Australia launches inquiry into bushfires

Source:AFP Published: 2020/2/20 17:53:41

A koala named Rose from Thrumster recovers from burns at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, Australia on November 29, 2019. Photo: VCG

Australia set up a national inquiry Thursday into its five-month bushfire crisis that affected three in four Australians and prompted widespread criticism of the government for its sluggish response to the blazes.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the vast scale of the fires - which killed more than 30 people and destroyed thousands of homes - required a new response from the bushfire-prone nation.

The Royal Commission inquiry will be tasked with finding ways to improve Australia's preparedness, resilience and response to natural disasters.

Morrison said it would also be asked to consider establishing new powers for the federal government to declare a national state of emergency.

The conservative leader, who was criticized for his sluggish reaction to the crisis, has defended his actions by pointing to regulations requiring states to formally request federal assistance.

He claimed to have operated in a "constitutional grey zone" by deploying thousands of troops and reservists to assist in the bushfire recovery.

Australia has seen dozens of inquests into the causes of bushfires and steps that could be taken to mitigate them, with mixed results. Many measures from the dozens of inquests going back to the 1930s have still not been implemented.

The most recent crisis has sparked calls for Australia's conservative government to take immediate action on climate change, with street protests urging Morrison to reduce the country's reliance on coal.



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