Bushfires have tested us but Australia will prevail


Family is everything. Family is
the reason for getting up in the morning. For working hard. For caring
about our community. For caring about our country and its future.

was true for Geoff Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer as they headed out last
Thursday night as part of the Horsley Park RFS Brigade.

Like the
more than 200,000 other registered firefighters in Australia, they would
have seen their service as an extension of their devotion to their

Geoff and Andrew were tragically lost while displaying
extraordinary courage and service to our nation and their local

Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting Geoff and Andrew’s families —
their wives, their parents and their young children. I personally
expressed Jenny and my condolences. I also met their incredible local
RFS family who are deeply mourning their loss.

We honour their memory, we respect their heroic contribution and we are grateful for their service.

Andrew and Geoff are not the only Australians we have lost in these fires.

in times past, these fires have taken so much from so many. And as in
times past, these fires have brought out the best in so many
Australians, especially in those areas directly ­impacted by fire.

nation’s response to these disasters, like our response to the floods
earlier in the year, proves just how great a country we are.

live in such an amazing country. However, unlike in times past when
Australians have united, on this occasion we have sadly witnessed
greater division and conflict. Genuine concerns have led some to
question the support being provided by state and federal governments for
the ­firefighting response, as well as the ­contribution of climate
policy to these fires.

While there is always more that can be
done, I can assure Australians that our governments, supported by the
Commonwealth, including our defence forces, have ensured that our
firefighting efforts have never been better resourced or their actions
better co-ordinated.

This has been confirmed to me in the many
visits made and briefings I have received from fire chiefs both before
the fire season commenced and from September this year as the fires

Our emergency management centre in Canberra. The Canungra fire in
southern Queensland. The devastated community in Rappville in northern
NSW. The Queensland Rural Fire Service HQ in Brisbane. The incident
control centres in Wauchope, Wilberforce and Wollondilly and evacuation
centres in Taree and Picton.

Visiting these locations I have seen
first hand the co-ordination, the technology, the rapid response, the
professionalism, the resources, the bravery and determination.

are agencies at all levels, including Emergency Management Australia at
a federal level, whose sole job it is to ensure our national effort is
well co-ordinated and resourced.

Their work includes, for example,
ensuring we have firefighting planes and helicopters in place, which
the federal government has put $26 million into this year alone,
including a recent boost of $11 million, ensuring there are supplies of
fire retardant in the country or that our mapping systems and emergency
frequencies are in place and in good order.

This co-ordinated effort also includes the role of defence forces
that have been supporting the fire fighting effort for months now. Our
defence forces have been providing vehicles and planes, clearing roads,
removing debris, providing accommodation, meals, maintenance and air
support to map fire zones.

We will learn from these fires like all
those before, as is being demonstrated in the current response.
Panicked mindsets never assist in managing a crisis and will not aid the
process of further strengthening our response capability in the future.

must continue to take precautions to protect ourselves. Hazard
reduction, sensible land clearing laws, managing fuel loads in national
parks, learning from Indigenous Australians, improving our technological
capability, law enforcement to prevent arson, improving our weather
forecasting tools, better building codes, community education and
information programs and how we can best sustain our extensive volunteer
fire fighting effort.

All of this will and must be reviewed after
the fires and any urgent issues or improvements needed during the
current disaster will be identified and addressed.

And yes, we must continue to take real action on climate change.
There is no disagreement and there has not been any denial of this
critical factor, either by the federal government or any state or
territory government.

But to suggest that increasing Australia’s
climate targets would have prevented these fires or extreme weather
events, in Australia or anywhere else, is simply false.

As part of
a global effort, our government will ensure Australia keeps commitments
made at the election. Australia’s carbon emissions are on average 50
million tonnes less per year than they were under the previous
government. All achieved without a carbon tax.

As I made clear at
the election we will exceed our Kyoto commitments, we will meet our
Paris commitments and we will continue to welcome ­record investments in
renewable technologies. At the same time we are getting electricity
prices down, by $65 a year according to the latest figures, as a result
of our policies.

We won’t embrace reckless targets and abandon our
traditional industries that would risk Australian jobs while having no
meaningful impact on the global climate. In short, we will continue to
act responsibly on climate change, avoiding extreme responses and get
the balance right.

That’s the promise we made to Australians and I intend to keep it.

for now, there is a firefighting effort to support, there are fellow
Australians who need our comfort and our help, and there are plans to be
made to make sure we are even better prepared in the future.

on Christmas Day, take a moment to remember all those impacted not just
by the fires, but the drought and floods, and especially Geoff and
Andrew’s families, who will spend their first Christmas without them.

Published in The Daily Telegraph.

Source: Thanks liberal.org.au