Fact sheet

Fact Check: Peter Dutton says 250 have been charged with arson. But the data tells a different story

Publisher
Liberal Party of Australia Climate change Firefighting Arson
Description

Peter Dutton, a former policeman whose Home Affairs portfolio includes the federal police, acknowledged in 2020 that Australia was experiencing hotter weather and longer summers. But he posed the question: did the bushfires start in some regions because of climate change? "No, it didn't," he said. "It started because somebody lit a match. I mean there are 250 people as I understand it, or more, that have been charged with arson. That's not climate change."

Fact Check has already looked at the question of whether arson is primarily to blame for the bushfire crisis, following a flurry of claims made on social media and by some politicians that most of the fires in the summer of 2019/2020 had been deliberately lit by an "unprecedented" number of arsonists. Bushfire arson is not an insignificant problem. But in the context of the these bushfire crisis, there is simply no evidence that arson was overwhelmingly responsible, or even moderately responsible. On the contrary, in Victoria, emergency services personnel have been at pains to point out that lightning strikes caused the big fires ' in East Gippsland and the north-east. Likewise, in NSW, emergency services personnel have pointed to dry lightning storms as the cause of most of the big fires. Nor is there any evidence to indicate bushfire arson has increased to "unprecedented" levels, as some in the Morrison Government have suggested.

Verdict: Difficult to be definitive

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