Hazard burns beat emissions for fires: PM

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says hazard reduction is the solution to preventing bushfires.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says hazard reduction is the solution to preventing bushfires.

Scott Morrison has argued hazard reduction burns could be more important than cutting carbon emissions in Australia's fight against bushfires.

But the Climate Council and federal opposition say the prime minister is trying to distract from the government's inaction on climate change.

"Hazard reduction is as important as emissions reduction," Mr Morrison told Sky News.

"Many would argue even more so, because it has a direct practical impact on the safety of a person going into a bushfire season."

Former fire chief Greg Mullins, speaking on behalf of the Climate Council, says hotter temperatures and drier conditions driven by global warming are the root cause of the bushfires.

"It is a dangerous distraction to suggest otherwise," he said on Wednesday.

The current boss of the NSW Rural Fire Service agrees hazard reduction burns are important but says they are not a panacea for bushfire risk.

Shane Fitzgibbon says the practice has "very little effect at all" on the spread of fire in severe weather.

The federal government is considering a way to name and shame states which don't complete required hazard reduction burns.

Mr Morrison has flagged new national standards for meeting hazard reduction targets, along with a review of land-clearing laws, native vegetation rules and allowing grazing in national parks.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese says more resources are needed so hazard reduction burns can be adequately carried out, because longer bushfire seasons means more resources have gone towards fighting fires.

"(The prime minister) is really trying to distract from the government's inaction when it comes to climate change and emissions. Everyone agrees that hazard reduction is important," he told Adelaide's 5AA radio.

As Australians attempt to recover from the bushfire crisis, the government is also keen to make sure insurers do the right thing.

"Get on with the job. These are people's lives and livelihoods you're playing with. Forget about the dollar just for a moment," Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud told reporters in Eden.

Meanwhile, Australians now have until March 31 to make a submission to a parliamentary probe looking into the intensity and frequency of bushfires.

The inquiry was launched in December and is delving into issues including vegetation and land management laws.

Mr Morrison also wants those issues to form part of a proposed royal commission into the extended fire season, in which almost 30 people have died and thousands of homes destroyed.

He wants the inquiry to run for no more than six months so its recommendations are handed down before the next fire season.

State laws around land-clearing, native vegetation and grazing in national parks would also form part of the review.

Mr Morrison is preparing a cabinet submission for a royal commission into the bushfire season considering emissions reduction, adaptation and resilience measures.

The states would have to agree to the inquiry.

Australian Associated Press