Bushfires, Hazard Reduction and Backburning

The Australian Greens support hazard reduction burns and backburning to reduce the impact of wildfire when guided by the best scientific, ecological and emergency service expertise.

Attempts by right-wing pundits and politicians to place the blame on the Greens represent the worst kind of dishonest politics. The Coalition has spent six years in office ignoring the chief cause – severe climate change,

Climate change means that bushfire season is starting earlier, that forests and grasslands are drier, igniting more easily and burn more readily, and that there are more and more days of very high, severe, extreme and catastrophic fire risk. The major cause of climate change is the mining, burning and exporting of coal, oil and gas.

Leading emergency service organisations aren't just talking about fuel reduction or backburning anymore, they're talking about climate change:

Climate change is making fires and droughts worse, with the windows for standard hazard reduction measures during winter months becoming increasingly sparse.
– Greg Mullins, former NSW Fire & Rescue commissioner

Our plan for a renewable economy & climate change

Creating a renewable economy that tackles climate change, creates jobs, makes bills cheaper and energy more reliable.

This is a climate emergency

Right now, we are facing an existential climate crisis that threatens human civilisation and our government must start paying attention. The time to act is now. Call on Australia’s Parliament to declare a Climate Emergency.

Got Questions?

Does climate change make fires worse? 

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that Australia's fire season is growing longer and more intense due to the effects of climate change.

Read here: Scientists say the NSW mega fires are linked to climate change. Here's how | SBS News

 

Do the Greens support hazard reduction (including backburning)?

Our policy on this is clear and hasn't changed recently. The Australian Greens support hazard reduction burning (before bushfire season) to reduce the impact of bushfire when guided by the best scientific, ecological and emergency service expertise. For more on the Australian Greens' policy on bushfire management, please refer to Aim 8 of our Environmental Principles

 

Is Barnaby Joyce right when he said “Greens policies increased fire risk?”

No, our policy supports the science. Here’s what Former NSW Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Greg Mullins says about this: 

"Blaming 'greenies' for stopping these important measures is a familiar, populist, but basically untrue claim."

Read here: Factcheck: Is there really a green conspiracy to stop bushfire hazard reduction? | The Guardian 

 

Have Greens policies made it harder for Firies to backburn?

No.

“Problem is it’s drier and hotter. Around here we’ve been trying to do hazard reductions all year.” Blaming "greenies" for stopping these important measures is a familiar, populist, but basically untrue claim.”
– Greg Mullins, fmr Fire & Rescue Commissioner.

Read here: This is not normal: what's different about the NSW mega fires | SMH

“It’s very (insulting) to say they haven’t done enough of these burns, but the conditions have to be right to do hazard reductions. It comes down to cuts.”
– Nathan Bradshaw, Public Service Association

Read here: Danger of cutbacks to rangers burns NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro | The Australian

 

Has there been less backburning?

No. NSW Rural Fire Service deputy commissioner Rob Rogers denied there had been less hazard-­reduction burning than in previous years. “Hazard reductions have gone on each and every year”. He added hazard reduction on its own was not enough to prevent bushfires.

Read here: Greens playing politics with fire, say Labor and Coalition | The Australian

 

Have the Greens recently changed their policy on this?

No. The Greens have supported hazard reduction burns for a long time. For example, here’s a Facebook post from 2013.


Do the Greens have a plan to fight fires better?

The Greens want us to be equipped to better deal with disasters. One of our election commitments, in response to the Tasmania bushfires, was to establish a National Disaster Response Unit that “would consist of rapid response aircraft and vehicles, and up to 200 people trained in all aspects of disaster response from remote area fire-fighting to flood rescue.” 

Read here: National Disaster Response Unit | Greens Press Release

 

What is the difference between
a hazard reduction burn and back burning?

Hazard reduction (also known variously as prescribed, planned, controlled or fuel-reduction burning) is the targeted burning of bushland to control fire behaviour (often in winter). 

Back burning is a last-resort measure to stop wildfire from burning out specific areas. It works by setting fires from containment lines, such as established fire breaks. 

Read more: Explainer: back burning and fuel reduction | The Conversation

 

We should be listening to First Nations people! 

Yes. We agree.  All Greens policies are made in close consultation with First Nations peoples. We acknowledge that First Nations peoples have always led the way in caring for Country. Governments at all levels should be co-designing and consulting with First Nations peoples when making decisions about land management and the environment.