McCormack calls for harsher penalties for arsonists

THE Nationals’ Member for Riverina, Michael McCormack, has called for harsher penalties for arsonists in a speech to Parliament this afternoon.

In a reply to the Prime Minister’s Statement on Australian Natural Disasters, Mr McCormack highlighted the fact most of the Riverina’s fires were deliberately lit by, as he called them, “senseless idiots”.

Mr McCormack’s speech comes after widespread fires within the Riverina region during January.

“It was reported in Wagga Wagga on 19 January that there had been 18 scrub fires lit and seven trees set alight locally in the previous 18 days,” Mr McCormack told Parliament.

“No punishment presently legislated by the states is ever severe enough for arsonists,” Mr McCormack said.

“I am in favour of firebugs being made to assist the clean-up operation. Let’s not mess around with people who show such flagrant disregard for others in their communities and an inhumane indifference to animals which suffer from their actions.”

Mr McCormack said the view arsonists should be forced to watch as burnt but alive animals are euthanised, “had merit”.“In truth, they ought to have their noses rubbed in the ashes,” Mr McCormack concluded.

As Mr McCormack told Parliament, “there were many hotspots across my electorate, including but not limited to Alfredtown, Big Springs, Corby Hill Road north of Narrandera, Mates Gully Road, Oura, Tarcutta, Tumbarumba and Yenda.

“But for the exceptional efforts of professional fire-fighters, ably assisted by hundreds of enthusiastic and efficient volunteers as well as those who pitched in to help save their own properties, the damage could have been far more extensive.

“The Riverina fires could well have been deadly.”

Mr McCormack also used the opportunity to praise the efforts of Murrumbidgee State Emergency Service (SES) controller, James McTavish, during the floods in Wagga Wagga last year.

Reflecting on the recent flood events in Queensland and Northern NSW, Mr McCormack said it was a sensible move for Mr McTavish to evacuate Wagga Wagga’s central business district on the night of 5 March 2012.

“I was pleased to see Mr McTavish deservedly acknowledged with an Emergency Services Medal in this year’s Australia Day Honours.”

Cristy Houghton