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Australia pushing for bushfire early warning system

AUSTRALIA'S government is pushing to establish a bushfire early warning system after a week of blazes that killed at least 181 people, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said today.

Gillard told Channel Nine television that legislation was being prepared to set up the system after years of delays.

"Work is already in train, legislation needs to be changed and legislation is being brought to the parliament," she said, acknowledging that some "technical issues" remained to be overcome.

The authorities have been widely criticised for delays in establishing such a system, although Victoria state Premier John Brumby has questioned whether it could have prevented the devastation caused by fires in his state.

Gillard's comments came as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Governor-General Quentin Bryce prepared to join victims in Sunday prayers. Fires are still burning in parts of Victoria more than a week later, although authorities say they are slowly being brought under control.

The disaster has destroyed more than 1,800 homes and left 7,000 people homeless. A Royal Commission of Inquiry has been established to examine what caused Australia's worst natural disaster in more than a century.


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