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Burnoffs more important than cutting emissions: Morrison

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

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Faced with the prospect of hotter and drier fire seasons as a result of climate change, Morrison believes the focus should be on minimising fuel loads.

“Hazard reduction is as important as emissions reduction,” the prime minister told Sky News on Tuesday.

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

The boss of the NSW Rural Fire Service has previously said hazard reduction is important but not a panacea for bushfire risk and has “very little effect at all” on the spread of fire in severe or extreme weather.

Morrison said the government was considering a way to name and shame states which don’t complete required hazard reduction burns.

He 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.

“We report all the time on what our emissions reductions are, but across the country there is not a national system of reporting to track how hazard reduction is progressing,” he said.

“There’s been plenty of chat around emissions reduction and that’s fine, hazard reduction though is the thing that is going to take a more practical effect on how safe people are in future fire seasons.”

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.

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.

While a royal commission would also look at when the federal government could step in with the defence force during natural disasters, the prime minister praised state efforts.

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

The prime minister 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.

-AAP

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