"There has been a terrible tragedy in NSW and nobody should seek to politicise any human tragedy, let alone a bushfire of this scale.": Greg Hunt. Photo: Andrew Meares
Environment Minister Greg Hunt has condemned attempts to link the bushfires to the need for greater climate action as politicising a ''human tragedy''.
Amid concern among scientists and environment groups that the ferocious fires before the start of summer were part of a pattern of increasing extreme weather events, Mr Hunt's office dismissed questions about the need for a more ambitious climate policy.
After Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt provoked controversy by linking the risk of bushfires to Mr Abbott's plan to scrap the carbon tax, Mr Hunt said that nobody should politicise a tragedy. ''There has been a terrible tragedy in NSW and no one anywhere should seek to politicise any human tragedy, let alone a bushfire of this scale,'' he said.
Fairfax Media asked Mr Hunt's spokesman whether the Coalition was concerned that bushfires in October were part of a pattern of more extreme weather events and whether this demanded a stronger climate policy.
The spokesman replied: ''We support the science on climate change and have a policy to reduce Australia's emissions, without the need for a costly carbon tax.''
A leaked draft of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report due next year says climate change will increase the likelihood of bushfires in Australia, according to media reports.
''Climate change is expected to increase the number of days with very high and extreme fire weather,'' the document reportedly states. It says that fire management in Australia ''will become increasingly challenging''.
On Friday, Mr Bandt stood by his Twitter attack on Prime Minister Tony Abbott the previous night.
''I think we need to have a discussion about it,'' he told radio station 3AW.
''It's October and we're having a tragic bushfire already. Tony Abbott is out every day this week with his ministers saying now is the time to be dismantling action on global warming, and meanwhile firefighters and scientists are saying to us these kind of extreme weather events could become the norm in Australia.''
Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said it was time to face up to the growing risk of severe events such as bushfires owing to climate change - and that now was the right time to have the discussion.
''Our thoughts are with the firefighters, emergency personnel and families at the front line today,'' he said.
''But we treat them and countless others in future with reckless disregard if we don't face up to the reality and costs of climate change.''