Media Release

6 February 2020

NSW Labor has welcomed a Parliamentary Inquiry into the air quality crisis that has blanketed the state in recent months.

The Parliamentary Inquiry will investigate the health impacts of exposure to bushfire smoke, suitability of workplace health and safety guidelines, and the effectiveness of the Liberal and Nationals response.

Labor Shadow Minister for Health Ryan Park said “The air quality crisis that has gripped NSW over this summer’s bushfire season is completely unprecedented. It has had a serious effect on the physical and mental wellbeing of people across our state.

“The Liberals and Nationals have been nowhere to be seen as the state has suffered through some of the worst air quality on record. Gladys Berejiklian and Brad Hazzard failed to provide regular advice and guidance to people across the State about how to stay safe during the haze.”

The Parliamentary Inquiry has been established by the Legislative Council’s Health Portfolio Committee.

“The community want to know whether the Berejiklian Government has done everything it can to prepare for and deal with the dangers posed to health from smoke. This inquiry will provide robust scrutiny of what the Premier and her government have done and identify what needs to be done in future” — Adam Searle MLC, Labor Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council

Hospitals across NSW have seen a 25% increase in emergency room presentations and a 30% increase in ambulance call outs across the state resulting from horrendous air quality. This follows the Berejiklian Government’s $252 million cut to health and hospitals in 2019-20.

Since December, Labor has called on the Ms Berejiklian and Mr Hazzard to act including:

  1. To personally provide daily public warnings of current and predicted hazardous air quality in specific locations.
  1. To launch an immediate and extensive public health awareness campaign, using both mainstream and social media channels.
  1. To make available urgent additional resources to NSW hospitals and ambulances.

Labor Shadow Minister for Environment, Kate Washington said: “It’s not good enough for the Liberals and Nationals to wait for the problem to literally blow over. Communities across NSW are very concerned. We need to fully understand the air quality challenges we face so that we can be better prepared in the future.

“We’ve seen our elderly suffering, we’ve seen young children and babies suffering, and lives have been lost due to the unprecedented air quality crisis.

“This is a very serious matter, and Labor is working in good faith with all parties in the NSW Parliament to figure out what could have been done this season, and what needs to be done in the future.”