Greens about-face on Tasmania safety burn-offsRichard Treadgold | January 9, 2013
Australia endures regular bushfires. They destroy property and kill people and wildlife, but they’re necessary for the survival of various plants and trees.
The most important tool in managing bushfires to help ensure they don’t become monster conflagrations is controlled burnoffs in the cooler months — it’s really the only tool, since burning is the only practical way to destroy undergrowth and dead timber. That way, when the fires arise in the hot season they are not so large and damaging.
Burnoffs have a fascinating history. They’ve been practised since Europeans arrived in Australia, and of course the Aborigines, who started the burnoffs thousands of years ago, taught them how to do it. Since then the application of Western science has improved our understanding of the bush.
This week, on the Tasmanian Greens web site, in response to “a few queries about the Greens’ policy on fuel reduction burns,” somebody signing himself “Greens staff” claimed that the Party supports “fuel reduction burns as a vital tool in protecting lives and property in all land tenures including National Parks.”
But it’s only two years ago that they wanted to shut them down.
In March 2011, Paul ‘Basil’ O’Halloran MP, Greens Health spokesperson, issued a press release — in the Green Party’s name — wanting to stop regular forest safety burns on “environmental” and health grounds.
He lambasted “burn-off practice as outdated, old-school and not in line with appropriate practice today.”
“Tasmania’s beautiful autumn days are blighted by the dense smoke plumes blocking out the sun and choking our air.”
“This is an unacceptable situation. It compromises Tasmanians’ health, our environment, and is an insult to common-sense.”
He doesn’t mention old-growth forests nor incineration of forest waste following tree felling, making it clear he’s talking only about annual fuel-reduction burns.
“We also want to see an end to these burns, and are calling on the Minister to consult with the community to establish a date by which this polluting practice will end once and for all.”
“It is also concerning [sic] at the impact these burns have on Tasmania’s biodiversity and threatened species such as the Tasmanian Devil, burrowing and freshwater crayfish, and a myriad of other plant and animal species.”
How about the human species, Basil, and their hard-won assets? But no:
The Tasmanian Greens today said that the Parliament needs to commission an independent study into the total social, environmental and economic costs of forestry burns, as they continue to emit pollutants into the air causing distress to the many Tasmanians suffering from respiratory complaints, and also impacting on Tasmania’s clean, green and clever brand.
The Greens must quickly clarify their position on fuel-reduction burns and either deal with Basil O’Halloran’s treachery towards the victims of the fires or confirm it.
h/t Bob D