House debates

Monday, 30 November 2020

Questions without Notice

Australian Natural Disasters

3:24 pm

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management. Will the minister please outline to the House the considerable steps the Morrison-McCormack government has taken to prepare our nation for potential natural disasters this summer?

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Dawson for his question, and I thank him and every member in this House for their local leadership during last year's disaster season. Tragically, just through the Black Summer, we lost 33 lives. The Bushfires and Natural Hazards CRC last week gave their seasonal outlook for December to February, and said that we are moving towards a La Nina—strongly towards a La Nina—basis. But it's important to understand that we are currently fighting bushfires. In fact, there are 46 bushfires alive around New South Wales at the moment, 29 in Queensland and six in other parts of the country.

That's why, between the state fire commissioners and Emergency Management Australia, we are preparing to pivot and pivot quickly from bushfires to what could be a longer and more severe cyclone season and flooding season, and doing that all under the auspices of COVID-19. That's making sure that we can get emergency service personnel from one state to another in a COVID-safe environment, making sure we're protecting them and their lives.

We're also making sure that we've put assets on the ground—an extra $11 million in aerial assets to make sure that AFAC, the peak council for Australian fire commissioners, can determine what assets they require. Whether it be large aerial tankers, whether it be helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft, we allow them to determine that. They're the professionals who keep us safe year after year. We've also got $88 million going into research, and the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology and I will now be working through how that research is done to give our emergency service personnel and our communities the cutting-edge technology and information to be better prepared for natural disasters into the future. Also, in terms of telecommunications, which came under great stress during this year's Black Summer, there's $37 million for improving our telecommunications through natural disasters and an additional $8 million through the public safety mobile capability program. That's about looking at ways in which we can give our emergency services personnel the equipment that they require that will stress-test through emergencies. It's important to make sure they're properly equipped, with the right equipment, to communicate during a natural disaster.

There's also $20 million for the Household Resilience Program, for those in North Queensland that face those cyclones year in year out. That's about allowing households to do renovations to their homes to be more prepared and make them more resilient to cyclones. It's in fact also saving them up to $300 a year on their premiums, which is a significant saving.

We're working with the states now on the implementation of the royal commission's recommendations. I've already met with all the state ministers to make sure that they provide us with their responses to those recommendations, and we'll work through those. Whether or not that be a national system of hazard warning, it behoves each and every one of us to have a plan for natural disasters not only because we owe it to our families but because we also owe it to the brave men and women who are prepared to protect us.

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.