30 December 2019

Probing the polls: a quiet Christmas, but a fierce debate on ADF firefighting proposal

| Genevieve Jacobs
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RFS volunteers

RFS volunteers have been fighting the fire crisis for months. Should the ADF be deployed on the front line? Photo: RFS Facebook.

While the shops were full of Christmas carols on constant repeat and every checkout operator was decked out in a Santa hat, it appears from last week’s poll that many RiotACT readers would prefer a quieter Christmas celebration.

In an age of all-encompassing consumerism around traditional holidays, we asked you what your preferred choice of celebration is. A total of 465 people voted in the poll.

And despite an early surge in the voting for the all tinsel, all Jingle Bells version of Christmas, the end result was surprising. Your options were: It’s not Christmas unless I’m wearing an elf hat 24/7, the carols are on constant repeat and we’re all eating Christmas pudding for breakfast. That choice received 131 votes or 28 per cent.

The alternative was It’s got a bit too commercial for me: a quiet day with the family is the best holiday treat. This was the clear winner with a whopping 72 per cent or 334 of the total votes.

This week we’re taking a look at a pressing issue that’s facing our region as the bushfires roll on across south-eastern Australia without an end in sight. As volunteer firefighters struggle to cope with the extended crisis, there have been growing calls for the Australian Defence Force to enhance its current logistical support role with frontline deployment.

Several days ago, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds described the assistance currently being provided by the ADF as “significant behind the scenes support … including aerial fire reconnaissance; helicopter search and rescue; logistical support such as ground transport; providing meals for exhausted firefighters; as well as basing, re-fuelling, water re-supply, loading fire retardant and air traffic management for firefighting aircraft”.

“This behind-the-scenes support from the ADF frees up more of our firefighters to perform their specialised roles fighting the fires,” she said.

But former NSW Australian of the Year and environmental activist Jon Dee says that the crisis is now so big that it requires “a war footing”.

He asked: “When do we get army fire engines? At what point do we get soldiers picking up hoses, similar to what’s happened in the UK when there have been national crises [there]?”

The proposal elicited sharply differing opinions among RiotACT readers. Liberalsocialist said: “The ADF is for the military defence of Australia – not fighting fires. If there is a need to have more paid members of the fire-fighting and other emergency services – then the states can stump up and pay for it.”

Anura commented: “Firefighting isn’t just a game of raw numbers ie. more people on the ground doesn’t mean better outcomes. There are lots of things the ADF can and are doing but I’m not convinced direct firefighting is what they should be doing.”

But Jess asked, “how is that even a question? Yes, every single resource should be utilised”, and from Forest Embassy, “it really is as simple as this: if mums and dads can volunteer (with lots and lots of training) to do something that our national defence forces can’t do then we are in big trouble … this is as bad as a war – it’s time we treated it as such”.

So what do you think?

Should the ADF expand its support to frontline firefighting?

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Jenny McInnes12:00 pm 01 Jan 20

Is the ADF generally a fit workforce ready for deployment? Then deploy them to help with fighting the fires.
Setting up roadblocks – instead of police, clearing trees and scrub etc AND ADF fire and rescue!!!

Seeing our country burn like this is heart breaking and I hope that something comes from this horrific disaster to enable us to be prepared when it happens again. Maybe the ADF should be playing a role in this-they are already trained to work under pressure in extreme conditions. Having a front line crew being able to work with the backline would have to be a good outcome and the ADF knows how to strategise and create processes well.
I am not saying this should be our soldiers but I think the ADF would be able to recruit and train firefighters better than any other.

Kylie Whittington6:40 pm 31 Dec 19

The ADF already put their lives on the line, doing the jobs they are trained for. They are not trained to fight fires, especially fires of this magnitude and ferocity. ADF personnel don’t have the training or equipment to be on the front line in this crisis.

Jenny McInnes12:06 pm 01 Jan 20

A contingent of the ADF are far fitter and if given at least the training the RFS has, would possibly be more adept at this because of their additional training.

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