Fire Chiefs Vow To Hold Emergency Bushfire Summit With Or Without PM
Frustrated former fire chiefs have vowed to take matters into their own hands, hosting an emergency summit on the bushfire crisis.
As large parts of Australia burn with lives and homes under threat each day, one group of experts is stepping up to fill what they say is a "leadership vacuum" left by the Morrison government.
The Emergency Leaders for Climate Action -- an increasing coalition of 29 former emergency services bosses -- are concerned about the unprecedented scale and ferocity of the bushfire crisis.
The disaster has taken six lives and destroyed more than 700 homes, while major cities have been shrouded in thick smoke. With a large chunk of summer still to come, there are fears the crisis will drastically worsen.
NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins is among the group taking action, and said climate change is the key driver to the worsening conditions.
He said he was frustrated the nation's leaders are still in denial.
"The Federal Government’s failure to address climate change will increasingly place Australian lives and property in danger," Mullins wrote in a powerful opinion article published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday.
"The fires we are battling today started earlier, burn more intensely, have destroyed more homes and covered more ground than anything we’ve seen before in NSW. Fact, not opinion.
"If I could, I would gladly take Mr Morrison and his cabinet to the frontline of one of these bushfires to experience for themselves what we are going through," he continued, questioning whether it would force the Prime Minister's hand to address the causes of climate change.
It's hoped the announcement of the emergency meeting will be a wake-up call for the nation's leaders.
"A national, co-ordinated response to more intense and frequent extreme weather events, and a policy framework that will drastically reduce greenhouse emissions is now imperative," Mullins said in a statement.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is currently rumoured to be holidaying in Hawaii, announced $11 million for aerial funding last week but the former fire chiefs said it was too little too late.
Morrison also rejected calls for a national response to the crisis, claiming there was already one in place.
“The highly coordinated nature of how our state and territory jurisdictions work together during these bushfires has been an inspiration,” he said on December 10.
“The chiefs work closely together. They have a direct line to me. They have a direct line to the premiers. And the premiers and I discuss these things regularly.”
Almost 2000 firefighters were battling more than 100 blazes across NSW on Tuesday while bushfires also raged in Queensland and Western Australia.
Medical groups said smoke pollution from the bushfires was a public health emergency that leaders could not ignore.
Former Commissioner, ACT Emergency Services Authority, Major General Peter Dunn wants both Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese to be a part of the conversation.
"We have been calling for a bushfire emergency summit to work out a coordinated strategy for worsening extreme weather in the future," he said.
"We will now take it upon ourselves to host it in March. The Prime Minister is invited to join us, and to show the leadership Australia badly needs on emergency management and climate action".
Former Tasmania Fire Service chief Mike Brown has also backed calls for a fresh national approach to bushfire management "across the board".
"Fires don't recognise state boundaries. We need services to be able to adapt to this new normal," he told AAP.
"We are seeing major losses at the moment and we are only a week into summer. There's some urgency about this."