Nationals candidate Kevin Hogan is running for a third term as the Member for Page at the federal election on May 18, 2019.
Nationals candidate Kevin Hogan is running for a third term as the Member for Page at the federal election on May 18, 2019. Nationals

Call to punish arsonists deflecting from the real issue?

KEVIN Hogan has dismissed a claim of deflection after making an extraordinary call on the punishment of arsonists.

On Tuesday the Page MP posted a statement on his Facebook page calling for the NSW Government to raise the non-parole period for arsonists to "at least" 18 years. "Potential arsonists need to be sent a strong message, that because of the damage they are causing, they will be heavily punished," he said.

"The distress and damage done to homes, infrastructure and the environment by these fires demands this."

"I will be lobbying my state colleagues on this."

It was a significant departure from earlier statements on the bushfire, which were primarily concerned with the relief measures on offer to the community.

When asked about the timing of the post and why he felt it needed to be raised as opposed to issues around climate change, Mr Hogan said "we need to talk about all of those issues".

"There has been a lot of conversations about climate change and hazard reduction for a couple of months, but I haven't really heard the one about arson," he said.

"Out of the three, that is the one that has been mentioned the least."

However, former deputy commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW, Ken Thompson, said the way some issues had been raised by MPs it looked like the Government was unwilling to talk about climate change.

"To me it seems like another deflection, they deflect it off to the Greens, to hazard reductions and now the deflection seems to be to arson," he said.

"Arson is an issue and it needs to be addressed but we need to deal with the real issue.

"These fires and the conditions that have created them are so extreme that it doesn't matter what causes the fire, these fires are going to go."

As a member of the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, which included 23 former senior fire and emergency services leaders, he said what we were witnessing was just what had been predicted by climate scientists "for 30 years".

He said it "makes me quite sick" to see the amount of "misinformation and trivialising of the work of tens of thousands of scientists" who had dedicated their lives to the study of climate science.

"I get a bit annoyed, frustrated and in fact reaching the point of anger when governments continually downplay the role of climate change in making these events far worse," he said.

"There are always going to be fires and always has been fires but we have never seen anything on this scale, this magnitude at this intensity this early in the fire season.

His message to government MPs was to take the issue more seriously and implored them to "understand the science and act on all the information you have been provided with".

"If I was running a public company and I had this much information to tell me there was something wrong with my company and I didn't act on it, I would probably end up in prison," he said.

"There is a massive amount of information out there."

Mr Hogan rejected any suggestion of deflection, saying he had been having "the climate change conversation a lot" and reiterated his commitment to talking about the "three major issues".

"We need to talk about our carbon emission reduction targets and climate change, we need to talk about hazard reduction burning and arsonists who are lighting fires," Mr Hogan said.

" They all need to be discussed and we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to minimise fire damage in our communities because it has wreaked havoc this season."


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