To begin with there are a lot of things that we don’t need to be talking about. Mostly, everything that is being said in Canberra and most particularly what Barnaby Joyce is saying: that the bushfires are caused by a change in the magnetic field of the sun, that the people who died in the bushfires probably voted for the Greens et cetera.
What we do need to be talking about is when the $40 million that was stripped from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service will be replaced.
We also need to discuss when we start purchasing a large fleet of Elvis firefighting helicopters (Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane) as recommended by Former NSW Fire and Rescue commissioner Greg Mullins and former Tasmanian Fire Service chief Mike Brown – who together have 90 years’ firefighting experience. Two people who don’t seem to be able to get an appointment to speak with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Currently Australia leases these helicopters from America during the fire season. But overlapping fire seasons with California, where there are currently severe bushfires, makes the supply of these helicopters problematic.
So Australia needs a large fleet of its own to ensure it has the resources available as quickly as bushfire strike.
It will also need its own fleet of large air tankers and other craft – some possibly operated by the military.
The fire season has started early and catastrophically. The indications are that the situation will get worse in New South Wales and Victoria with unprecedented threats to urban areas.
What is needed is urgent action at the state and federal level to increase the capacity of the firefighting services to mount unprecedentedly effective early intervention against bushfires.
It is increasingly obvious once this new generation of bushfires take hold, they are impossible to control without significant rainfall.
And in the midst of long-term droughts that is something where even thoughts and prayers have proved inadequate.