Federal Minister for Drought and Rural Finance David Littleproud
Federal Minister for Drought and Rural Finance David Littleproud

Warning on using air force planes to fight fires

Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud has warned deploying more defence force resources to bushfires could pose national security risks.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has called for air force military transport planes to be used for water bombing as devastating blazes rip through swathes of NSW and Queensland.

But Mr Littleproud cautioned against the idea, noting the Australian Defence Force was active in nine different overseas operations.

"By just saying, we'll simply take these planes whenever we need them, you may be selling Australia's national security, putting it at risk," he told AAP.

"There's a lot of political experts on this but I'll listen to the professional experts."

He said Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council, fire commissioners and state governments were best placed to provide advice on firefighting.

"What the emergency management people around the country provide is a very professional service that takes lots of training," Mr Littleproud said.

"You just simply cannot throw defence force personnel in the middle of that.

"You cannot throw aircraft in the middle of that. Pilots from the ADF are trained to keep Australians safe in war settings."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said defence force personnel were helping with airlifts, surveillance and clearing areas.

"They are doing their job, the firefighters are doing their job," he said in Sydney on Tuesday.

Mr Littleproud said fire commissioners had backed the division of labour between firefighters and the military.

"With respect to the defence forces, they have been quite clear that the arrangements we have between the ADF and our emergency management is the best way to work," he said.

He also defended criticism there was a lack of resources to fight blazes burning across the country.

"We have said to them if things change you need to let us know, but as it stands three to four weeks ago when I got a response from them they wrote to me and said they have suitable assets."

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull have called for a national approach to fighting and preventing bushfires.

But Mr Morrison says there is already a nationally coordinated effort.

"The highly coordinated nature of how our state and territory jurisdictions work together during these bushfires has been an inspiration," he said.



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