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Tasmania

Jan 7, 2013

A baptism of bushfire for young Tassie reporters

Tasmania usually only makes the headlines because of environmentalists wanting to save trees. Now firefighters battling dangerous bushfires in the island state are in spotlight, reports Bruce Montgomery in Hobart.

There is a sense of unreality about the Tasmanian bushfires. For those of us who live in urban Hobart, the scenes of despair and devastation are just 45 minutes’ drive away yet they seem to be a world removed. Only the smoke haze that blankets Hobart this morning, the occasional siren in the distance and helicopters overhead remind us of the desperate plight of many just a few hills away.

I ring a friend on a farm up towards the bushfire at Lake Repulse and he chastises me for always ringing on the hour, when he’s trying to listen to ABC news on the radio. So I text instead, but he doesn’t reply. You can’t win.

We awoke this morning to the (ABC) news that 100 people are missing, only later to find out that they are people unaccounted for rather than presumed dead. The local ABC has been heroic in its role as the emergency radio station, though one senses overkill with the same messages repeated time and time again and the seeming inability of some announcers to minimise their contribution.

Its largely young contingent of reporters have had a true baptism of fire. They have outshone their print media counterparts. However, the shock horror story of 100 people missing was unduly alarmist and takes one back to the 1967 bushfires here when a Scottish newspaper reported the whole island had been evacuated by submarine. On the other hand, the ABC offers you footage of a little girl going up to a road block with icy poles to help the firefighters cool down. Her mother does all the talking. Please, is that really news?

Tasmania usually makes the national headlines these days from the antics of people who want to save trees. They become invisible when the people who really try to save trees, volunteer firefighters, are out there risking their lives to try to subdue bushfires.

Tasmania has a massive potential disaster on its hands because of forest reserves that are not allowed to be managed for such things as bushfires, pests and weeds. If you cannot construct firebreaks and remove flammable material in the understorey, there is an inferno waiting to happen.

Meanwhile, Premier Lara Giddings flies back into the state today from London, having missed most of the action.

*Bruce Montgomery is a former journalist with The Australian and a former communications manager with the Tasmanian Forests and Forest Industry Council

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26 comments

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26 thoughts on “A baptism of bushfire for young Tassie reporters

  1. Mike Flanagan

    It is pretty obvious the author of the above piece of nonsense has never got closer than a phone to a bush fire let alone learnt how to use a fire rake.
    His underlyig logic is, nothing should be built or preserved that might be flammable.
    You can do much better than create work for the redundand Murdochracy, Crikey.
    Their previous work has not showered accolades on the profession.

  2. FSN

    ‘antics’? ‘people who REALLY try to save trees’? There’s so much bias in this purported piece of journalism there’s not a bulldozer big enough to push it out of the way.

    I certainly don’t subscribe to Crikey for this kind of lazy work – give the guy an opinion piece if it’s worth pushing this viewpoint, but I’m troubled that on one of the few quality news outlets we have in Australia that something presented as a news story has this kind of persuasive language beaded through it.

  3. Simon

    I am yet to read a single piece of any worth whatsoever written by Montgomery, but this is even worse than his usual fare, bringing downright offensive factual inaccuracies and insults into the usual bad writing and poor research. The Greens have long supported fuel reduction burns, including in national parks – as reconfirmed by state Greens leader Nick McKim in a release just this morning, which Montgomery has either conveniently ignored or been too lazy to check.

    Surely if this is the best Tasmanian “journalism” Crikey can find they would be better off only covering the north island of Australia.

  4. Tim Hollo

    I’m glad Crikey is covering the tragic Tassie fires, but given that Montgomery’s piece is your first foray into it, it is critical for credibility that you immediately append a correction.

    The sentence on protesters not helping out is incorrect and offensive, but I’m not going to go to the bother of getting you names and numbers of people who are doing so. More importantly, however, is this absolute howler:

    “Tasmania has a massive potential disaster on its hands because of forest reserves that are not allowed to be managed for such things as bushfires, pests and weeds. If you cannot construct firebreaks and remove flammable material in the understorey, there is an inferno waiting to happen.”

    Tasmania does not have any “forest reserves that are not allowed to be managed for such things as bushfires, pests and weeds.” Tasmania’s reserves are managed by either Forestry Tasmania or Parks and Wildlife, depending on the reserve. Both types are managed for fire, pests and weeds. Certainly they need more resources to be better managed, and the Greens, including Christine Milne and Nick McKim, have been at the forefront of calling for increased funding. In fact, Nick achieved a $16 million boost to funding in the first budget of this power-sharing term, I understand.

    Montgomery is welcome to his opinion, but Crikey should not allow him to be welcome to his own facts.

  5. David Eldridge

    Is this journalism? He heard there is a bushfire so he took the opportunity to conflate it with reactionary, outdated opinion about forest management. Lets have some articles about bushfires, biodiversity, natural ecosystems, global warming, but not puff pieces for ex-forestry industry apparatchiks. Thank you though for the disclaimer.

  6. paddy

    Oh dear, one of those occasional articles in Crikey, where the comments section contains more *real* journalism than the original piece. (At least there was a disclaimer about the author.)
    Thanks for the info in the comments.

  7. Cleo

    Sloppy journalism, Mr Montgomery. You should be aware that as the nominated emergency broadcaster, the ABC is required to regularly broadcast FACTUAL information supplied by the emergency services. This may seem repetitive and boring to some, but it is vital information for others. The purpose is to inform, not to entertain.

    Also, the inaccurate reports re 100 possible casualties came first from your old rag, the Mercury. A New Ltd publication.

  8. Waste of Time

    Soon as they become visible again let’s get those greenies and hang up from lamp posts hey?

  9. SusieQ

    Well now, this article is a load of tosh for sure (snide one of my friends called it), but Crikey would be a pretty boring place if it published articles we all agreed with. (oh, and I thought the icy pole story was sweet, so there).
    How can he take the Premier to task for ‘missing most of the action’? Are our politicians expected to never leave the state/country in case something awful happens???

  10. Philip Cocker

    This article is a cheap and nasty shot which is beneath it’s author. I refuse to address the points at this time but to point score of the back of the misery of these events whilst they are still occurring is a truly unfortunate form of journalism and not worthy of crikey.