Friday, January 11th 2013, 6:04 PM EST
WHEN Julia Gillard toured fire ravaged parts of Tasmania on Monday she couldn't resist opportunism - using the calamity to push a climate change agenda.
"As a result of climate change we are going to see more extreme weather events," she said.
But the fact is Australia gets hot in summer - sometimes very hot - and if there is fuel on the ground it will burn. The more fuel, the wilder the fire.
Tasmania is a petri dish, demonstrating the consequences of green ideology run rampant. No jobs, the forestry industry on its knees, and bushfires feasting on fuel built up over two mild fire seasons. Yet, instead of facing up to their errors, the Greens conveniently blame climate change. They pretend imposing a carbon tax or destroying the coal industry will prevent bushfires, while reducing the actual fuel which powers the flames is "futile".
Despite the lessons which should have been learned in Victoria in 2009, the fuel in Tasmania's forests has been allowed to build up because of Green opposition to fuel reduction burns, which they call "outdated, old school" and a "horrible blight".
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The state's largest landholder, the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, last year planned 36 fuel-reduction burns on 10,000ha, according to the Department of Primary industries 2011-12 annual report. That would have been less than 4 per cent of the 2.6 million hectares it manages.
But it only managed to conduct 27 burns on 1927ha - less than 20 per cent of its target. In other words, prescribed burns were conducted on less than 1 per cent of land managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service.
"If I pulled my hair out any more I wouldn't have any," laments Phil Cheney, Australia's foremost expert on bushfire behaviour, now retired from the CSIRO.
"It drives me to total frustration (that) governments are reluctant to spend money on preventative measures. They are great on helicopters flying around because it looks good. But they're better off having a bit more smoke in the sky in autumn."
Cheney says to manage fire you need a scientifically prescribed regimen of strategic light burns in cooler months.
That will reduce fuel loads which in turn reduces the power and intensity of bushfires. Cheney's submission to the Victorian bushfires royal commission advocated strategic burning of 10 per cent of public land annually. The commission recommended an "annual rolling target of 5 per cent minimum of public land" - better than nothing.
Forestry Tasmania and timber company Gunns used to carefully manage their bits of forest and ensure fuel loads were kept at reasonable levels in order to protect their investment. When fires inevitably broke out their logging contractors had the equipment, know-how, and manpower to lay firebreaks and control the flames.
But the two organisations have been virtually destroyed by Greens determined to lock up forest as wilderness, ironically, all the better for total destruction by bushfire.
Forestry Tasmania has been under fierce attack from Tasmania's Labor-Greens Coalition government, which plans to split it in two and bring it under the control of the Environment Department.
This victory for the Greens led to the resignation of Forestry Tasmania senior executive Ken Jeffreys last year after he sent a fiery email to staff saying the government planned "a public execution for Forestry Tasmania".
Gunns, once one of the best performing companies in Australia, has suffered an even worse fate, entering into voluntary administration in September after a relentless campaign of eco-terrorism and greenmail that led institutional investors to dump the shares - and Japanese customers to flee Tasmania.
It's been a complete victory for the Greens. Last year's Tasmanian forestry "peace deal" was effectively their final triumph, and leaves in doubt the future of 200,000ha of plantation timber, most of which was owned by Gunns, which used to manage fire and pests in the forests.
Ironically, as timber families are forced out of work, their bulldozers and excavators, which are so crucial to building firebreaks to contain and control bushfire, are being repossessed or sold - and Forestry Tasmania has none of its own.
"You can fly around all you like in these helicopters, which lay a drop (of water) and go away," says Cheney.
"But after a point, a bulldozer is about the only effective way to contain fires."
In the end, the Tasmanian bushfires are a metaphor for the Green philosophy.
Misguided virtue, carried out with ruthless disregard for fairness, property rights or human consequences, leads to a totalitarian mindset in which the original goals are abandoned. Saving trees? Nah. More trees and wombats have been destroyed in the past week in Tasmania than ever were turned into floorboards for Tokyo.
It was all about destroying Gunns, and seizing political power. Well, congratulations Tasmania. Your Greens have delivered blackened graveyards where proud forests once stood.
for Miranda Devine 2GB Radio Interview "Backburning"