INFERNO - The Day Victoria Burned Foreword
On February 7, 2009, 173 Victorians perished, most burned to death, in a state that makes an ostentatious fetish of protecting public safety. Victorians accept stiff fines for driving just a few ticks over the speed limit. They cannot ride bicycles without approved mandatory helmets, or can tradesmen go about their business unless they are wearing iridescent vests. In restaurants, requests for bags are likely to be rejected because of concerns about legal liability. Cutting the road toll, preventing head injuries, reducing the incidence of food poisoning : all the above measures, we are told, are for the common good. But protection from bushfires? These massive and regular destroyers of life and property have avoided the sort of attention lavished on day-old sushi. When the day that has come to be called Black Saturday finally ended, the Victorian government, government agencies and emergency protocols, came under the most intense scrutiny, a scrutiny that saw Justice Bernard Teague's Royal Commission make 51 recommendations for change, with one guiding direction, 'to enhance the protection of human lives'. The rote response from those in authority was about looking forward, not looking back; February 7 was, they said, a unique event, nobody could have foreseen it. But none of these words rang with the faintest echo of common sense and experience...
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