Bureau of Meterology

Federation Chamber - 13 September 2018

Watch Matt's Speech here

Mr KEOGH (Burt) (11:22): Last week the staff from the Bureau of Meteorology in Perth received a devastating blow. In fact, not only the staff from the bureau but anyone connected with the aviation, agriculture, maritime, tourism and oil and gas industries will be put at risk. The BOM has concluded that it will end local forecasting services across Western Australia. The union representing these workers, the CPSU, says that the decision to centralise all forecasting in Melbourne and Brisbane by 2020 will significantly downgrade the quality and reliability of services for West Aussies, posing a particular risk during our diverse and often extreme weather events.

This decision will impact our agricultural, energy production and mining industries, and I'd hate to think of the potential dangerous situations which many may find themselves in should our weather reporting become second rate. It's totally unacceptable for our weather services to be delivered from over in the east. In the case of natural disasters there is a very real danger for Western Australians. You only have to cast your mind back to the devastating Yarloop bushfires of 2016 to understand the importance of local knowledge in local weather bureaus. Those local forecasters were credited with helping fire crews gain the upper hand in the devastating blaze, as they predicted 100 kilometre an hour winds and thunderstorms, allowing crews to react accordingly.

Bureau of Meteorology management claims that this decision will result in no job losses. However, for these employees, making the decision between relocating over east and taking a redundancy is hardly a fair go. In fact, if there will be no job reductions, why do it at all? I can tell you about the importance of this localised knowledge in Western Australia. As someone from the Kelmscott Hills, in my electorate of Burt, who studied down in Fremantle, I can tell you that just across that distance in the Perth metropolitan area the weather patterns are different. I had to rely on the radar system and the localised reporting from our Bureau of Meteorology to tell me what I needed to rug up for or be prepared for when heading down the hill and across to the coast in Fremantle.

The restructuring of the Bureau of Meteorology will inevitably lead to highly skilled and specialised Western Australians losing jobs at a time when WA's unemployment rate is amongst the highest in the country. It will lead to a lower skilled, less experienced workforce, engaged over east, thereby reducing the skill applied to the very important job performed by our meteorologists and forecasters, not to mention the loss of important localised knowledge, which is as much art as science, meaning that safety and accuracy will be put at risk. There will be increased costs to government from transition and relocation costs. There will be no reduction in costs. There is nothing to offset in savings, because there will apparently be no overall reduction in staffing levels. And, of course, it will mean the loss to WA's TV and radio airwaves of Matt Boterhoven and the many other excellent forecasters from the WA bureau. I implore the member for Durack, under her new ministerial responsibilities, to step in to support her local industries. As a Western Australian, she of all people should understand the importance of local weather knowledge and local jobs. Please save our bureau.