Focus of bushfire probe will get states offside

HAZARD reduction will be the focus of a national royal commission into bushfires in a move set to rankle the states.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected today to reveal the terms of reference for a wide-ranging inquiry, that will apply a blowtorch to how states prioritise backburning and vegetation management.

The terms of reference into the swift probe, which will be finalised by the end of August, acknowledges the causes of climate change but ensures recommendations will provide a road map on how to ensure states co-ordinate hazard reduction and vegetation management.

Royal Commission head and former defence force chief Mark Binskin is expected to also be asked to provide clear guidance on when a national disaster should automatically trigger ADF intervention.

It is expected Mr Binskin will be assisted by two others, who will be revealed today.

Mr Morrison wrote to the states this month for feedback on the terms of reference.

It is not the first time Queensland federal MPs have raised serious questions about the State Government's role in hazard reduction.

During devastating fires in the state in 2018, the Queensland Government was blasted for failing to provide permits in time for backburning.

Victoria and NSW have already announced their own state-based probes, meaning there will be three inquiries running at the same time.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has questioned what a national inquiry would look into but Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said she was not against the plan of a national inquiry.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the opening of the new Australian Space Agency in Adelaide yesterday. Picture: David Mariuz/AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the opening of the new Australian Space Agency in Adelaide yesterday. Picture: David Mariuz/AAP


"We're happy to assist in any conversation about long term management of bushfires," Ms Palaszczuk said in January.

"Queensland has more experience than any other state at dealing with natural disasters and we're keen to share what we've learned, and a good opportunity might be the next meeting of COAG (in March).

"We're not against the idea. The time for bitterness and name-calling and finger-pointing is well past us."

Some states privately want to lay blame on the Federal Government for what they believe is a failure to act on climate change.

One senior member of the Morrison Government told The Courier-Mail, "are they seriously suggesting a carbon tax would have prevented these bushfires?"

It comes as federal Industry Minister Karen Andrews said yesterday space innovation could help fight fires.

"We'll be looking at how we can harness all of the technology to make sure that we are better prepared for the next bushfire season.

"We'll be looking at Earth observations.

"We'll be looking at what our terrain is showing.

"There are so many fabulous things out there that are part of space and we intend to capture each and every one of those of amazing things."