Senate debates

Tuesday, 9 May 2023

Questions without Notice

Emergency Management

2:35 pm

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Davey. I know very well about the great work that our RSOs, as we call them, in the NEMA, the National Emergency Management Agency, undertake, because I have met many of them, right across the country. In fact, just on Friday, I think it was, I was in Tasmania at Agfest, where I also met some of the terrific RSOs that have been doing a great job. I had met them after the floods in Tasmania, as I have in many other places.

My view is that we do need to retain a strong regional presence of those RSOs. I know there has been some discussion internally within the National Emergency Management Agency, but the agency and its executive are very clear that my view as minister is that the RSOs do perform an important role, including in regional areas. They are an important conduit of information back to head office, and that's one of the reasons why I support their ongoing use. Obviously there are decisions to be made by the National Emergency Management Agency as to how they use their resources, and that work will go on. But, as I say, I have made it very clear that on a personal level as minister I think that it is important that we retain a regional presence through those RSOs.

While I'm on my feet I might also mention that the entire issue of resourcing the National Emergency Management Agency has been a difficult one in the run-up to this budget, because this is yet another area of government where we have inherited funding cliffs. In fact, the former coalition government cared so much about having RSOs and a regional presence and support for our Emergency Management Agency that they were on track to cut funding to the National Emergency Management Agency by around 25 to 30 per cent. That's how much they cared about supporting our RSOs and our agency, and I can assure people that this government takes these issues much more seriously. (Time expired)


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