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Everything is on Fire: Arson and the Bush

By 12 April 2013Criminal Law

Australia can be a harsh, cruel unforgiving country, but we have learnt to live with the extremes this land bestows on its inhabitants. In the last couple of years we have coped with the vagaries of drought, cyclones, fires and floods.

Since the middle of last year we have experienced hot, dry extremes with bushfires throughout our nation, fuelled by the lush grass growth due to the 2 years of La Nina rains.

This ancient land is used to fire, indeed our indigenous people managed the land with fire, and this practice is now carried out today in the Northern Territory.

In 2009, the Black Saturday fires which burnt across much of Victoria cost us dearly, with a loss of 173 lives, and economic damage in the billions of dollars.

In the wake of this tragic event a Royal Commission found that the blaze was caused by faulty power lines.

In a few weeks time a class action will commence against the power company deemed responsible. This will be the biggest ever civil case in Victoria’s history.

Since the start of 2013, our country has experience 6 of the hottest days on record.

In the last few months every State in our land has experienced severe bushfires, and it is only through the bitter lessons learnt following the recommendations of the Black Saturday Royal Commission that no lives have been lost.

While Black Saturday’s fires were generally not attributed to deliberate arson, many of the recent fires in our country have been intentionally lit and the heroic regional volunteer firefighters must be sickened by the evidence of arson destroying homes, properties and stock.

In March 2010, a symposium was held in Melbourne to advance bushfire arson prevention in Australia. This was to aid in better understanding how this terrible crime eventuates and profile what type of person commits this act.

Arson is very easy to commit, and often has tragic consequences. The cost of the Tasmanian fires is already estimated to be in the region of $42 million.

According to Queensland law the maximum penalty for arson is life imprisonment.