Royal Commission: Good policy to go up in flames and Morrison will get burned

What is the point of the SloMo Royal Commission into Bushfires other than politics?

More importantly, what recommendations will the Government be able to implement?

The Federal Government does not manage parks, forests and public lands. It has no jurisdiction over planned burnings and preparedness activities, like slashing, mowing and creating fuel breaks on public land. It doesn’t maintain water points, fire towers and road access in our forests and parks. The Federal Government does not respond to bushfires. It owns not a single fire truck or employs a single firefighter. It is not responsible for funding state fire fighting or emergency services and has no input into firefighting strategy (i.e. water bombers versus on the ground fire fighters). The Federal Government is also not responsible for planning law. It has no say in defining bushfire prone areas, deciding  whether populations should continue to be built up in such areas, and if so what building and land regulations should apply.

In short, it is difficult to see how the Royal Commission could produce a single recommendation of substance that the Morrison Government could implement.

Given that limitation there is a danger the Royal Commission will make recommendations where it can give something for the Commonwealth to do. That will likely involve either climate change policy or some kind of Commonwealth takeover or intervention in bushfire management.

Any policy recommendation advocating something be done in the name of climate change will end up a policy and political disaster. It was foolish of SloMo to include it in the terms of reference. Activists will promote the insanity that policies made in Canberra can change weather conditions all over the country to prevent bushfires.

This will be a public relations disaster for the Coalition as they will be partially blamed for the bushfires for “not having doing enough on climate change”. Worse still it will detract attention and resources from doing the practical things that limit the spread and intensity of bushfires. This will also likely be a source of Coalition internal conflict. SloMo has in all likelihood wedged himself in the terms of reference and in his misinformed public statements paying homage to climate change and longer, drier summers.

Any policy recommendation advocating a greater role for the Commonwealth will also end up in disaster. SloMo is unfortunately of  the mindset that every problem requires a government solution and every government solution is better off centralised in Canberra. After all it has worked so well in education, health, water, industrial relations and disability services thus far.

There is scant evidence that anything centralised to the Commonwealth leads to greater efficiency of better outcomes. It will simply lead to a blurring of the lines of accountability, duplication of roles and responsibility, greater bureaucracy, higher cost and poorer outcomes. It will perpetuate a blame game between levels of government as States demand more Commonwealth funding, crying poor having allocated the previous year’s fuel reduction budget to transgender eduction for primary school children.

The SloMo Royal Commission will either make recommendations the Morrison Government can’t implement or recommendations it could or will try and implement but you hope to heaven it won’t. Good policy will go up in flames and Morrison will get burned.

 

 

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26 Responses to Royal Commission: Good policy to go up in flames and Morrison will get burned

  1. IainC

    What the RC could do is to recommend that the Feds, when doling out States’ allowances, define clearly how much the States have to spend on “bushfire prevention”, and the proportion of the total that must be spent on materiel, personnel, clearance, backburning, and so forth. If the States have abracadabra’ed responsibility for the recent fires onto the Feds, after 100 years of State responsibility (and I use that word advisedly, under caution, do you need a lawyer), they can’t complain when the Feds tell them what to do with the money.

  2. John A

    Any policy recommendation advocating a greater role for the Commonwealth will also end up in disaster. SloMo is unfortunately of the mindset that every problem requires a government solution and every government solution is better off centralised in Canberra. After all, it has worked so well in education, health, water, industrial relations and disability services thus far.

    Standard collectivist thinking. The weakness of modern public discourse is that nobody seems to have thought through the philosophical basis for government- especially limited government.

    We suffer from a heart problem as Affebeck Lauder wrote many years back (see “Let Stalk Strine”).

    “Aorta” is no longer a part of the blood pumping system in the human body but a demand for government to act: “Snot rite! Aorta do something!”

  3. jupes

    It was foolish of SloMo to include it in the terms of reference.

    Indeed, but SloMo is a foolish man.

  4. Lee

    Precisely why I was opposed to the RC here at the Cat last week.

    Even if we sceptics get the result we want from the RC (unlikely), the Left will ignore or deride it. Like they did the union RC of a few years ago.

    If the alarmists get the result they want from the RC, they will claim it validates them, and use it as a club to beat us over the head with.

    Very disappointed in Scott Morrison, I think he is very foolish.

  5. Simply copy the previous Royal Commissions; same results, same end effect.

  6. Entropy

    No bemused. Those RCs were done by states reviewing their own actions and their own responsibilities. This RC will be a federal one looking at state responsibilities and trying it find a role for itself, with a few extras as a nod to the new religion. Nothing good can come of it. It will either be an attempt at taking control, and damn the constitution, or some sort of tied grants program, like Iain above unfortunately suggests, with all the endless reporting and over governance to no purpose that the public never sees. Wasteful activity.

  7. Speedbox

    In the past 100 years or so there have been some 59 enquiries and RC’s across the country into the assorted bushfires, their cause and methods to prevent similar infernos (and consequent loss of life) from happening again.

    Perhaps we could just dust off those documents for a ‘look see’.

  8. Just Interested

    The ToR that interests me is the one that asks whether the Commonwealth Government should have the power to declare a ‘state of national emergency’.

    Even if the RC chooses to agree with this ScoMo thought bubble, one wonders what is the constitutional foundation for the idea.

    One also wonders what the Feds would do if they made such a declaration (other than want to be Seen To Be In Charge).

    I’m sure some will think the Feds having such a power is a good thing if the declaration is made to deal with a ‘good’ purpose, like fighting bushfires.

    Dunno how well people (particularly around here) would like the Feds to be able to declare a state of national emergency to deal with……just say……something like ‘climate change’.

    Otherwise, the whole thing just sets up a typical COAG structure in which the Feds set targets over things not their constitutional responsibility, that will generally be ignored by the jurisdictions – but if things go wrong it will give the States the cover to say to an ignorant community that the Feds have made the policy and so it’s all their problem.

    Sometimes best to leave well enough alone.

    Not a bright idea.

  9. Watch Your Back

    The Feds could set up a Bush Land Management Inspectorate. This would inspect the fire-prone areas twice a year. It would have powers to levy fines on States not managing the fuel load properly.

    The inclusion of climate change offers a chance to question by how much temperatures will fall if carbon dioxide emissions are reduced. Make them do the math.

  10. No bemused. Those RCs were done by states reviewing their own actions and their own responsibilities.

    I know, but still same results, same end effect. You think this liberal government will do anything better? I wish, but won’t hold my breath.

  11. Titch

    It might be a good start to remove the declaration of National Parks from dozens of these fire traps. Once it is declared a “National Park”, it is virtually untouchable and impossible to delist it and open it up again. To see that NZ has about 14 in total, and the USA around 60 in total, the number in Australia is just off the map. We have hundreds. There has to be another way to deal with this, not just giving in to the activists who cry about needing areas preserved as national parks, given the overload we have in Australia. And if we continue to call them National Parks, the National government needs to be the one responsible, not the incompetent state clutzes who are supposed to manage them for the nation and have caused the majority of the chaotic fires and damage this season.

  12. Roger

    And if we continue to call them National Parks, the National government needs to be the one responsible…

    I can see why you would suggest that given the evident failur eof the current regime, but I’d devolve the management of national parks to locals.

    Failing that, the Commonwealth could take them over, but only with reforms that enable local participation in park management (ncluding indigenous fire practices). Enable selective logging where applicable, firewood collection, hiking & camping, permits for grazing, tourism…open the parks to the people and they’ll have a vital interest in seeing them managed properly.

  13. Squirrel

    Not so worried about the risks of the RC making inconvenient findings on climate-change – the government is showing genuine signs of having (at long last) got hold of that debate.

    Labor was all guts and gusto on climate change in Question Time yesterday, but hardly a peep today – they have no real answer to the government’s “technology not taxes” line, just the slippery b/s about the costs of inaction being greater, and that’s unlikely to wash with hard-pressed households in marginal seats.

  14. Nob

    “indigenous fire practices” will be whatever the activists of the day declare them to be.

    There is no evidence for firestick “farming” nor can there be.

  15. Tezza

    All the risks are there, but there is one possible upside in terms of outcomes: a Commonwealth ‘transparency process’ by which States, Territory and local governments report their fuel management/hazard reduction strategies and intended performance, and provide the information base for annual accountability in their performance.

  16. Roger

    “indigenous fire practices” will be whatever the activists of the day declare them to be.

    There is no evidence for firestick “farming” nor can there be.

    It’s low intensity burning.

    If the window of opportunity for hazard reduction is actually getting smaller, it’s a logical option.

  17. NoFixedAddress

    National “Parks” & Wilderness Sizzles is the problem in the first instance.

    They are Forests and Woodlands and as such should be harvested on a continuing rotational basis.

    Either that or just strip bomb them every year.

  18. Yes Prime Minister. Courageous decision!

  19. C.L.

    Nailed it, Justinian.

    The Federal Government does not manage parks, forests and public lands. It has no jurisdiction over planned burnings and preparedness activities, like slashing, mowing and creating fuel breaks on public land. It doesn’t maintain water points, fire towers and road access in our forests and parks. The Federal Government does not respond to bushfires. It owns not a single fire truck or employs a single firefighter. It is not responsible for funding state fire fighting or emergency services and has no input into firefighting strategy (i.e. water bombers versus on the ground fire fighters). The Federal Government is also not responsible for planning law. It has no say in defining bushfire prone areas, deciding whether populations should continue to be built up in such areas, and if so what building and land regulations should apply.

    Yeah but what about the expectations of Twitter?

  20. Mick Gold Coast QLD

    From Nob at 7:12 pm:

    ““indigenous fire practices” will be whatever the activists of the day declare them to be.

    There is no evidence for firestick “farming” nor can there be.”

    There is no discussion to be had on this – the claimed expertise has the veracity of the Hindmarsh Island secret lubras business, or inebriated Ernie’s invented welcome to country, with its deep cultural roots all the way back to the ’70s.

  21. Mick Gold Coast QLD

    From C.L. at 8:45 pm:

    “Nailed it, Justinian.

    The Federal Government does not manage parks, etc. It has no jurisdiction over … preparedness activities … . It doesn’t maintain … road access in our forests … . The Federal Government does not respond to bushfires … owns not a single fire truck or employs a single firefighter. It is not responsible for funding … and has no input into firefighting strategy … also not responsible for planning law. … in defining bushfire prone areas, deciding whether populations should continue … and … what building and land regulations should apply.”

    All of that is true. Further, land title, use and planning laws are found in State statutes. State and Federal bureaucrats have a most impressive ability to keep an inter government dispute on a land matter going for decades. Turf wars between State departments alone over land matters are epic, the stuff on which careers are built and sustained. Lands Department vs National Parks power struggles have seen out the most powerful of premiers and ministers demanding a cease fire.

  22. Scott Osmond

    You need to understand that Scotty is a coward. He and his coleagues want a price on carbon. Step 1 put climate change as a given in the terms of the RC. Step 2 except the findings that will have something about Australia’s carbon emissions in the findings. Step 3 tell the public that it’s not Scotty and his mates it’s the results of an independent body advising us on bushfire policy.

  23. There is no evidence for firestick “farming” nor can there be.

    Actually there is. What it involves is the slow burning in the colder season to encourage the growth of plants that are not fire prone, don’t require intense fires to propagate and don’t burn with great intensity. The opportunity arises, especially after an intense bushfire, to eliminate the rapidly emerging new growth that is dependent on intense fires.

    We don’t do this and immediately after a fire the new growth is already beginning and withing a year the devastated area is replete with new growth. Within two years you can barely walk through those burnt areas and the only evidence of an earlier bushfire are the slowly disappearing blackened remains of the old, dead, trees. The ash on the ground and the rain provides the perfect breeding ground for new growth.

  24. I would have something added, of course, but in fact says almost everything.

  25. ExIronCurtain

    SloMo is unfortunately of the mindset that every problem requires a government solution and every government solution is better off centralised in Canberra. After all it has worked so well in education, health, water, industrial relations and disability services thus far.

    You forgot communications. The Success Of The NBN.
    (Other than that, what a great article and how accurate!)

  26. Lee

    The Federal Government does not manage parks, forests and public lands. It has no jurisdiction over planned burnings and preparedness activities, like slashing, mowing and creating fuel breaks on public land. It doesn’t maintain water points, fire towers and road access in our forests and parks. The Federal Government does not respond to bushfires. It owns not a single fire truck or employs a single firefighter. It is not responsible for funding state fire fighting or emergency services and has no input into firefighting strategy (i.e. water bombers versus on the ground fire fighters). The Federal Government is also not responsible for planning law. It has no say in defining bushfire prone areas, deciding whether populations should continue to be built up in such areas, and if so what building and land regulations should apply.

    And if the Federal government did take over and micromanage every aspect of bushfire-fighting, and did much more stringent back-burning and clearing of undergrowth, dead wood, etc., and unlocked national parks, it would still come under fierce attack from the left and the Twitter mob.

    It’s a case of “heads, I win, tails, you lose!” for the left and the baying mob.

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