar is the result.

 Comments:

  • The Paris Agreement is NOT working as intended. While some nations are obligated to reduce their emissions, others are permitted to INCREASE theirs. Weather is global – and the Paris Agreement is failing in its objectives while this situation is allowed to continue.

  • The estimated cost under the Paris Agreement, to Australia is $52 billion between 2018 and 2030.

  • Reducing our 1.3% global emissions will not change global temperatures, particularly while the big emitters increase theirs ( emissions).

  • There is an increased risk of bushfires in a dry continent with longer and dryer summers coupled with restrictive land management practices, lack of hazard reduction cool burning, and locking up vast areas of National Parks to be used as carbon sinks.  

  • Any further expenditure to reduce bushfire hazards by addressing ‘climate change’ would be wasted. Direct action in bushfire prone areas would be far more effective. 

The model below illustrates the monetization of the Paris Agreement, by the United Nations.

 


  6: Summary

  • To address the bushfires, we first must address the politics;
  • The Federal Parliament should prosecute a case for a Constitutional Convention to address ambiguous responsibilities that have been shamelessly exploited by the Opposition, the Greens, the media and numerous international organizations;
  • States and Territories must accept responsibility for their role in the mismanagement of publicly owned lands, and those in positions of power, should be held legally liable for the outcome;
  • Local Governments must amend restrictive green-tape legislation to allow landowners to protect their properties. Those making adverse decisions should be held legally liable for their decisions;
  • State Governments must investigate removing highly flammable trees and vegetation in National Parks. State Forests and publicly owned land;
  • State Fire Services must be properly funded (via a fire levy on property owners?);
  • Fire equipment should be upgraded to provide better safety for staff and volunteers;
  • The Federal Parliament Inquiry into the bushfires should be distributed across ALL media outlets to provide the public with factual and helpful information, and effective solutions;
  • The Federal Government must have a REAL debate on climate change as part of this bushfire inquiry. The debate should cover the global nature of climate, weather patterns and other contributing climatic factors, the economics of renewables, other energy sources (e.g. nuclear) and whether closing coal fired power stations in Australia will prevent further bushfires.

Thank you for taking time to read this submission.

Regards

Ron Hutchins
National Director, Rite-ON!
PO Box 794, Buderim, QLD 4556
info@riteon.org.au
www.riteon.org.au
www.facebook.com/RiteOnAu
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