World

Aussie PM to propose high-level national review into response to bush fires

MELBOURNE After weeks of criticism over the handling of the bush fires scorching Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday he will propose a national review into the response to the disaster, as the fires claimed another firefighter's life.

With the Australian bush burning for nearly three months now, killing 28 people, claiming 2,000 homes and raging across millions of acres of land and wildlife, the crisis is becoming increasingly political.

"There is obviously a need for a national review of the response," Mr Morrison said in an interview with ABC television.

Asked whether it should be a royal commission, a powerful judicial inquiry, he said: "I think that is what would be necessary and I will be taking a proposal through the Cabinet to that end, but it must be done with consultations with the states and territories."

Bush fires are common during Australia's summer months, but this fire season started unusually early, often moving quickly and unpredictably, leaving swathes of the drought-stricken land a scorched earth.

Cooler weather conditions over the weekend have brought a temporary respite, but a firefighter died on duty in Victoria, where new flames sparked. The authorities said the risk was far from over and more hot weather is expected.

Smoke again shrouded Sydney yesterday, almost a new normal for the country's biggest city, moving the air quality into hazardous territory, according to the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries index.

Mr Morrison rejected criticism that his government had not done enough before the bush fire season started, but he admitted that once the fires started, some responses could have been different.

"There are things I could have handled on the ground much better," he said.

"These are sensitive environments, there are very emotional environments; prime ministers are flesh and blood too in how they engage with people."

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said yesterday that the federal government should have acted earlier to address the disaster.

"The fact is that bush fires don't recognise state and territory boundaries," Mr Albanese said.

"And nor should the need for national leadership." - REUTERS

WORLD