SloMo is launching a Royal Commission into bushfires. Exactly what this will add to the other 57 official inquiries we have had since 1939 is hard to imagine. Perhaps that should be item 1 in the terms of reference. Followed by item 2 as to why governments ignore the recommendations of Royal Commissions almost immediately after they have been tabled.
Royal Commissions are a growth industry and are fantastic for lawyers and consultants. They achieve next to nothing in the real world. Politicians love them because cleverly defined they enable them to dodge accountability for months or years knowing that by the time anything contentious is said about them the public will pretty much have moved on. How much better off are we after the Hayne Royal Commission the Coalition didn’t want?
In the meantime politicians can say they are “doing something”, mitigating criticism for not actually doing anything, on the pretence that would preempt the Commissions findings.
The first task in framing a Royal Commission is to nominate the sacrificial lambs and then define the terms of reference to ensure they get slaughtered. SloMo’s political ineptitude while the fires were raging made him whipping boy number one. He needs a Royal Commission to blame someone else.
SloMo is presumably going to try and sheet it all home on state politicians, local councils and bureaucrats that criminally hindered or mismanaged fuel reduction and preventative activities leading up to the fires. Rightfully so in my humble opinion.
While this will presumably have a Green tinge to it his Liberal colleagues in NSW won’t be spared. So this is likely to inflame (no pun) more Liberal climate divisions in Wentworth and Higgins and become an ugly distraction. Don’t expect a word from Josh Frydenberg if it involves controversy or conviction. Success depends on saying nothing of any substance.
The nominated lambs in this Royal Commission are unlikely to self-identify as lambs, being this post-modern world we live in. How unfortunate!
Hence, they will not meekly be herded into the slaughterhouse. Their tactic will be to turn the proceedings into a Royal Commission on Climate Change and turn the tables on SloMo who was dumb enough to include climate change in the terms of references as reported by The Australian (linked above):
“The inquiry acknowledges climate change, the broader impact of our summers getting longer, drier and hotter and is focused on practical action that has a direct link to making Australians safer,” the Prime Minister said on releasing the terms of reference to the inquiry.”
Really? On what evidence is that so? And will the Royal Commission be forced to accept such unsubstantiated “terms” as fact or rather explore truth as it should?
My cynicism says to expect unprecedented use of the term “unprecedented”to describe climate and fire conditions that nonetheless could be copied verbatim from the 1939 Royal Commission when CO2 was a perfect 300-310 PPM (thereabouts).
This is how the 1939 report starts (Introduction -Part 1, p.5):
“In the State of Victoria, the month of January of the year 1939 came towards the end of a long drought which had been aggravated by a severe hot, dry summer season. For more than twenty years the State of Victoria had not seen its countryside and forests in such travail. Creeks and springs ceased to run. Water storages were depleted. Provincial towns were facing the probability of cessation of water supply. In Melbourne, more than a million inhabitants were subjected to restrictions upon the use of water. Throughout the countryside, the farmers were carting water, if such was available, for their stock and themselves. The rich plains, denied their beneficient rains, lay bare and baking; and the forests, from the foothills to the alpine heights, were tinder. The soft carpet of the forest floor was gone ; the bone-dry litter crackled underfoot ; dry heat and hot dry winds worked upon a land already dry, to suck from it the last, least drop of moisture. Men who had lived their lives in the bush went their ways in the shadow of dread expectancy. But though they felt the imminence of danger they could not tell that it was to be far greater than they could imagine. They had not lived long enough.”
SloMo could save taxpayers a fortune and copy and paste the 1939 Royal Commission report, and simply edit and update locations and bureaucracy names to make it contemporary.
For there is nothing unprecedented about the recent fires. Neither the causes, or severity, or climate leading up to it. Not even the IPCC will attribute a singular event to Climate Change such is the uncertainty.
Worse still, there was nothing unprecedented about the human element: from arson, mistake, or bureaucratic negligence, prioritising “seedlings” over “preventative burning” (see 1939 report, p16, albeit in relation to forestry), and above all from failing to learn from history.
As the Royal Commission of 1939 makes plain, people have short memories:
“There had been no fires to equal these in destructiveness or intensity in the history of settlement in this State, except perhaps the fires of 1851, which, too, came at summer culmination, of a long drought.
Some impression, then, of the unusual antecedents of the fires and of their extreme and unexpected severity may be gained. It will, it is hoped, be apparent that the experience of men in Victoria was such as to leave them unprepared for disaster on such a scale.”
The only thing the SloMo Royal Commission will prove is that we have learnt nothing in 80 years and instead are endangering lives and property (public and private) on an eco-cult that would prefer nature destroy the forest in order to preserve it.
A perfect analogy to the policy preferences of the Liberal Party.