Who will help you when the house is on fire?

There’s a lot of misinformation spreading on social media about the Australian bushfires. One is that the Green party is to blame for preventing backburning and hazard reduction. This is false. You can read their policy on backburning here.

The Australian Greens support hazard reduction burns and backburning to reduce the impact of bushfires when guided by the best scientific, ecological and emergency service expertise.

The NSW Royal Fire Service Commissioner says the biggest barrier to performing hazard reduction burning is the shrinking window of opportunity during which the burning can be done safely. He also mentions lack of resources.

Also getting the blame for the bushfires by the right-wing media are arsonists. But the reporting is very misleading. The Australian (I deliberately won’t link to it) reported that “More than 180 alleged arsonists have been arrested …”. Originally the story continued with “since the start of the bushfire season” but this was false and they have changed it to “since the start of 2019”. However, it’s still very misleading because the 180 include people who may have conducted unauthorized hazard reduction on their properties or who lit campfires that got out of control.

The misleading information goes both ways with a photoshopped image of a girl holding a koala also doing the rounds, along with a couple of others.

If you see a false story on Facebook or Twitter you can report it.



Facebook and Twitter can, of course, ignore the report but the more people who report something as misleading the less likely they are to ignore it.

What is true is that many people have warned of exactly something like this happening. In April 2019, 20 former fire chiefs warned of a growing bushfire threat for Australia and a lack of preparedness. Twelve years ago the economist, Ross Garnaut, warned of horror bushfires in a climate-changed hotter dryer Australia.  He says,

“It’s one of sadness, that I was ineffective. Having been given the opportunity to talk to Australians on this issue, that I was ineffective in persuading Australians that it was in our national interest to play a positive role in a global effort to mitigate the effects of climate change,” he said.

The notorious inaction on climate change by the Australian conservative government for the past two decades goes beyond just climate policy. In 2017, the Australian government rejected calls for more water-bombing planes. Incidentally Ben has a cousin who flies one of these planes over bushfires in Australia. Apparently, it’s a very tricky task because the flight speed and aircraft angle need to be very precise when the water is being dumped otherwise the plane will crash.

The donations now flooding into Australia from all over the world are truly heart-warming. Our family donated to WIRES and my employer is going to match donate every donation we have all made. However, I can’t help wondering why people on the other side of the planet are funding supplies for the Australian fire service? Shouldn’t the government be funding them? I read something today which I feel is very apt.

“In moments of national disaster the flaws of modern right-wing governments become stark: try telling bushfire victims that you believe in lower government spending, fewer services and individual responsibility. “

From A National Disaster.

I for one am quite happy to pay tax to fund things like schools, hospitals, police, infrastructure, and fire services. Indeed we pay a slightly higher tax rate in Scotland and I don’t mind this at all. I would never vote to pay less tax and risk losing these important services on which we all depend.

Do the Scott Morrisons of the world really expect volunteers to spend their Christmas and New Year fighting fires for no pay? I’m sure they’d rather be relaxing by the beach and taking selfies in Hawaii. To all the people who vote for tax cuts – who do you expect to come and help you when your house is on fire?