Social Media Claim

The burning truth about the Greens’ bushfire risk policy

A Facebook post from January 1, 2020 claims the Greens changed their policy on back-burning in November 2019.

The Statement

As bushfires continue to rage across Australia, a Facebook post claims the Greens changed their policy on back-burning in November 2019.

The post by The Australian ANTI-Greens features a screenshot showing a web address for the Greens NSW’s Bushfire Risk Management Principles. The image features the claim “The Greens have modified their bushfire risk management policy” with an arrow pointing to the URL and search results listing the date. At the bottom the post asks why, questioning “Could it be because their old policy is being hammered right now?”

The Australian ANTI-Greens are listed as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) on its Facebook page and the group’s manifesto reads, “The greens are socialists. Move to Venezuela greenies”.

The post has attracted more than 180 shares and generated more than 200 reactions and 90 comments.

The Greens NSW’s Bushfire Risk Management web page addresses back-burning among its 15 principles.

The Analysis

The Greens NSW’s Bushfire Risk Management web page addresses the issue of back-burning several times among its 15 principles. One principle states the party believes that “hazard reduction, including manual, mechanical and hazard reduction burning activities should be strategically planned to protect the community and vulnerable assets while minimising the adverse impacts of these activities on the environment”. The Greens also advocate that “strict controls are required to reduce the amount of rural burning that is not required for essential asset protection”.

The Facebook post includes an image purporting to show the party’s Bushfire Risk Management page was changed on November 8, 2019.

An accompanying comment reads: “For the twits that think the greens party have always believed in back burning. When the fires started in November 2019 they quickly changed thier (sic) policy. Like cowards”.

AAP FactCheck conducted a search of the web page address using internet archiver Wayback Machine and the results showed there was no policy change published on the website in November 2019.

The internet archiver - which takes regular snapshots of URLs to capture the content at that moment in time “to create an Internet library for researchers, historians, and scholars” - had seven web captures for the Greens webpage in question. The captures spanned March 22, 2019 to December 21, 2019.

AAP FactCheck used the Wayback Machine’s tool for comparing the content in the web captures to show the Greens’ web page had no deletions and alterations to its Bushfire Risk Management section between March and December 2019.

An IT and communications spokesman for the Greens NSW confirmed to AAP FactCheck in an email that the party’s policy was not changed in November 2019, nor at any stage since May 2014.

The Greens NSW spokesman said the November date captured in the screenshot was not the result of a change to the content on the policy page.

“It's not clear from the posted image what tool was used to generate the November 2019 date,” the spokesperson said.

“One explanation for the date is that our website uses a content management system (CMS) and generates the HTML code for pages dynamically from content stored in a database. These generated pages are then stored in a cache to speed up future access. It seems likely that the date reported was derived from the date the CMS stored the page in the cache.”

The spokesman said any changes to the policy would require a decision by the party’s State Delegates Council, comprised of representatives of the 63 local Greens groups around NSW.

“This process has an extensive consultation phase and it would be effectively impossible to make a change to the policy in the timeframe claimed by (the Facebook group).”

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the claim that the Greens NSW’s policy on back-burning was changed in November 2019 to be false.

  • False - The primary claim of the content is factually inaccurate.

First published January 8, 2020, 17:18 AEDT