The message of a state Liberal Party-organised community bushfire prevention meeting toed the federal government's line that hazard reduction burns could be more important than cutting carbon emissions in Australia's fight against bushfires.
Crowds packed into the Terang Civic Hall on Friday afternoon for the meeting, convened by Liberal MPs Beverley McArthur and Richard Riordon.
Guest speaker and former CSIRO scientist David Packham, told audiences that climate change and bushfires were not linked, despite CSIRO's current position that human-caused climate change has resulted in more dangerous weather conditions for bushfires.
"Global warming is three per cent of the problem, 90 per cent is forest fuels, it's nonsense to suggest it's climate change," he said.
"The state government says if you lock forests up and don't burn everything is terrific and that's absolute garbage."
Fifth generation beef farmer Sally Commins said fuel loads were a cause of concern for her family in north-east Victoria.
"It's not because of climate change but rather a matter of heavy fuel loads and extreme drought," she said.
"While I believe in the science of climate change, it's not an excuse for the government to hide behind."
A silence fell over the hall as Eastern Maar Indigenous elder Rob Lowe spoke of the restriction on cultural burning, reflecting on how his grandfather showed him how to carry out controlled burns using a box of matches and a damp hessian bag.
"We learned from our ancestors that we had to do controlled burning and that's a legacy that we hold, but that legacy got lost somewhere along the line," he said.
"People seem to think we don't know anything and it hurts, it hurts a lot. Our culture is dying and our sites are being destroyed.
"If we can reintroduce controlled burning the fires won't get away. Farms won't be burnt, houses won't be destroyed and people won't lose their lives."
Mrs McArthur welcomed Prime Minister Scott Morrison's call for a national register to show each state's hazard reduction programs, including prescribed burning and fuel-load reductions.
"I'm suspicious of motives of some of those who only want to talk about climate change and emissions. To me, they're more concerned about using this opportunity to attack the very basis of our capitalist system, than solutions to save lives."
Corangamite Shire mayor Neil Trotter used his time on stage to call for relaxed laws on roadside grazing and management.
"We as a council collect a fire services levy from our ratepayers which we are forced to give to the state government coffers while very little is returned back to the community," he said.
"Climate change is the new realty and I believe the scientific evidence is irrefutable.
"Ideology aside, we should be doing more. We need to be proactive in how we deal with fire, prevention is far cheaper than reconstruction."
Community question time lead to spirited contributions from residents.
"This question is for Bev, Richard and Dan: what are you people going to do to right this wrong?" one person asked.
"You people are in government, we can only lament what happens.
"Take the preventative steps necessary to prevent fires. Somebody somewhere has to make the change."
In an emailed statement to The Standard, a spokesman for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning said any suggestion the department was not prepared to undertake planned burns was 'wrong' and spreading misinformation.
They said the department had the largest mechanical fuel treatment program ever, with 20,000 hectares planned for 2019-20.
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