Anthony Albanese Lashes Bushfire Conspiracy Theories Spread By 'Armchair' Critics
Viral online claims that hazard reduction burns have been blocked are "not true", Labor leader Anthony Albanese said, criticising conspiracy theorists laying blame for bushfires at the feet of environmental activists.
In the wake of horrific recent bushfires across Australia -- which have burned out millions of hectares, destroyed or damaged thousands of homes, and killed two dozen people -- many conspiracy theories have spread on social media claiming, against evidence, that the blazes were caused by restrictive environmental policies.
Countless posts have circulated on Facebook and Twitter claiming green groups, and even pro-environment politicians or political parties, have blocked hazard reduction burning or are responsible for setting fires.
The claims have spread despite environmentally-focused parties not holding government in any state or territory of Australia, and the Greens party's policy platform explicitly supporting hazard reduction burns.
Speaking to 10 daily on Tuesday, Albanese -- sometimes a vocal critic of the Greens political party -- rubbished the claims, saying extensive hazard reduction burning had occurred and that theories to the contrary were "not true".
"People should actually talk to the experts on the ground. The fact is the state Liberal government is responsible for the management of our national parks here in New South Wales, for example," he said, citing "significant hazard reduction" across the state.
"That's provided a buffer to enable the firefighting efforts to be maximised at this point in time. Those hazard reduction processes have been taking place."
While police have made numerous arrests over deliberately or accidentally lit fires, many other blazes have started as a result of lightning strikes or other natural phenomena.
Hazard reduction burns in NSW, for example, are carried out by the Rural Fire Service and Fire & Rescue, the National Parks Service and other government agencies.
These burns occur in preparation for fire seasons -- in contrast to backburning, which takes place as fires directly approach.
Such activity cannot be carried out on days of fire danger. A lengthening of fire seasons means authorities are left with dwindling timeframes to undertake hazard reduction burning.
"One of the reasons why there hasn't been as much as some would like is because they were busy fighting fires," Albanese said.
"I was told people who would normally be involved in hazard reduction were fighting fires... so that has had an impact. What that means is that we do need more resources for our national parks, but the idea that you can't have hazard reduction in national parks is just not true. It has taken place."
"They do a fantastic job. So let's actually listen to the experts rather than people in armchairs, or politicians for that matter, about what's required."
Kelly "needs to explain" climate stance
Speaking of politicians, Albanese also had stern words for Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly, who has been advancing claims in interviews with international media that the bushfire crisis is not linked to climate change.
Just hours before Albanese spoke to 10 daily, Kelly was lashed by British TV hosts as a "climate denier".
"Craig Kelly needs to explain why he thinks it's appropriate at a time where lives have been lost... [that] he is going on international media, saying that climate change and the science is nonsense," Albanese said.
"The scientists have been telling us that for some period of time, and unfortunately, that's proven to be correct in the way it’s played out in recent months."
Albanese called for Australia's parliament and media conversation to "not be constrained by" people such as Kelly, who he rubbished as a "small rump" of "climate skeptics".
Other countries "shake their heads" at climate "pariah" Australia
"As a result of this small group of people, we have higher [electricity] prices today, we have higher emissions today, and we have Australia being seen as a pariah in the international debate on climate change," he said.
"The government is letting the national interest down by not acting on climate change."
The Labor leader said he would push the government to make firmer climate change commitments on both a national and international level when federal parliament resumes on February 4, claiming other countries "shake their heads" at Australia's climate stance.
"When you go to the United Kingdom, you look at Boris Johnson, who's just been elected, no-one could say he's a radical left-wing candidate, he just got elected on a ‘zero net emissions by 2050’ policy," Albanese said.
"Margaret Thatcher was one of the first world leaders to acknowledge climate change and acknowledge the need to act. This should not be a left-right issue."
"When Angus Taylor went to a conference while the bushfires were on and argued for an accounting trick, rather than actually reducing our emissions to meet the targets that were put in place by Tony Abbott, I think they shake their heads."