John-Paul Langbroek.
John-Paul Langbroek. Hannah Wright

LNP leader calls for fire inquiry

OPPOSITION leader John-Paul Langbroek yesterday called for an open inquiry to determine whether a fire safety management plan for the Berserkers had been followed before this week's wild Rockhampton bushfires.

“It's a bit like a moonscape up here,” the LNP leader said as he held a media conference at the top of Mount Archer during a flying visit to the city.

Mr Langbroek's visit - which follows that of Premier Anna Bligh on Wednesday - comes as the political fallout from the fires heats up.

One house was lost and hundreds more threatened during this week's bushfires.

Yesterday, Mr Langbroek rejected a call from Member for Rockhampton Robert Schwarten to either “get on the next plane back to the Gold Coast” or apologise for critical comments made by the Shadow Minister for emergency services, Ted Malone, about the firefighting plans for the region.

Instead he stepped up with his own attack.

He said serious concerns had been raised about the fire management plans in place and stood by Mr Malone, who claims the Government failed to adopt a crucial fire management strategy.

The Government has denied this, saying it went above and beyond what was recommended in the 2001 Berserker Wilderness Plan.

Mr Langbroek says lives may have been put at risk unnecessarily.

“Emergency service workers, as well as local residents, may have been put into more danger than they should have been because of the lack of implementation of fire plans,” he said.

“Very clearly plans do not seem to have been carried out.”

Mr Malone said he was “insulted” by Mr Schwarten, who earlier in the day issued a statement saying Mr Malone's was “a cowardly, ill-researched political spray directed at public servants who cannot fight back”.

Mr Malone said as a rural firefighter himself, he fully appreciated the efforts of those on the front line.

But he wanted to know why more cool burns hadn't been done and more fire breaks weren't in place.

“They need to harden up and accept we have to cool burn on a regular basis or we will end up with wildfires such as this, which totally destroy the environment, wildlife and biodiversity.

“This is about the department being risk-adverse. It would have been better to have tried to pre-burn and possibly lost the fire than to not have done anything and this happen,” he said.

“Provided you have fire breaks in place, even given this year's dry conditions, it would have been better.”

And shifting the focus onto climate change, Mr Malone claimed the fires had released more carbon than all Central Queensland's coal mines, cars and power generation facilities in a year.



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