MPs weigh in support for ‘fire’ petition

21 Jan, 2016 01:00 AM
Waroona resident Raymond Hull with some of the signed pages of the petition.
Waroona resident Raymond Hull with some of the signed pages of the petition.

A PETITION calling for a Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) parliamentary inquiry into the Waroona fires has won support from local MPs.

The petition was created last week, citing issues with the way DFES handled the South West fires.

It has been circulating in the Yarloop, Waroona and surrounding areas, and after a week has more than 280 signatures and counting, said Waroona resident Raymond Hull.

"It has been circulating the area this week," Mr Hull said.

"I haven't collected all the signatures as yet, as it has taken-off with people in Perth also requesting to sign."

It is due to be tabled in Parliament by Shooters and Fishers Party MP Rick Mazza on February 16.

Mr Mazza said his understanding was that it had been distributed "far and wide".

"It seems to be gathering some momentum," he said.

"I will read it in (at a parliamentary sitting), and it will then go to the Environment and Public Affairs Committee.

"They are the ones that scrutinise every petition that comes through, that committee will then make a decision as to whether they would proceed to a parliamentary inquiry or not.

"It is unknown whether the committee will take this on board, but I will be surprised if they don't.

"At the moment there seems to be some support from MPs that I have spoken too, but it depends on how it plays out."

Mr Mazza said there had been no parliamentary or peoples' inquiries for some time to monitor how DFES was tracking.

"There was questions raised after a number of fires," he said.

"Whether DFES is running right I don't know, but at this point in time there are a lot of questions being raised.

"I think there is enough background there now that there should be an inquiry.

"Understandably a lot of the Yarloop residents have a lot of questions, but when you have three major incidents (recent fires in WA) where questions have been raised, it's an obligation on parliament to look into it."

Residents told Farm Weekly that while they appreciated the efforts of firefighters and emergency personnel, some residents had concerns over the policies DFES staff worked under.

South West MLC Nigel Hallett attended two farmers meetings in the region over the last week and said he would support the petition.

Mr Hallet said the main message was the lack of communication during the fire and the queries over the "big red fire trucks".

"Communication was the biggest issue," he said.

"The opportunity to stop fires earlier and lack of communications and warnings."

Land owners said it was a concerning scenario where it seemed there were "too many chiefs and not enough Indians".

Concerns were raised at the meeting that some DFES firefighters had refused to help farmers put out the paddock fires, as it was out of their derestriction.

Mr Hallett said he heard a lot of frustrations with the management around road blocks and the policies that DFES operated under.

"I certainly support the petition," he said.

"We have a 40 year period were we lost no one, we lost very little property, the system changed and it's got worse and worse each fire.

"You think of the past three years and it has been pretty horrific.

"We have to draw a line in the sand and look at where we are going wrong on this."

The petition states that residents who signed were concerned about the management of the Waroona and Harvey bushfires by the DFES.

"Your petitioners therefore respectfully request the Legislative Council to hold a parliamentary inquiry into the operations of the DFES as they relate to the management of bushfire emergencies," the petition states.

"In particular, communication of imminent danger to the community, the limitations imposed on bushfire personnel and the community to make on-the-spot judgements for applications such as back burning or the use of appliances to immediately take action to control the threat of fire, co-ordination between government departments and volunteers.

"And once the emergency threat of fire is over, the ability for people to obtain supplies for themselves and stock and return to their properties."

Mr Hallett said it's not about politics.

"It's about getting policy right, and which ever government is in power needs to get it right," he said.

"If we had a parliamentary inquiry into it, what that does is give you an independent opportunity for the persons on the ground, to put a submission in and give evidence, as well as the departments.

"That's where it has to go and I support that."

Jacinta Bolsenbroek

Jacinta Bolsenbroek

is a senior journalist at Farm Weekly


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