Firefighters demand climate change action

Firefighters have demanded federal politicians stop treating climate change like “a political football” and pass the emissions trading scheme.

Members of the United Firefighters Union of Australia have travelled to Parliament House today to urge both sides of politics to take action as senators continue to debate the scheme.

The union made a similar call for action in the wake of February’s devastating Victorian bushfires and Peter Marshall has today repeated the call as parts of South Australia are now declared catastrophic code-red areas.

With only five parliamentary sitting days left to pass the scheme, Mr Marshall has warned that without efforts to combat climate change, bushfires across the country will increase in frequency and intensity.

“We are not scientists but we are the people on the front line,” he said.

“If there is not action put in place now, Federal Government’s research says that places such as Canberra by 2050, the type of fires we’ve seen here in 2002 will happen on an eight-year basis.

“We are asking you very clearly, stop making this a political football, put in place the action that’s required to secure the future because by 2020 we are going to see a frequency like we’ve not seen before.”

He has called on coalition senators to pass the scheme but has also asked Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to show leadership and lift the emissions reduction targets to between 25 and 40 per cent.

“Pass legislation that’s required and we say pass it with the maximum standard not the minimum standard,” he said.

The Government has committed to a 5 to 25 per cent cut in 2000 emissions levels by 2020.

But the passage of the legislation this year is still uncertain.

Despite both sides expressing confidence in the progress of negotiations on amendments some coalition senators say they will never vote for the scheme and others are resistant to having it passed this year.

And final agreement in negotiations must be approved by the party room before a decision is made on how to vote on the scheme.

Opposition frontbencher Tony Abbott has today warned the Government will have to accept its amendments if it wants it passed.

“We didn’t put forward these amendments as some kind of ambit claim,” he said.

“We put forward these amendments because we think they are minimum necessary to improve a bad bill. So if the Government is fair dinkum about getting this legislation passed it’s going to have to accept our amendments.”

Both sides hope to have negotiations finalised by this weekend or early next week.

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