For those who missed it, click here to listen to a short interview with Bushfire Volunteers’ President Dave Gossage, who tells his ABC Radio Interviewers that the so-called “Emergency Leaders for Climate Action” should hang their heads in shame for trying to use Climate Change and current catastrophic fire conditions to push their undeclared industrial agenda.
While it is always uncomfortable to be the “canary in the coalmine”, Bushfire Volunteers is again proud to have led the nation in calling out the group for its cynical and hurtful behaviour, so far followed up by only a handful of others, including the Weekend Australian as is evidenced by its excellent Editorial in today’s paper.
Thank you Weekend Australian.
A makeshift memorial was set up on Friday at Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade HQ in Sydney’s west: two helmets, one labelled “O’Dwyer”, the other “Keaton”, sat on a rock bearing a metal plaque. Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, and Geoffrey Keaton, 32, died the previous night near Buxton after their fire truck was struck by a falling tree; the truck rolled and the men died at the scene. Their crew had been battling the Green Wattle Creek fire, which tore through the communities of Buxton, Balmoral and Bargo in the southern highlands outside of Sydney.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who earlier had declared a seven-day state of emergency, paid tribute to the men and the remarkable volunteers fighting bushfires across the state: “They’re ordinary, everyday individuals — like you and I — that go out and simply want to serve and protect and make a difference in their local community, and they don’t ever go out in the knowledge that they might not come home from that shift.”
As fires raged and temperatures soared in capitals, debate about natural causes and human responsibilities jumped containment lines of decency and common sense. In all of this, the sacrifice of the people putting their lives on the line, and their livelihoods, to save the homes, farms and businesses of neighbours and strangers alike was obscured. These exhausted souls — heroes from all over the country — were, as one mayor put it, “the last line of defence” for communities.
Forgotten, too, were people — from Shoalhaven and Wollondilly shires, and to Sydney’s northwest — who will be homeless, distraught and bereft at Christmas. It’s at times such as this that the best of our nation is shown: stoicism, selflessness and empathy for the afflicted.
We are a nation prone to bushfires. That is simply a fact. But as this bushfire season has hit early, and with a vengeance, people who should know better have used the tragedies as a soapbox for action on climate change. Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, funded by enviro-activist Tim Flannery’s Climate Council, attacked the Morrison government for a failure of “moral leadership” when it came to the bushfires. Former NSW Fire and Rescue commissioner Greg Mullins said: “Australia was burning while we turn a blind eye to the driving force, which is climate change and a warming planet.” As we report on Saturday, former Queensland premier Campbell Newman blasted one of the prominent former fire chiefs who is part of the climate action group, saying Lee Johnson never raised the issue when he headed emergency services in the state.
Experts keep telling us there is no direct link between climate change and bushfires; we know many fires are lit by arsonists. As Roger Underwood, a man with 60 years’ experience in bushfire management, wrote in our pages on Thursday, the “climate change is causing bushfires” position has two “killer flaws”: it takes no account of fuels and prescribes no practical actions. We know that the build-up of fuels shows governments have dropped the ball. Politicians need to think again about how to limit bushfires’ ferocity and how better to fight them.
Firefighters are preparing for a “nightmare scenario” in NSW, in anticipation of scorching heat and strained resources; authorities are raising emergency warning levels in Victoria and South Australia. In these catastrophic conditions, more homes will be lost. As a nation, we pay tribute to fallen heroes O’Dwyer and Keaton and embrace their grieving families.