October 31, 2011
A national database to track known and suspected arsonists will be used for the first time this summer as a bushfire prevention measure, according to Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester.
Mr Chester has campaigned for a nation-wide approach to registering, monitoring and tracking fire-bugs and said the new National Arson Notification Capability was a step forward in reducing the number of deliberately lit bushfires.
The system announced by the Federal Government will allow warning ‘flags’ to be added to the computerised police records of convicted arsonists or those who have been charged with arson related offences anywhere in Australia. It will also soon include an extra search capability which will allow police to search for any person of interest with an Arson Warning Flag by specific location.
“I’ve spoken in Parliament about the need for a national database and I wrote to the Prime Minister in the aftermath of the Black Saturday bushfires,” Mr Chester said.
“The database is another tool that police can use to prevent deliberately lit fires and apprehend offenders but it won’t solve the problem. We still need community vigilance and I urge Gippslanders to call the police immediately if they see someone acting suspiciously.”
Half of the estimated 54,000 bushfires in Australia each year are either deliberately lit or started in suspicious circumstances with arson estimated to cost the Australian community approximately $1.6 billion per year.
In making the announcement, Minister for Home Affairs and Justice Brendan O’Connor said with the new facility, police services will add ‘flags’ against persons who have been convicted or charged with arson related offences anywhere in Australia.
“The warning flags will assist police in identifying arsonists and alert their counterparts around Australia whenever they are aware of a convicted or suspected arsonist. Police will be alerted to possible offenders in a particular area and will be able to check the names of people leaving the scene of an arson incident,” he said.
Mr Chester said high growth in spring meant that conditions in Gippsland were likely to pose a high fire risk this summer.
“After a season of good growth we can expect an increased risk of bushfires and grassfires this summer and it’s important that we prepare early,” Mr Chester said.
“All Gippslanders should have a fire safety plan and be prepared to implement it at any stage over the coming months.”