Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester is urging the Bureau of Meteorology to reverse its unexpected ban on local meteorologists providing weather forecasts on local radio stations.
Mr Chester said his office had received dozens of requests from Gippslanders who were angry, frustrated and disappointed by the decision which was announced without any community consultation.
The meteorologists at RAAF Base East Sale have been doing ABC radio crosses twice each weekday morning to provide detailed local information for more than 40 years.
The Bureau of Metrology last week announced the forecasters would be replaced by staff members in its Melbourne office so the staff at East Sale could focus on briefing air crews, despite no concerns being raised by the RAAF.
Mr Chester has written to the Bureau to seek a full explanation of its decision. He has also made inquiries with the Australian Defence Force to determine whether there were valid safety reasons to cancel the radio segments.
“At a time when our region has been impacted by drought, bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic, it is hard to comprehend why bureaucrats in Canberra would be so tone deaf and cancel a much-loved and relied-on community service,” Mr Chester said.
“I am opposed to this ban on these five-minute local weather broadcasts and I’ve asked the BOM bureaucrats to reverse their city-centric decision.
“These segments are a highly regarded and respected public service: the weather conditions in Gippsland are often unpredictable and people make key economic and personal safety decisions in several industries, based on the updates they receive on local radio.
“As a regular visitor to the East Sale RAAF Base, I have been constantly impressed with the professionalism and the focus on the safety of all ADF personnel, contractors and public servants. Never has anyone expressed concerns that local BOM staff cannot fulfil their obligations to aircrews.
“I have complete confidence in the capacity of local BOM staff to prioritise their workload to ensure the core responsibility of supporting defence air operations is delivered. In fact, this occurred during the summer bushfires during a period of high operational tempo with mass evacuations and increased demands on local staff.
“That extraordinary circumstance is no justification for a permanent change and the BOM suggestion that it was well received at the time stands in stark contrast to the reaction to last week’s announcement.”