GEPP (Northern Victoria) (20:18): Wow, bipartisanship was left at the door, wasn’t it? The bipartisanship that was on display earlier today has quickly disappeared. It is breathtaking, I have got to say, the arrogance of this motion before the house that somehow seven politicians can sit in judgement again through another inquiry into fire when we have some of the world’s best experts here in this state, who coordinated a magnificent effort over a prolonged period of time to keep Victorians and their properties as safe as we possibly could. It is breathtaking that we have a proposition that somehow people in this chamber would know more than Tony Pearce, would know more than Steve Warrington and would know more than Andrew Crisp and the myriad of people amongst our first responders who led the charge headlong into danger themselves to fight these fires and to protect our community.
But somehow those experts no longer matter. They are a bit irrelevant to it. Why? Because those opposite sniff some sort of political opportunism. There is something opportunistic available through misery. There always is, if you want to find it, and they have gone in search of it. Of course, having been here for a while now, I am not surprised that Mr Davis thinks himself now as the great fire expert in this state. Because heaven knows he lights this place up every day, doesn’t he? Doesn’t he just breathe fire into this place every day? There is nothing that he is not an expert in.
Ms Shing: Humility?
Mr GEPP: Well, I am not sure, Ms Shing, that humility is a word that he can spell, much less understand. I could be wrong, but if he does understand it and he can spell it he certainly does not display it. What is most breathtaking, I think, about this motion before the house is that the system that they now criticise, where we have the inspector-general for emergency management, they put in place. It was their legislation. It was not our legislation. It was their legislation, and because of the seriousness of the issues following the Black Saturday events in 2009 the then opposition gave bipartisan support because we do not guess. We do not think we know everything about every circumstance.
I have worked in the emergency management portfolio; I was the senior adviser for emergency management. I have seen these systems in place, and I have watched in awe as these experts come together in times of serious situations confronting our community—fire, flood, just to name two—and you sit in awe and watch these people go to work. As the senior adviser in emergency services you get to sit at the state emergency control centre and watch as the emergency management commissioner coordinates the efforts of all of our different first responders and all of the people who provide the necessary advice to those experts—the Bureau of Meteorology, for example, and people from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and other parts of the environment portfolio. They all come together. Ambulance Victoria, the SES—they are all in the room. They are all the experts, and what you do not hear is a firefighter question the advice that they are receiving from a meteorologist. They rely on the experts, and when they have the evidence before them, they then act. They put their plans into place and they act, and they respond accordingly with all of the information that they have available.
But it is not politicians and it is not advisers to politicians who then, having listened to that information, make decisions about operational matters. It is left to the experts, and that is where it properly resides. It properly resides with the experts.
I am, quite frankly, amazed at the number of speeches that we hear in this place around fire and the people who profess to be experts. It is extraordinary, and of course it is opportunistic; that is all it is. Because the reality is they will just parrot whatever the last person said to them. They parrot what the last person said to them, and they pretend that they somehow know—
Ms Lovell interjected.
Mr GEPP: They somehow pretend that they have this intimate knowledge of how to fight a fire. Blinky Bill over here is chirping away; she would know. She would know; she got out of Shepparton. She got out of Shepparton; I think we all should cheer that. Three cheers for the so-called member for Shepparton who got out of the place. But they walk in here and they pretend that they have got some sort of knowledge about these circumstances when in fact all they are being is politically opportune. That is all that they are doing. They are being mischievous and trying to be opportunistic.
Of course the greatest hypocrisy of all of this is that this is their system. It is their system that has been put in place. They appointed the inspector-general for emergency management, Tony Pearce, but now he is no longer fit for office. He is no longer fit for office, but it is okay because last night at a briefing somewhere Mr Davis sidled up to the IGEM and he said to the IGEM, ‘No, no, no, no, no; I don’t think you’re able to do it anymore. So that’s okay. So we’ll just undo the legislation that we put in place ourselves a number of years ago. And why? Because we think that there’s some sort of political opportunistic proposition available to us’.
Ms Bath carries on about the reasons for fires. We heard the great debate that went on during December about climate change, and we have seen the outpouring of emotion from Victorians and from those right throughout this country. People are saying governments need to understand that humans have contributed to this, that our fire seasons are longer and that our fires are more intense. We need a response. But interestingly when you boil that down they cannot even get a straight position themselves.
The bloke that she sits next to in this chamber does not actually acknowledge climate change. If you want to know why our fires are longer than they have ever been and why they are more intense, just ask the bloke next to you. So when the conservatives both here and elsewhere in this country can straighten themselves out and get themselves a position on these things so that they can be properly debated and considered in this full debate about the terrible fire season that we are enduring here in this country and that we have had a taste of here in this state—and we have still got many weeks to go—let us hear from those opposite about where they stand on some of those crucial and important issues.
Do not come in here and bag people like Mr Pearce, do not come in here and discredit people like Mr Crisp and do not come in here and discredit people like Mr Warrington. Acknowledge the expertise that they have; acknowledge the skill that they bring to the table. We have a system in place. It was your system, and we have confidence in the inspector-general for emergency management that he will do a full and thorough review about what is going on, as he does after every event. To suggest that somehow he is no longer independent is quite frankly an affront. The opposition, the Liberal and National parties in this place, ought to issue a public apology to Mr Pearce immediately, and they should make the buffoon who led the charge here, whose name is on the notice paper, deliver it. I reject this motion.