#bushfires

Already at the back of the discount rack

Former Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull’s memoirs are already on sale less than a week after the hyped launch. Retailer Big W has cut the price from $55 to $29. Booktopia has cut prices too. And Dymocks. And QBD Books. And Amazon.

If Turnbull wanted to leave a legacy of a true statesman he honestly believes he is, he wouldn’t have resorted to documenting slanderous affairs between Tony Abbott and his senior staffer Peta Credlin or accused so many of his supposed close confidants of treachery that ultimately led to his downfall. Had he truly carried all of the hallmarks of the leader he aspired to be and trumpeted he was, the party would have united behind him and the inner factions would have displayed unwavering loyalty. Period. The fact that they didn’t is a reflection on him, not them.

Sadly it was all about Malcolm.

It was no longer called the Coalition which was founded in 1923. He rebranded it the ‘The Turnbull Coalition Team‘.

He was the only conservative party leader we can think of in any country who avoided conservative media platforms like the plague. Instead, he bathed in the adoration of the left-wing mainstream press including The Guardian and ABC where he got overwhelmingly favourable coverage.

A true leader should have been able to comfortably dismantle the flawed arguments held by lunatic ‘Murdoch’ media stooges to their faces and in the process defined the desirable qualities of strength and character to the public. He didn’t. Instead, Turnbull just blamed them for being mean to him.

The CEO of any business knows the top job carries awesome responsibilities before taking it on but are also aware that leadership defines them, especially during crises. Turnbull’s leadership style defined him. Dumped by his party twice for not showing it.

Turnbull lacked judgement. He signed a refugee deal with Obama, weeks before Trump was due to take office. Hardly a great way to start a relationship with an incoming president, made worse by making no preparation for his possible victory complicated by the need to call on former Aussie golf professional Greg Norman to get Trump’s number.

His defining legacy will perhaps turn out to be one of the biggest white elephants in Australian history – the now $250 billion submarine contract with the French. His thought bubble on giving income taxing powers from the federal government to the states before quickly walking back those comments. The Snowy Hydro 2.0 joke. Weighing in on the bushfire crisis to score shots on the man that took his job.

Turnbull had the assistance of his progeny to abuse his enemies on Twitter. FNF Media was even blocked by his son Alex, which we wear as a badge of honour.

In the success camp, Turnbull secured exemptions from US steel tariffs. He can also lay claim to the introduction of same-sex marriage legislation.  And saying no to the UNHCR which wanted to conduct a special investigation of Israel.

In closing, Turnbull’s TV interview on ABC’s 730 Report this week only added proof to why he no longer occupies The Lodge.

Time to stop the world’s biggest welfare cheat

WHO are you

Being a welfare cheat is not a bad way to describe the United Nations.

In 2000, twenty-nine UN agencies employed a total of 48,500 staff. Scroll forward to the latest figures in 2018 and that has blown out to near as makes no difference, 110,000 across 38 distinct agencies. In 20 years time, one imagines the UN will be aiming to be twice the size with a whole new raft of agencies seeking new funding.

What the UN tends to do is conceive new agencies within its womb and then give birth to them leaving them to make their own way, generally by “small” under the radar voluntary payments under “trust” which grow exponentially over time. To its credit, the UN nails bureaucracy.

The more puzzling question is how can our governments be so blind as to keep encouraging this welfare cheat to claim more benefits for its ever extended family? What is the return on all that investment?

One should be disturbed at the way the UN lists the voluntary payments made by individual countries as an “honour roll.” That somehow we are not worthy unless we play ball. Cash for access? Not exactly. That all depends on who you are.

Analysing the UN “regular budget” papers reveals that prompt payment is encouraged. Australia just missed out on a podium position as it was the 4th nation to remit its full-year contribution on January 11th, 2019. All US$61 million.

China might have been a bit late to wire its 2019 contribution of US$343.7 million to the UN coffers but it is seen as the future. The United States was conspicuous by its absence from the honour roll board figures despite chipping in US$674.2 million in 2019. Mind you, this excludes all the other voluntary payments made to other UN bodies and peacekeeping units.

Is it any wonder that Trump wants to defund it. Can you name one other charity that treats its #1 philanthropic patron which contributes twice the amount of any other country in aggregate – 24% of the total – with such disdain? It is not as though the US has reduced its generosity over the past two decades. On the contrary. It has grown proportionally.

The World Health Organization (WHO) deserves particular attention. It has grown from 3,672 staff at the turn of the century to 8,153. The USA gifted WHO over $281 million in 2018 or 10% of its total income. In 2000 the US gave $148 million.

What gives? WHO has more than doubled its staff levels. In 2018, it raked in $2.9 billion in income, more than twice that of eighteen years ago. Yet with all these extra resources, it couldn’t provide superior intelligence much less improved outcomes. It reminds us of the Australian fire services during the recent bushfires.

How was it that WHO couldn’t give any sensible or consistent guidance about how the world needed to prepare for coronavirus? Why did it tell us there was no risk of human-to-human contact? Surely if those nations that volunteer 10s if not 100s of millions of dollars for a subscription service had the correct information, borders would have been shut way sooner and the devastation mitigated.

For if WHO had done its own homework in Wuhan, it would never have criticised Trump’s travel ban “on the basis of “unnecessarily interfering with international travel and trade” and “increasing fear and stigma.“, something that was lazily just dug out of the pandemic playbook from 2017. Since when have ever pandemics played to a one size fits all prescription?

Why was WHO blindly parroting whatever came out from Beijing’s propaganda ministry instead of using its $190 million annual travel budget to investigate China’s watered-down claims for itself? Why did it take so long to call a pandemic? One assumes that pandering to its future is the way to keep the gravy train going, even if it unnecessarily costs countless lives.

What do all these surplus to requirement staff across UN bodies actually do for all the extra money lobbed at them?

UNICEF has more than trebled its workforce since 2000. Over 1/3rd of its $6.7bn income in 2018 was spent on “cash assistance.” If cash transfers are the largest expense line, should we just settle for the notion that we need 3x the number of staff to administer it? Most of this cash is distributed to countries that rank amongst the worst in terms of corruption. The audited accounts talk about fraud mitigation strategies. That makes sense when only $438,000 is detected and $15,000 recovered on $2.3 billion of cash assistance. At 0.02% of funds misappropriated, any major bank would blush with performance figures like that.

To get a grasp of how children move onto their own welfare teat, the UNFCCC, aka the climate change cult, had a $99m budget in 2018 to feed 738 mouths. When it was spun out of the parent UN in 2011/2012 it had a $30m budget across 461 staff. For 2020-21, the UNFCCC is looking for $177 million. Within that, $31.2 million is set aside for “complementary activities broadly mandated as beneficial to achieving UNFCCC objectives and goals.” Another $21 million for IT and data. Of course, it requires $36.3 million in “oversight and administration

Governance and oversight have never been a strong suit at the UN. UNAIDS gave us a perfect example of how sacred cows are protected by the parent.

Independent experts concluded that UN AIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé,  had been responsible for creating a toxic environment that promoted “favouritism, preferment and ethical blindness.” Sidibé accepted no responsibility for any sexual harassment, bullying or abuse of power that occurred under his watch.

The investigation started after Sidibé’s deputy was accused of forcibly kissing, groping and trying to drag a colleague into his Bangkok hotel room in 2015.

In a survey of the 670 staff members at the UN agency conducted by independent investigators, 18 admitted they had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the previous year and a further 201 said they were on the wrong end of workplace abuse.

One staff member went on the record saying, “U.N.AIDS is like a predators’ prey ground…You have access to all sorts of people, especially the vulnerable: You can use promises of jobs, contracts and all sorts of opportunities and abuse your power to get whatever you want, especially in terms of sexual favours. I have seen senior colleagues dating local young interns or using U.N.AIDS resources to access sex workers.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who made it clear he had a zero-tolerance policy with regards to sexual harassment when he took office,  refused to fire him. Despite his term ending in January 2020, Sidibé has offered to quit in June 2019 in order to ensure a stable transition period! In what world does a person outed for turning a blind eye to such a poisonous culture get to leave on his own terms?

Perhaps the economic devastation that will result from coronavirus will be the perfect excuse for countries to drastically wind back payments to these UN bodies. There appears overwhelming evidence that more money doesn’t always buy better outcomes much less lift ethical behaviour. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Reality burns – our data always suspected it

As we have suspected by analyzing the data of the fire services, there was always a risk that poor administration was a big factor.

It seems 56% of Aussies polled agree vs 35% who think it is climate change related.

We list our recent reports on the fire services here. The numbers don’t lie. Hopefully the focus in the Royal Commission focus on the following.

Link between bushfires and climate change

Data never seen before compiled on climate change and fire

VIC CFA Budget statistics

NSWRFS Budget Statistics

An extra $1bn spent on fire services end up in smoke?

Senior management of fire services act like a mafia

NPWS hazard reduction data

Time we investigated the fire services personnel

Our next prediction is that the upcoming annual reports of the 8 state fire services will be stuffed full of “climate change” related commentary which was conspicuous by its absence to date.

Nothing to be proud about

Biz Ivest

Flipping through the latest RBA Chart Pack, it is no surprise that business investment keeps sliding off a cliff. As a % of GDP, it has slid from a peak of 18% off the short-term trough of 14% (GFC) to 11%, which now puts it at 1994 levels. It proves the old adage that businesses don’t invest because interest rates are low, they invest because they have confidence in the cycle.

Our government should be looking at this with alarm bells. It doesn’t take too much imagination to work out that political instability has played its part.

Australia was once regarded as the vanguard of political stability in the region which made it a sensible investment choice for domestic and international investors as a place to do business. There was a comfort in knowing that there wouldn’t be revolving door prime ministers and flip flops on policy positions. After all, much business investment takes years to get to the production stage.

The Howard years saw our business investment surge. Sensible fiscal policy was a feature too. While Rudd can be forgiven for GFC causing a slump in business investment it resumed until political instability put the mocker on business confidence.

We have been running deficits ever since and cranking up the national debt (we wrote about it here) because it is clear we don’t have sensible free-market conditions to self sustain direct investment at anywhere the levels we need.

Instead, we kowtow to radical activists who try to stop investment in projects like Adani and conduct illegal secondary boycotts on businesses like Greyhound Australia and Siemens without repercussions.

Whether coal is evil or not is irrelevant. The problem is such activism, which is further supported by ideologically corrupted government environmental departments – that push their own agenda on granting approvals – doesn’t endear domestic industries or foreigners to invest in us. These are dangerous precedents. All of this tokenism when we only need look at the realities of what will happen down the line.

Don’t take our word for it. Even our domestic businesses are leaving.

Thanks to Australia’s ridiculous energy prices, Aussie company Bluescope confirmed the expansion of capacity in Ohio. In Feb 2019, the company CEO said, “much cheaper energy in the United States is a major driver of the company’s preparedness to invest in a $1 billion expansion in Ohio.”

In 2017, Tomago Aluminium reported, “We have to grow to be competitive and to be ahead of the curve, but when the spot price went to $14,000 [per megawatt hour] we had to take that load off. It’s just not sustainable. You can’t smelt at that price. We have had to curtail or modulate the load [on occasions] or we get hammered by the price…We cannot continue to keep paying those prices. We have to find a solution. The prices are crippling”

Aust Manuf.png

Unfortunately, 28 years of unfettered economic expansion has made us complacent. We think this economical miracle has no off-ramp.

None of this is remotely surprising.

Can we honestly say that the impact of higher electricity prices hasn’t been a factor in pushing away investment in engineering and manufacturing? So this mad push for renewables will not alleviate this pressure. Germany is the perfect beta-test crash dummy. It predicted flat prices. They doubled from those forecasts.

GEP.png

Yet our political class is playing with fire.

We never thought Australia was realistically going to have a surplus when it was announced. Secretly there must be a sigh of relief in Treasury that the impacts of the bushfires and coronavirus will provide a convenient scapegoat to miss those targets under the premise of ‘doing the right thing.’  And no that does not mean the government is glad those two catastrophes have happened from a humanistic approach.

We need proper reforms. We need to ditch these notions of political correctness in public policy. We are as unimaginative as many other governments around the world. Living on a low-interest rate fuelled debt bomb. Kicking the can down the road simply does not work. Why aren’t politicians convicting their cases with evidence rather than folding to ideological positions held by fringe dwellers on Twitter?

When we visited Israel on a business delegation in 2018, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu uttered the only 4 words that mattered for investors – “we want your business.” The innovation nation knows what it is good at and is prepared to back it to the hilt.

It would be so nice if our government spent some time in Israel to discover that we have it all wrong. Because we are only storing up a rude awakening. When our economy does suffer from the eventual ramifications of all of that lack of investment, the public will be howling that they can’t pay their mortgages, that they can’t get decent jobs and they can’t keep the lights on. None of that would have been necessary if they had been more open to business.

The ultimate result will be that we’ll put ourselves deeper into debt to fund some monster infrastructure projects that will provide short term relief, not long term solutions.

The foreign investors that could have helped had we treated them in a more dignified fashion will just buy our assets at fire-sale prices instead. Then we’ll have another moment to howl at the moon.

That will be the true price of our complacency. Experience is a hard teacher. You get the test first and the lesson afterwards.

Telstra’s CEO should close down operations to be on the right side of history

Telstra CEO Andy Penn has suggested that climate change will be the “defining challenge” of the decade but proclaims he doesn’t want to be drawn into the government policy debate. 

He has called for “more urgent action on climate as changing weather patterns deliver more frequent bushfires, floods, droughts and storms” at an American Chamber of Commerce lunch yesterday. 

What a pity that the UNIPCC’s March 2018 report on weather extremes (with respect to anthropogenic induced global warming) contradicted Mr Penn:

“…There is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale phenomena such as tornadoes and hail because of data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systemsin some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia. There is limited to medium evidence available to assess climate-driven observed changes in the magnitude and frequency of floods…low confidence for the attribution of any detectable changes in tropical cyclone activity to anthropogenic influences..low confidence in projections of changes in extreme winds.. low confidence in projections of changes in monsoons…low confidence in wave height projections…overall low confidence because of inconsistent projections of drought changes…low confidence in projected future changes in dust storms…low confidence in projections of an anthropogenic effect on phenomena such as shallow landslides.”

Never mind what the scientists ‘actually’ think. Just run the narrative of the activists instead to prevent Extinction Rebellion nutcases from super glueing themselves to the lobby entrance. FNF Media could indulge you on what the scientists actually think of the IPCC. For those interested please see the link here. Spoiler alert – it is exceedingly critical.

Mr Penn said that businesses and individuals should become aware of their carbon footprints. He admitted Telstra is one of the biggest consumers of electricity in the country as data storage needs explode by up to 50% per annum.

If it is such a massive concern, Penn should put Telstra’s shareholder money where its mouth is and charge customers extortionate fees for data storage and data usage such that he can force them to lighten their evil digital-driven carbon footprint. That way he can slow his electricity consumption. Then, Telstra can await all of those woke customers fleeing Vodafone and Optus in droves to sign up for inferior service for more money. Not quite sure what shareholders would think of that…

Even better he could suggest to the board that they close the business for good for the sake of the planet. After all, by going the whole hog he can sleep safe in the knowledge that his kids and grandkids will know he was on the right side of history (the standard alarmist playbook) before we’re swept away by the rising sea levels. Think of all that energy saved.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen this vacuous corporate virtue signalling tokenism before. Who could forget the comments made by Josh Bayliss, the CEO of Virgin Group? He said,

“It’s definitely true that right now every one of us should think hard about whether or not we need to take a flight.”

Why didn’t he close down the airlines in the portfolio? Instead of waiting for his customers to grow a conscience via flight shaming and do the right thing why not force their choice? The obvious answer is that it’s hypocritical in the extreme.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has already positioned behind the flight shaming movement to do its bit for climate change. In a two page flyer, it covered the idea that we reckless passengers must consider our carbon footprint but at the same time help the U.N. raise $40bn in taxes, sorry ‘climate finance,’ between 2021 and 2035.

The Carbon Offsetting & Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is the vehicle which the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) intends to liberate us from our sins and help fund the waste so endemic in the NY based cabal. Wherever the UN is involved expect a sinister agenda behind the virtue.

All airlines have been required to monitor, report and verify their emissions on international flights since Jan 1, 2019. Operators will be required to buy “emissions units” from the UN. If one asked the UN would it prefer emissions to be cut or taxes to be raised, it would select the latter every time.

Still, the easiest way to gauge public fear on climate change is not via a biased think-tank poll but monitor individual consumption patterns. It isn’t just population growth, because it isn’t growing  at these rates. Three examples:

  1. Aircraft demand – In 2019, Boeing reported airlines will need around 44,000 new commercial aircraft worth $6.8 trillion by 2038, vs. 43,000 planes worth $6.49 trillion estimated in 2018. There are currently 25,830 commercial airliners in service.
  2. Smartphones – estimated that the number of global mobile subscriptions could be 13.8 billion in 2025 and 17.1 billion in 2030. The number of global mobile subscriptions has already reached 6.7 billion in 2013. Smartphones will grow from 6.3bn units in 2020 to 12.1 billion by 2030.
  3. Energy Consumption  – the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that world energy consumption will grow by nearly 50% between 2018 and 2050. Energy consumed in the buildings sector (including residential and commercial structures), increases by 65% between 2018 and 2050, from 91 quadrillion to 139 quadrillion Btu. Rising income, urbanization, and increased access to electricity lead to rising demand for energy.

So good luck trying to get people to feel awkward about their individual carbon footprints. They’ll be to busy charging their mobile devices while booking the next overseas holiday to the Maldives.

“Climate change” Casanova

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again.

While the alarmist media continues its attack dog mission on PM Scott Morrison over the bushfires, they overlook the most glaring hole in the argument of the fire chiefs – consistency.

If former FR NSW chief Greg Mullins truly believes that “climate change” is such a critical issue, why was the subject absent for so many years in the annual reports which were submitted to parliament that he oversaw? Surely he had the perfect opportunity to raise awareness year after year on the topic. Yet he didn’t.

Annual reports are like an opus magnum. They document the key opportunities and challenges for an organization. In Mullins’ case, the mention of climate change is conspicuous by its very absence. In the 2018/19 FRNSW annual report there is a reference to climate change by way of voluntary participation in Earth Hour. Hardly a detail oriented study on the effects of bushfires and global warming!

Now that Mullins is in cahoots with the Climate Council, it is very convenient to drum up ‘awareness’ on climate change post the bushfires for a Royal Commission (RC). Forget that 95% of a RC would probably draw on the exact same advice garnered from 57 former enquire since 1939.

Our belief is that incompetence has reigned supreme. Fire department senior management seemed more engaged on ticking the diversity & inclusion box (please see data in the above link) in annual reports than providing rich data on the core business i.e. preventing and extinguishing fires.

That is to take nothing away from the brave fireys who risk their lives on the front line. As some volunteer firefighters have made clear, they think the senior management act like a mafia.

For Mullins to use the get out of jail free card of climate change in any RC by saying it will ‘fail at the first step’ without is ridiculous.

To include it now should highlight the media by years of exclusion when he had the authority and opportunity to do something but didn’t. Why? Will anyone ask this question? Not with our powderpuff mainstream media.

Statistically speaking, to introduce climate change in the 58th review in 81 years would smack of being an outlier. Outliers shouldn’t be ignored but they must be viewed in context of the relatives of intensity, area burned, fuel loads, hazard management, weather conditions, people and machines deployed. It is likely that these fires will be less than one standard deviation off the mean which effectively would conclude that climate change wouldn’t be a driver.

Climate change is now a phrase of convenience tossed around more frequently than Casanova telling girls they are “the only one” on Valentines Day.

Await the arse covering

An interesting report written last year has surfaced which points to woeful mismanagement of the fuel loads in Victoria.

While we continue to applaud the brave efforts of the front line fireys battling these blazes, it is becoming hard to ignore the seeming negligence within the senior administration of the fire services.

We’ve already pointed to the rising fire service budgets and declining numbers of fire fighting equipment deployed. We have highlighted the poor equipment choices made. We have reported on volunteer crews being turned away despite assurances from leaders that “all” help was welcomed. Is it any wonder volunteer numbers have dwindled? We have debunked the myth of the 29 retired fire chiefs bleating about climate change when it has hardly been mentioned at all in the annual reports of the authorities they ran.

The Weekly Times has reported,

Last year ‘The Weekly Times’ attempted to obtain copies of the Fuel-Load Maps for Victoria, showing the Fine-Fuel build up throughout that state from the Victorian Government.

The fine fuels are critical, as according to the ‘Overall Fuel Hazard Assessment Guide’, written by Francis Hines, Kevin Tolhurst and other bushfire experts in 2010 following the Black Saturday fires;

“They (fine fuels) contribute the most to the fire’s rate of spread and flame height. Typically, they are dead plant material, such as leaves, grass, bark and twigs thinner than 6mm thick, and live plant material thinner than 3mm thick, that burn in the continuous flaming zone at the fire’s edge.’’

However, the Victorian Government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning spent months trying to block The Weekly Times’ access to these fuel load maps, repeatedly refusing to release data.

In August last year DELWP staff stated: “The fuel load data is only published to Business Level Data (an internal system)”.

After repeated delays, emails and calls, the DELWP came back almost 12 months later stating;

“This information is not something that DELWP typically provides and the department has some concerns with this information being made publicly accessible”.

Ultimately The Weekly Times lodged a Freedom of Information request for five years of data for the whole state, but cut back the request to one map after DELWP demanded $1294.80 to process the request.

So the rest of the fine-fuel maps remain hidden from the public. I wonder what the maps for the Alpine and Greater Gippsland show.

Back in October, the Vic Opposition emergency services spokesman Brad Battin said the Andrews Government’s “attempt to hide information that has a direct impact on community safety” should concern all who live in high fire-danger areas.

“The only reason the Victorian Labor Government would hide this important data is they have failed to meet their targets to protect Victoria this fire season,” Mr Battin said.

“With levels of fuel at extreme, a predicted dry and hot summer and a reduction in volunteer firefighters we can only say not only has (Premier) Daniel Andrews made you less safe, he now will do anything to hide the truth from you.”

The attempt to hide the maps is a scandal, firstly because the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission’s recommended that the department “specify the characteristics of fire management zones — including burn size, percentage area burnt within the prescribed burn, and residual fuel loading”.

But as it stands DELWP’s Forest Fire Management Victoria division publishes data only on residual risk, which is derived from a computer model, which gives no detail on fuel loads, which were used in the past.

Secondly, the Royal Commission also recommended the “state fund and commit to implementing a long-term program of prescribed burning based on an annual rolling target of 5 per cent minimum of public land”, equal to 385,000ha annually.

But the Victorian Government abandoned hectare-based targets in 2015, opting for a ‘computer modelled measure of residual risk’ – a model has been roundly condemned by Australia’s leading bushfire scientists.

The Weekly Times has previously reported the former head of CSIRO’s bushfire research unit Phil Cheney has branded residual risk a “load of bulls—”, arguing “fuel load is the only thing that matters”.

Using the Royal Commission’s target of a minimum of 390,000Ha of annual hazard reduction burns across Victoria, the actual planned burnt areas were;

2018-19 : 130,000 Deficit- 260,000

2017-18: 74,728 Deficit- 315,272

2016-17 : 125,052 Deficit- 264,948

2015-16 : 197,940 Deficit- 192,060

That’s a cumulative deficit over the last 4 years under the Victorian Labor government of over one million hectares of land.

Having allowed this massive build up of highly combustible leaves, bark and twigs to new extreme levels – no wonder the green zealots are busy trying to create a distraction claiming ‘’climate change did it’’

As a rule of thumb, the louder someone screams ‘’climate change did it’’ and more they use the strawman argument about ‘’climate change deniers’’ as a distraction- you can bet the more guilty they are for allowing the ‘unprecedented’ build-up of fine fuels in our national parks.”

FNF Media strongly believes that information garnered by taxpayer funding have zero rights to withhold information much less charge for it.

This news piece rates up there with BoM refusing to disclose the methodology which it uses to record data. If it is the gold standard surely there should be nothing to hide and more importantly, something to boast about and sell to the world.

Perhaps ASX listed companies should protest and demand that ASIC allow them to audit their own books. After all “trust us” seems to work for government agencies.

No sacred cows please.

NSW Rural Fire Service statistics – where your tax dollars go

NSWRFS Budget.png

The media has been quick to pick on the calls for our government to spend more on our fire services. We thought it a good idea to look at the facts gleaned from the annual reports of the NSW RFS, available here. We will go through state by state in the coming days and look at the totals to work out where our money has gone. What you are about to read may surprise you.

The first chart denotes the NSW RFS budget. The 2018-19 budget was $554mn, up from $311mn 5 years prior, or a 78% increase. One would expect that money would be spent on shiny new toys to help fight fires.

NSWRFS FT.png

As we can see, the number of fire trucks in service has trended down. From a peak of 4,385 in 2014/15 to 3,883 in 2018/19 or down 11%. There could be an argument made for replacements to more efficient equipment but in order to put out blazes, sheer numbers should help

NSWRFS WP.png

Water Pumper numbers have fallen from 71 to 63, or -11%. Water carriers have fallen from a peak of 64 to 53, or -17%.

NSWRFS WC.png

When looking at the number of grass or bushfires that were dealt with the trend looks as follows.

NSWRFS Bushfires

When assessing controlled burns, the total area in hectares by year that was conducted is as follows.

NSWRFS CB.png

However, when dividing by the number of controlled burns conducted by year, we see that the average slid from 259ha per burn to 74ha. This is not proof of efficacy.

NSWRFS CB PC.png

How has the trend of the brave and selfless volunteers at the NSW RFS progressed?

RFS Voluntee.png

Employed staff at the NSW RFS has increased from 846 in 2012/13 to 936 in 2018/19.

NSW RFS FT Emp.png

With that, average salaries have crept up from $114,285 in 2012/13 to $131,908 in the latest filing. In no way is FNF Media casting aspersions on the value of those full-time employees.

NSWRFS FTE Salary Avg.png

Although the growth in the Chief Commissioner’s total remuneration has grown from $292,450 in 2012/13 to $439,015 in 2018/19 or a 50% increase over that period.

NSW RFS CC Salary.png

Running the RFS is no simple task. Hiring good people to run the operation shouldn’t be done on the cheap.

The reason FNF Media has suggested that the fire services need a thorough audit is to work out whether tax dollars are being spent wisely. Since 2012/13, $2.75bn has been spent on the NSW RFS. Are we right to question why a rising budget has led to a drift in equipment and a fall-off in volunteers? Can we link the reduced average burns in some way to the very high level of fuel loads that many volunteers have pointed to within all of the current political grandstanding of chucking more money at the problem instead of evaluating the efficacy of that spend?

Because to look at the data on a stand-alone basis, it would seem that the ball has been dropped somewhere. It doesn’t seem plausible that firefighters can be short of vital equipment when there was a $140mn extra spent last year. Only $15m went on extra salaries. Stands to reason that there might be a problem within the decision making processes in the senior management echelons of the fire service that warrants closer inspection.

That is a job for you Gladys Berejklian

Time we investigated and audited the fire services’ senior personnel

Trust The Guardian to publish a piece from Michael Mann, of hockey stick fame, to dish a sermon on the connection of bushfires with climate change as he prepares his studies in Australia. Perhaps he can cut his trip short by first paying a visit to the Australian Institute of Criminology which will tell him that 85% of bushfires are caused by humans – accidentally, suspiciously or deliberately lit. Watch the media wax lyrical about his pontification.

David Marr has also written a puff piece in The Guardian which has nothing to do with bushfires and everything to heap on a conservative prime minister, Scott Morrison to push the climate narrative. There is a reason he is a regular on the ABC Insiders program.

Marr wrote,

We know the sight by heart: corrugated iron on a low pile of ash with a chimney left standing. Another house gone. And the pattern of bushfires is part of our lives too.”

Anyone with a beating heart feels a sense of sorrow at the destruction of 1,000 homes and the tragic loss of nearly two dozen lives, but some perspective is needed.

The 2009 Black Friday bushfires in Victoria saw 173 deaths and over 2,000 homes destroyed.

The Great East-Japan Disaster of 2011 caused the destruction of 374,000 homes and the deaths of over 16,000 people.

Still none of these statistics will help those who have lost loved ones. We need to focus on what caused the problems in the first place. In Iapan’s case Mother Nature was to blame. In much of these recent bushfires, arsonists are to blame. Don’t let that get in the way of the climate change narrative.

Negligence is a big factor. Does this look like a well maintained fire trail to you? The only way you can tell is by the sign marking it.

But don’t let poor forest management get in the way of a climate change agenda, as Marr does here,

One of the duties of a leader is to find the words in times like these. So many have died. So much has been destroyed. But how can Scott Morrison speak to the experience of the country if he can’t admit we are living through unique times? He says instead: “We have faced these disasters before.”

Yes perhaps they are unique times where Marr can honestly believe that reducing our already minuscule emissions is somehow more important to mitigating bushfires than actually removing the aging fuel loads from the floor. Easier to blame ScoMo.

While we can’t sing the praises of the brave men and women fighting the blazes high enough, we must reflect on the upper management within the fire services for some spectacular own goals.

Take the Gullen Range Wind Farm built around Bannister. Despite local RFS officials raising concerns that the erection of these wind turbines would take Crookwell airstrip out of action for fire fighting duties (because the water bomber aircraft would not be able to get sufficient height to clear them), the head honchos overruled them.

We’ve mentioned in earlier posts that the Boeing 737 water bomber is a white elephant because it can only operate out of 4 airstrips, limiting its usefulness outside of political happy snaps to say we have one. Were it perfect for the job, one imagines the extent of the fires would have been less.

So in order to defeat the side effects of supposed climate change, advice from climate alarmists led to the construction of barriers to prevent mitigating them.

The saddest part from the bushfire disaster is that fingers will be pointed incessantly at climate change being the largest factor when human negligence of another kind is actually the problem, including those people entrusted to prevent them in the first place. Not the actual fire fighters but the senior management.

Blaming everything on climate change is the biggest cop out.

FNF Media recommends the key fire service senior management be audited for their actions, practices and communications in the years leading up to this. So much was preventable. There should be no sacred cows. In the aftermath of the disaster, we can take our time to work out the best way to prevent such fires occurring down the line instead of expediting tax payer dollars to buy equipment that might be unfit for purpose.