Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

The bushfire cause that must not be named

By Geoff Ellis - posted Thursday, 13 February 2020

Yet no one talks of the cause that must not be named – ARSON. The media don't seem know about it, the politicians likewise. Consequently in the community, most people are entirely unaware of the likely presence of arsonists within their midst.

Hamish MacDonald, presenting on the ABC Radio National Breakfast programme refused point blank to accept arson had any role in bushfires telling one listener that arson as a cause was "rubbish'. Tom Tilley, another ABC Radio National presenter on the same programme interviewed an ABC science reporter and arson as a cause of these bushfires came up. The science reporter described bushfire arson merely as "theory". According to Merriam-Webster, a theory could be anything from a scientifically acceptable general principle to an unproved assumption to an abstract thought. Tom Tilley clearly seized on the speculative abstract thought closing the topic with the comment that arson therefore has "little impact at all" when it comes to bushfires. Therefore, it is quite apparent the ABC is in complete denial on arson! And as long as other media refuse to talk about arson, the ABC cannot be bought to account on the matter.

Now and again, arson has been mentioned on Fox News but other than that, for most print and broadcast media over the past two or three months, arson is the cause of bushfires that seemingly must not be named.


A news report that fleetingly emerged in The Australian newspaper in mid-January told us that:

more than 180 alleged arson cases have been recorded since the start of 2019, with 29 blazes deliberately lit in the Shoalhaven region of southeast NSW in just three months. The Shoalhaven fires were lit between July and September last year, with Kempsey recording 27 deliberately lit fires, NSW Bureau of Crime and Statistics and Research data shows.

Further, The Australian reported:

NSW police data shows that since November 8, 24 people have been arrested for deliberately starting bushfires, while 184 people have been charged or cautioned for bushfire-related offences.

So how do more than 180 individuals get involved in these illegal and highly dangerous activities without raising the attention and ire of the community?

The most tragic bushfires in recent memory occurred a decade ago in Victoria – Black Saturday.


These bushfires killed 173 people, with another 414 people injured. More than 450,000 hectares burned and 3500 buildings including more than 2000 houses destroyed. The RSPCA estimated that up to one million wild and domesticated animals died in the disaster. Just one arsonist was found guilty on ten counts of arson causing death. In about four years he will be eligible for parole, free to move around the country. The nagging question in light of the research and in light of recent effective police work is, was this one arsonist the only one deliberately lighting fires on Black Saturday?

If there have been 24 arrests in six weeks during the current bush fire season, shouldn't the community have the potential for arson and the likely presence of arsonists in their midst top of mind right now?

There is a theory that talking about arson when the potential for bushfires is high only serves to stimulate arsonists into action. There well may be some truth to that theory. But if we do not talk about arson will the community be able to identify the arsonist moving about their locality? It seems to me that being aware of the probability of arson is an essential part of community preparedness. In the same way those in areas of high risk go about their property looking to minimize risk and develop plans to stay safe, keeping aware of arson as a potential cause of fire is an essential part of being prepared.

More importantly, elevating the reality of arson and addressing legislative reforms to the criminality of arson is essential. Having a hand in deliberately causing the deaths and destruction bushfires leave demands more than the penalties now applied.

Surely the victims of these recent bush fires deserve that.

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. Page 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

36 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Geoff Ellis is yet another kiwi that is living in FNQ. His career has largely centred on tourism and property. He has also had extensive involvement in community and NFP sectors and increasingly enjoys writing and communicating on issues that interest and concern him.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Geoff Ellis

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Geoff Ellis
Article Tools
Comment 36 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy