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The Informer: Australia united - on the need for action

Australia united - on the need for action

The tragedy that was Australia's Black Summer drew us together again when the Royal Commission into Natural Disaster Arrangements's report was made public today.

Happily, it did not get lost in the "Friday news cycle" as Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain warned yesterday. Instead it was released before lunch and devoured by many. It is 594 pages and includes 80 recommendations. Should you want to download it it, here it is.

By way of a quick recap, point 2 of the overview reminds us just how horrifically tragic the 2019-20 summer was: "Thirty-three people died, including six Australian firefighters and three American aerial firefighters. Thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged. Smoke blanketed much of Australia, including capital cities, and contributed to hundreds of deaths. Nearly three billion animals were killed or displaced, and the fires harmed many threatened species and ecological communities. Overall, the fires caused billions of dollars of damage."

We need to add in that we dealt with drought, fire and floods also and, significantly, not forget that "... before the last fire was extinguished, Australia announced its first case of COVID-19."

Environmental groups, bushfire victims, firefighters, governments and scientists have all backed the recommendations from the royal commission.

Greg Mullins, one of the former fire and emergency chiefs who warned the Morrison government of the potential dangers before the last summer's fire season, wants the government to accept and implement all of the recommendations.

"The bushfire royal commission has laid out the facts in no uncertain terms: climate change drove the black summer bushfires, and climate change is pushing us into a future of unprecedented bushfire severity," the onetime-NSW fire and rescue commissioner said.

It's also worthwhile remembering that before COVID even landed in Australia, borders were causing confusion. And this royal commission has highlighted that.

Among its recommendations, the commission proposed the federal government have the power to declare a national emergency for such disasters. It also called for Australia to develop its own aerial firefighting fleet, and introduce more consistent warnings and fire danger ratings across the country.

And if you're sceptical of reports and politicians, what about Jack Egan from the NSW South Coast who lost his home in the fires?

"Better coordination is essential to better fighting fires and limiting the disruption, impact and loss for communities," AAP reported Mr Egan saying. "We heard some very disturbing stories from people in border areas where the information they could get was limited and they were in greater danger."

Mr Egan said the royal commission had drawn a clear line between the increasing severity of bushfires and global warming and hoped all governments would now take more serious action. "I think that a primary school kid can join the dots."

The dots on the Queensland-NSW border were partially rubbed out today when Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced regional NSW would be welcome from November 3. People from Greater Sydney and Victoria not so much quite yet.

Perhaps that announcement on the eve of the Queensland election was just coincidental. But not so Western Australia which has just announced it will open its border to "very low risk states" from November 14. NSW and Victorian travellers will need to quarantine for 14 days.

Not so encouraging was the news in WA that BP will close its 65-year-old Kwinana refinery, leaving hundreds of employees out of work.

But let's finish the week on a high: after fronting up for 120 consecutive days, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews will not hold a press conference tomorrow. No matter your opinion of Mr Andrews, you have to admit - a day off can't be a bad thing.

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