Thursday’s announcement of a state government departmental review into aspects of last week’s bushfire crisis across eastern Queensland has been called “manifestly inadequate”.
Natural resources minister, Anthony Lynham, describing it as “just a normal, routine government review, as we did for Cyclone Debbie, as we did for Cyclone Marcia”, danced around the question of whether public input would be taken into account.
Saying only that it would be open to the general public to make submissions, Dr Lynham fobbed off calls for an independent inquiry made by Queensland’s LNP politicians, saying it was a decision for the government as a whole to make.
Likewise, the question of whether the adversarial Green Shirt Movement’s stated desire to have a seat at any review to the bushfire response was met with a noncommittal reply.
The minister’s stance came amid a rash of questioning and accusations made in the wake of the most severe bushfires experienced in the state, many of them pointing a finger at Queensland’s land clearing laws, and contrasted with federal agriculture minister, David Littleproud’s announcement of a House of Representatives inquiry into the role of vegetation and land management policies in the wake of the bushfires’ devastation.
AgForce president, Georgie Somerset, welcomed that announcement while calling on the state government to show similar leadership and a commitment to a genuine solution.
She said a parliamentary inquiry was, by virtue of its rigour and powers to talk to a range of agencies and stakeholders, the only forum that would reveal the role of vegetation management in the catastrophe.
"We believe a Parliamentary inquiry will offer a sufficiently robust and objective investigation that will enable sensible changes to vegetation management laws and processes and hopefully prevent these sorts of tragedies in the future,” she said.
Ms Somerset called on the state government to show similar leadership and a commitment to a genuine solution by agreeing to calls for a state parliamentary inquiry.
"This business-as-usual review by the Inspector-General announced by the state government is a manifestly inadequate response to a disaster that they themselves describe as unprecedented," she said.
"We must involve a broad section of views to provide the answers we need to prevent such widespread devastation to life, property and the natural environment from ever occurring again.
"An investigation into the management of conservation areas and state-controlled land, in particular fuel management, must form part of the terms of reference of this inquiry.
"If the state government, as they stated yesterday, believes this is a discussion about climate change, then that needs to be part of the review to ensure their vegetation management policies and practices are adequate and appropriate."
Asked if he shared Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s view that the bushfire crisis was linked to climate change, Dr Lynham said that anything regarding the record-breaking weather events could be looked on as climate change.
“We're getting unprecedented cyclones – it's the first time we've had these huge bushfires in Queensland – we've never had these before,” he said. “These weather events are extreme. Record temperatures have been set time and time again in communities.”
Opposition leader, Deb Frecklington, said it was disappointing that Labor was already looking to smother crucial discussions about the bushfires.
“Labor needs to be open to a transparent Parliamentary inquiry because we need to learn serious lessons from this tragedy to prevent future disasters.
“We share the huge concerns of many Queenslanders about land management policies and our national parks.
“This is not about blame. This is about getting our bushfire management policies right so lives are saved and communities are protected.
“The inquiry needs to be in public and we need to hear from every stakeholder, particularly landholders and communities in regional Queensland.
“Climate change can’t be used as an excuse to do nothing. If anything, climate change means we should be adapting our response more.”
The Green Shirts Movement said Dr Lynham was using the issue as a political football to entirely lay the blame on climate change.
"If the Labor government had chosen to listen to landholders before they introduced the veg management laws, they would have foreseen this disaster,” spokesman Bryson Head said.
“Every landholder knows that a lack of forest/scrub management is only asking for trouble.
"The veg management act is about as useful as a tanker full of petrol for fighting bushfires."
Mr Head said they expected the government to do what it could to keep them out of the review “as we are a voice that speaks for the whole of Queensland, not just the south east corner”.