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Call for bushfires summit as Morrison Govt "missing in action"

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A coalition of former fire chiefs say they’re prepared take matters into their own hands if the federal government doesn’t act to address Australia’s bushfire crisis and its link to climate change.

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Emergency Leaders for Climate Action – a coalition that’s now grown to include 29 former emergency services bosses – is calling for a national summit to fill the “leadership vacuum” left by the Morrison government.

Former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins says the group is prepared to act if the federal government doesn’t.

“I hope the prime minister will suddenly show some national leadership and say ‘Yes, I get it and I can see it and we’ll get people together to deal with the crisis’,” he told AAP.

“But I don’t see any suggestion that’s going to happen. They really are missing in action.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced $11 million for aerial firefighting.

Mullins argues the government was “embarrassed” into providing that funding.

“My major concern with the policy response from Canberra is they have resisted extra funding requests, initially resisted the use of the military, and they were embarrassed into doing those things.”

Emergency Leaders for Climate Action wants a national emergency summit to be held at the end of the current bushfire season.

The group says the prime minister and Labor leader Anthony Albanese should be involved.

Former ACT Emergency Services Authority commissioner Peter Dunn says climate change is contributing to massive droughts and extreme weather events.

“The fires in those circumstances will be difficult to control,” he told AAP.

“The thing that comes through all the time is we need to coordinate at a national level new methods of firefighting.

“Business as usual doesn’t work and we need a roundtable to get that sort of thinking with all agencies involved.”

Almost 2000 firefighters were battling more than 100 blazes across NSW on Monday while bushfires also raged in Queensland and Western Australia.

Medical groups on Monday said smoke pollution from the bushfires was a public health emergency that the prime minister and NSW premier could not ignore.

Former Tasmania Fire Service chief Mike Brown says there needs to be a fresh national approach to bushfire management “across the board”.

“Fires don’t recognise state boundaries. We need services to be able to adapt to this new normal,” he told AAP.

“We are seeing major losses at the moment and we are only a week into summer. There’s some urgency about this.”

-AAP

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