Wednesday, 24 February 2021
Questions without Notice
Australian Natural Disasters
I direct my question to the exceptionally competent Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management. Will the minister please update the House on how the Morrison government is continuing to build Australia's world-class emergency management services and disaster recovery capabilities?
I thank the member for Leichhardt for his question and I acknowledge the fact that the member for Leichhardt would appreciate more than anyone in this country, coming from northern Australia, the importance of and how lucky we are in Australia to have world-class—in fact, world-leading—emergency services. That is through our work with the states and through Emergency Management Australia, which coordinates those mechanisms to keep Australians safe during natural disasters.
It's all predicated on the men and women who put their lives on the line for us. They're prepared to go out and put themselves in front of disasters to keep us safe, and many of those are volunteers. Tragically, last year through the Black Summer there were 10 emergency services personnel of the 34 lives lost in Australia. They paid the ultimate price for Australia. As a result, the royal commission has handed down 80 recommendations, which we're working on with the states to implement. That's so much so that the government is making it very clear, in a transparent way, that we will show the Australian people transparently the progress of the implementation of all 80 of those recommendations and update that on a monthly basis. That will be a legacy to those people who made the ultimate sacrifice, that this does not become one of the 240 reports into natural disasters since 1920 which have not been acted on. We have that responsibility.
One of those recommendations is the establishment of a national disaster recovery agency which covers not just bushfires but floods, droughts and cyclones. It will make sure that we look at resilience, relief and reconstruction of our communities. It's important that we do this as quickly as we can, and I can inform the House that we'll have it up and going by 1 July. That means that we'll coordinate with the states in a collaborative way to amplify our relief and recovery efforts.
One of the other recommendations is about enhancing Emergency Management Australia, giving it greater capacity and capability. Part of that is around data and information—collecting that data. So we're creating Climate and Resilience Services Australia, which brings together 10 agencies, including the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, to bring real-time data to Emergency Management Australia to collate and then coordinate information. That's particularly so for people in northern Australia, where a cyclone may be about to hit. They'll be able to give our emergency services in Queensland and Defence Australia information so they can deploy assets strategically before a disaster hits. They'll also be able to work to the very household—the age of the house and the number of people in that house—so that we can work with NGOs and charities to ensure that the immediate relief and recovery is there.
This is world leading in making sure that we have a coordinated approach with those on the ground in the state and with NGOs and charities to ensure that we keep Australians safe. This is what a smart country does in protecting its people in the good and the bad times.