The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Emergency Services. Will the Minister update honourable members on national bushfire management initiatives?
The Hon. TONY KELLY: I am pleased to be able to inform the House that this State's bushfire management has been supported, and indeed vindicated, by the Council of Australian Government [COAG] report into national bushfire mitigation and management. The COAG report, released last month by the Prime Minister, endorsed New South Wales' multipronged approach to bushfire management. The COAG inquiry was launched by the Prime Minister following the 2002-03 bushfire season. During that season more than 54 million hectares of land across the nation were burned. The report was compiled after months of detailed examination by a panel of scientists and bushfire and land management experts from throughout Australia. New South Wales made a significant contribution to the process, including providing a full-time staff member to the panel.
COAG has now decided that the augmented Australasian Police Ministers Council will have a lead role in co-ordinating and monitoring the implementation of the report's recommendations. This will be discussed at the council's forthcoming meeting on Friday week. As we have said for many years—and this report acknowledges it—bushfire prevention and management is a complex issue that must encompass a range of difficult policies and practices by public and private landowners and managers. It is not simply about a scorched earth approach to hazard reduction. I am not disputing that hazard reduction is a useful tool in helping reduce the intensity of fires under moderate conditions, but, as the report says, fuel reduction burning should not be seen as a panacea.
I particularly welcome the report's recommendation that COAG adopt a statement of national principles for bushfire mitigation and management. One of these key principles is that firefighter and community safety should be at the forefront of bushfire decisions, and personal safety must be the greatest concern. The safety of our firefighters is paramount. This Government makes no apology for putting the lives of our firefighters first and foremost. We will not return to the days when too many firefighters lost their lives, as would be the case if a number of potentially dangerous recommendations of the so-called Mann inquiry were adopted.
The COAG report's recommendation of the implementation of a single-incident control system for managing multiagency operations reflects the New South Wales model. One of the greatest benefits of the new Rural Fire Service operational headquarters is the improved capacity it provides for co-ordinated operations, involving all the essential fire and land management agencies, to better support our firefighters on the ground. This COAG report is a constructive review that will result in a series of practical, far-reaching and effective recommendations to assist all fire agencies and those responsible for land management in the challenging and complex task of preventing and fighting bushfires. I commend all those involved in its production.
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I suggest that if honourable members have further questions, they place them on notice.