The federally-registered United Firefighters Union of Australia is calling for the focus to remain on support for bushfire victims and affected communities, professional career firefighters, fire service support personnel and volunteers.
The catastrophic bushfires that have swept across many parts of Australia in recent months, such as NSW, SA, and Victoria, have caused devastating damage and loss.
Despite the devastation that these communities have experienced so far, the bushfire season is far from over and it has been predicted that the worst is yet to come.
Today, several bodies have called for a federal Royal Commission into the bushfires. However, with temperatures set to soar and fire ground conditions predicted to worsen, this call prematurely shifts the focus away from what should remain front and centre at this time: bushfire-affected communities and fire service personnel and volunteers on the fire ground.
Additionally, a Royal Commission should only be called once there is full consultation with the frontline firefighters who have experienced firsthand the firefight and any inadequacies in the current system. Many of those brave and committed people are still inaccessible as they are still deployed fighting fires and unable to be consulted. A Royal Commission should be not be called for unless it is clearly thought out as to Terms of Reference and what parties seek to achieve through this process.
There are significant complexities in establishing a federal Royal Commission that is appropriately empowered to address issues involving states and territories. If these are not addressed, any outcomes cannot bind state governments, where it affects their ability to manage in their own right.
Discussions in relation to an Inquiry should be held in the cold light of day once the fire front and fire season has subsided, as any call for a federal Royal Commission at this stage be extremely premature and potentially distract from the focuses of the frontline firefighting required.