Three lives have been lost, more than 150 structures destroyed and more than 20,000 people evacuated as bushfires torched eastern Australian states, particularly New South Wales and Queensland.

New South Wales Fire and Rescue announced that catastrophic fire danger and very dangerous fire conditions existed today (13 November 2019) in Sydney, Hunter and the Illawarra/Shoalhaven areas. According to the Government of New South Wales, this is the first time since new fire danger ratings were introduced that catastrophic fire danger has been forecast for Sydney, Australia’s largest city.

As of 6.45am (AEDT) on 13 November 2019, NSW Fire and Rescue were dealing with at least 107 fire incidents. Among the largest fires still listed as out of control are two of over 200,000 hectares in Willi Willi and Carrai Creek respectively. A total of 75 fires are currently listed by NSW Fire and Rescue as being out-of-control. The fire service advised people to avoid bush fire prone areas, and to find safe locations if they are unable to leave their homes.

Three lives have been lost and more than 150 structures destroyed in New South Wales, according to Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

In Queensland, a state of emergency has also been called as Queensland Fire and Emergency Services sought to deal with 63 incidents.

In a press release issued on 7 November 2019 that anticipated the present spike in fire activity, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Acting Commissioner Mike Wassing asked residents of Queensland to prepare:

“Fires that start under these weather conditions can be very fast-moving and extremely difficult for firefighters to contain,” he said.

“That is why people must have a Bushfire Survival Plan, be mindful of local conditions if travelling and know what to do in an emergency.

“Practical steps people can take include identifying the routes they will take if they need to evacuate, where they plan to evacuate to and ensuring their emergency kits are stocked and current.

Senate Debates

On 11 November, Senator Cormann, Minister for Finance and Leader of the Government in Senate announced that more than 1,300 firefighters and support personnel, along with 78 aircraft, were battling the fires.

He gave details of a non-means-tested payout and an income support payment for families affected by the blaze.

We’re also providing additional financial assistance through the Australian government disaster recovery payment. This is a non-means-tested payment of $1,000 for eligible adults and $400 for children. It is available to those whose homes have been lost or directly damaged, who have been seriously injured or who have an immediate family member who has lost their life. The payment has been activated for the local government areas of Armidale, Clarence Valley, Glen Innes Severn, Kempsey, Mid-Coast, Nambucca, Port Macquarie-Hastings, Richmond Valley, Tenterfield and Walcha.

Senator Hanson-Jones, in addition to discussing climate change, pointed to the lack of equipment for the the state firefighting services in New South Wales, a picture that was contested by the Government.

One of the key issues that [Greg] Mullins and fire experts have warned about and wanted to discuss with the Prime Minister was the lack of aircraft for fighting fires here in Australia. He said:

The Erickson sky cranes, the Elvis helicopters, 737s with 15,000 litres, C130 Hercules with 15,000 litres. We don’t have them in Australia …

He was saying this as he was reflecting on what it was taking to battle the fires in California. It is a major problem that the seasons in Australia and California are now overlapping. The same equipment, the same aircraft, are going to be busy on totally opposite sides of the planet. Mr Mullins, speaking of those in California, said that, for one fire service—one fire service—they had 23 fixed-wing water bombers, and here in New South Wales we have only one.

Senator Roberts of Queensland kicked back against what he views as the anti-farmer agenda being pushed by the Greens and the corporatism underlying contemporary environmentalism.

Our farmers are doing much more than just saving Australians from starvation and the weather; they are saving our wildlife as well, and yet all we hear is that farmers are causing climate change, which in turn has caused the terrible fires. That is false. Farmers are now being blamed for fires, yet they’re the ones who want to have fire breaks, fire trails, vegetation thinning and back-burning. They know how to prevent fires and how to manage and minimise the fuel load. Farmers don’t cause fires; farmers prevent fires. I say to the people promoting the nonsense that farmers control fires: how dare you, because it is false. […]

Water has ceased to be an input to production and has now become an input to politics. Water is being used to send small, medium and family farms to the wall. This is corporatism masquerading as environmentalism. The ‘useful idiots’, the Greens, are being used by corporate agriculture and the United Nations to wipe out the competition, steal property rights and control every business input. We could name farmer after farmer who has been devastated by rampant regulations driven by political environmentalism. Political environmentalism is not making the world a better place; it is making the world cold, hungry and miserable.

On 12 November, the Minister of Defense gave details of the military response to the bushfires, and announced that the Government is considering calling up reservists.

Further prognosis on the state of the fires was given by Senator McKenzie, the Minister of Agriculture, who raised the further threat to already parched landscapes posed by dry lightning.

As of 1.00 pm today, all fires nationwide are burning at the watch-and-act level or below. Catastrophic fire danger conditions are forecast for parts of New South Wales today, including the Greater Hunter, Greater Sydney and Illawarra-Shoalhaven. This is the first time, since the new fire-danger ratings were introduced in 2009, that catastrophic fire danger has been forecast for Sydney. Very high to severe fire dangers continue on Wednesday the 13th over north-east New South Wales and South-East Queensland, with a risk of dry lightning exacerbating the danger. As the south-westerly change moves through South-East Queensland, severe fire dangers are forecast for South-East Queensland and the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales. Very high fire dangers are forecast elsewhere over central and north-east New South Wales. Unfortunately, no rainfall is expected for the north-east of New South Wales and South-East Queensland over the next seven days.

Senate debates are scheduled to continue on 13 and 14 November 2019.

Picture: Air operations taken during the Peregian fires on the 10th September 2019. (c) Queensland Fire and Rescue Services.

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