Everyone knows that the main reason the fire seasons are getting longer is because of climate change, even the deniers. The 2008 Garnaut Climate Change Review, which examined the scientific evidence around the impacts of climate change on Australia and its economy, predicted that without adequate action, the nation would face a more frequent and intense fire season by 20201. This is what we are seeing now. The Coalition government are in part to blame because they have denied the reality of climate change for the last decade, ever since Tony Abbott took over the leadership of the then Opposition from Malcolm Turnbull. Remember, it was Tony Abbott who labelled climate science as ‘crap’. The government have also ignored more recent warnings from former fire chiefs about the likelihood that this fire season would be a catastrophic one2.
As a consequence, the government is looking around for someone to blame. It was initially the beetrooter, Barnaby Joyce, who fingered the Greens for preventing hazard reduction. This turned out to be a lie (quelle surprise!), as hazard reduction burns are actually part of Greens policy. The idiot National Party leader Michael McCormack then blamed child arsonists3. In desperation, Murdoch’s The Australian, in the persons of David Ross and Imogen Reid have fanned the flames of this lie (excuse pun), by stating that many alleged arsonists have been arrested since the start of 2019, with 29 blazes deliberately lit in the Shoalhaven region of southeast New South Wales (NSW) between July and September 2019, while the Kempsey Local government area recorded 27 deliberately lit fires, presumably in the same time interval. They then state that 183 people have been arrested for lighting fires across Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania4. This is the lie.
NSW Police have stated that 24 people have been arrested for starting bushfires this season, while 53 people have had legal action taken against them for breaching total fire bans, and 47 have had legal action taken against them for throwing lit cigarettes or matches on vegetated land5.
In Victoria the figure of 43 given is for all of 2019, not just the current fire season. In fact, a Victoria police spokeswoman stated: “There is currently no intelligence to indicate that the fires in East Gippsland and the North East have been caused by arson or any other suspicious behaviour”6.
It was also stated by Ross and Reid that 101 individuals from Queensland who were “picked up for setting fires in the bush”. However, a Queensland police spokeswoman said the figure included a broader range of offences than arson, including the breaching of total fire bans, and was not a total of arrests, but a total of ‘police enforcement actions’. Queensland police said between 10 September and 8 January there had been 1,068 reported bushfires in the state, of which 114 had been deliberately or maliciously lit through human involvement (not necessarily arson) and have been subject to police enforcement action. That is a rate of 10.7%, and is roughly consistent with the 13% proportion of bushfires considered to be certainly deliberately lit, as determined by the Australian Institute of Criminology.
These lies spread by Murdoch ‘ruperters’ at The Australian have been picked up by the halfwit progeny of the Halfwit-in-Chief, Donald Trump, and all sorts of right wing fruitcakes in Australia and around the world. It is no wonder many of the decent journalists, those with some integrity (yes there were a few) are leaving the Murdoch media8. Despite this, there will always be those with little or no integrity who will continue the climate change denialism. We need to make them pay, because they are aiding and abetting perhaps the worst crime against humanity ever committed.
- Ross, D. & Reid, I., 2020. Bushfires: Firebugs fuelling crisis as national arson arrest toll hits 183. The Australian, January 8