Mr Morrison said his comments about hazard reduction had been in response to questions and reflected what he had been told on the ground in East Gippsland and elsewhere.
“It would be no surprise to anyone who is closely associated with this that that is a matter that I would say has been most commonly raised when I have been out and about,” he said.
Mr Morrison said the issues were overseen “entirely” by state governments along with planning laws and building codes.
“What’s important, I think, in the first instance is to have a proper consideration of what the contributions of those factor are, and what state and territory governments might do in response to those.”
Victoria’s former fire chief Craig Lapsley said fire intensity had increased in the past two decades amid a changing climate and more extreme weather conditions and this current crisis was a “watershed” moment.
Mr Lapsley, who led the recovery after the 2009 Black Saturday fire, said the way state governments had managed the bush had changed in the past 70 years because of society’s conservation and environmental values.
“There’s obviously been a change in the logging industry. The bush is not being logged to the same extent it was,” Mr Lapsley said. “There’s been a change in the amount of fuel … more fuel levels and a changing climate and changing weather on top of that. These are things our values have demanded, but it has created the situation we are in now. We need to talk about how we manage.”
In 2010, the Black Saturday bushfires royal commission recommended Victoria undertake at least 385,000 hectares of planned burning a year. Last year there were 74,000 hectares burned off. This year there were130,000.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said public safety had to come first in hazard reduction.
“It’s becoming harder every year to find enough days where it’s safe to do burn-offs, to get anywhere near the amount that there was found back through the royal commission more than 10 years ago,” Mr Andrews said.
“We have to burn off in strategic areas to protect property, not just to chase a target, the total number of hectares. All of that is on the table and should be the subject of a mature debate, not a partisan political debate, it should be part of a mature debate that is all about keeping people safe.”
Mr Morrison said he had spoken to former prime minister John Howard on Sunday morning and thought this summer crisis was on a “scale of things” that required a role for national agencies.
“How that flows on to these other questions of state responsibility, of hazard reduction and planning and development laws and things of that nature, I mean, that’s fundamentally a discussion for the federation.
“I think people like things to be as local as possible and they want things to be delivered as locally as possible, and that’s always been my inclination.
“But you can have no doubt that we will provide the national perspective on this and integration and coordination, using the authorities that we have. People want to see that.”
Bushfire expert Ross Bradstock told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age last week that spending on the work needed to jump to $500 million in NSW alone to keep up with the growing bushfire threat.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra