The Victorian Liberal Nationals will move to establish a Joint House Select Committee Inquiry into Bushfire Preparation and Response in Victoria.
With devastating fires continuing to burn across the North East, East Gippsland and Alpine regions, it is critical that an open public inquiry is established to investigate how Victoria could have been better prepared for and responded to the current bushfire season.
The Liberal Nationals are concerned that the proposed Government inquiry by the Inspector-General for Emergency Management (IGEM) will be unable to provide a truly independent review of bushfire preparations undertaken in the years leading up to the 2019/20 bushfires.
The IGEM provided advice to the Andrews Labor Government which preceded Labor’s rejection of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission’s recommendation on prescribed burning. Given the IGEM’s role in this decision, it is inappropriate that the IGEM should be conducting the review into the 2019/20 Victorian bushfires.
Victorians need a cross-party public inquiry into this season’s fire season and the preparation for it. Bushfire-affected communities deserve the opportunity to share their stories and concerns with MPs as to what was done and what might have been done better to prepare and protect them.
The Committee’s Terms Of Reference should include preparation for, co-ordination of, and implementation of firefighting response to the 2019/20 bushfires, including all aspects of state government, department and agency actions, as well as volunteer and community response.
It should examine the response by the Victorian Government and its agencies, including the adequacy of support provided to the community and individuals within it.
The Inquiry should include an examination of what impacts on life and property could have been prevented by actions before the fire and whether the response to the fire could have been improved, and make appropriate reference to the 2009 Bushfire Royal Commission and its recommendations.
The Inquiry should report on what lessons should be taken from the extensive and dangerous 2019-20 Victorian bushfires and make relevant recommendations to the Parliament of Victoria.
The Victorian Liberal Nationals will propose such a Joint House Select Committee and invite the Andrews Labor Government to support our proposed inquiry in a bi-partisan way.
Comments attributable to Leader of the Opposition, Michael O’Brien:
“We owe it to the communities that have been devastated by these recent bushfires to hold an open, honest and frank inquiry.
“This inquiry will give Victorians who have lost their homes and their livelihoods the opportunity to have their stories heard.
“Too many communities have been hit by these bushfires and too many questions remain unanswered.
“We call on Daniel Andrews to support establishing this inquiry; we owe it to the thousands of Victorians who have had their lives turned upside down by these fires.”
Comments attributable to Leader of The Nationals, Peter Walsh:
“We must ask the hard questions and learn from what has occurred in these fires to help prevent such devastation into the future.
“The Liberal Nationals offer a bi-partisan approach to establishing this much-needed inquiry, the communities who have suffered through these fires must have their voices heard.”