Page 3655 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 26 August 2009

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Let me give some context so that people can understand. For instance, the index for Canberra on 18 January 2003 was calculated the night before. I will read from the official report:


that is, 18 January—

the forecast fire danger rating for the highlands is 62—

which puts it in the extreme—

lowland forest, 58—

which puts it in the extreme—

and grasslands, 40.

which puts it in the very high. What you have is a very clear indication that days with these very indexes are very dangerous. In Victoria on 7 February this year, it was extreme. Some reports I have read had numbers of a fire danger index of 180 and above. I have not been able to secure what exactly it was.

But as my bill sets out, this index as a warning shall be issued throughout the year, both during the official bushfire season and, as we know now, with such warm weather and bushfires currently burning in Queensland, at any other relevant times. They will be issued automatically. The index dictates when the warning is given. Moreover, at times when there is a significantly increased risk of a major bushfire and the index is revised during the day, the latest readings shall be promulgated.

The use of the fire danger index then provides the basis for preparing warnings of likely events with respect to a bushfire. If the index exceeds a prescribed level, certain actions will be required. I have proposed a threshold fire danger index of 25, that is, to start warnings when the very high index is reached. If the index is forecast to be below 25, no warnings shall be issued. If the index is forecast to be 25 or greater, an appropriate bushfire warning is to be prepared and promulgated.

All categories of warnings are created in the bill. The first is a general warning, and this is in the very high fire danger index range of 25 to 49. We then have three levels in the extreme range: extreme 1, which is a fire danger index of 50 to 74; extreme 2, a fire danger index of 75 to 99; and extreme 3, a fire index of 100 or higher. Current research indicates that, where the index of 75 is exceeded, the danger becomes acute, often leading to the loss of life and property.

The reason for selecting the threshold of 25 is twofold. Firstly, it incorporates the best knowledge that people or experts in this field have been able to provide. Secondly, it draws on research into the pattern of different types of days that have been experienced across the ACT and, indeed, surrounding New South Wales over the past 50 years. I do not expect many warnings to be given each fire season.

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