16 July 2019
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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security
This quick guide provides information about domestic
arrangements at the Commonwealth level to work with state and territory
governments on emergency and disaster management and resilience. It also explains
some basics about Australian involvement in international initiatives where disaster
and emergency management efforts extend beyond Australian borders. Links to
relevant sources are provided throughout, and the end of this quick guide offers
a compilation of links to other key external resources.
Disaster Risk Reduction Framework, launched in April 2018, sets out the
domestic basis for reducing disaster risk associated with natural hazards
through domestic policy settings through to 2030. The framework identifies
initial strategic outcomes, over the five-year period 2019–23, to inform
decision-making across various sectors in the areas of:
- investment and spending
- public policy
- development/land use
- legislation and regulation and
- program design and resource allocation.
The initial strategic outcomes are intended to align with
Australia’s commitment to the Sendai Framework for
Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, endorsed by the United Nations General
Assembly as an international agreement on targets and priorities for action.
Relief and recovery—policy and
Each state and territory has in place
legislation dealing with emergencies and disaster response within their own
borders. It is under this legislation that authorised officials—for example, the
Premier, Chief Minister or State Emergency Coordinator—can declare a ‘state of
emergency’ or disaster.
Response coordination and planning for any emergency or disaster within
any jurisdiction falls to the state or territory government. Hence, the
financial burden of disaster recovery and relief falls principally and in the
first instance on state and territory governments. However, arrangements exist
for the Commonwealth to provide both financial and non-financial assistance.
According to the 2018 National Disaster Risk Reduction
Framework, ‘federal and state government spending on direct recovery from
disasters is already around $2.75 billion per year’; with indirect costs ‘borne
by many sectors across multiple years’.
Economic costs are anticipated to double before 2030, and to significantly
increase over the coming decades.
Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) is the principal mechanism for
Commonwealth financial assistance to state and territory governments; whereas
Security Act 1991 (Cth) is also relevant to assistance to individuals. Alternatively
or additionally, funding may be provided:
- under Federal Financial Relations payments for specific purposes,
as arranged from time to time (such as the National
Disaster Resilience Program or the National
Partnership on disaster risk reduction)
- in the form of grants payments to local government and
non-government organisations that provide community services (for example,
Financial Assistance Grants accessible to local government councils allow for
those bodies to direct the untied grant funding to local priorities, including
- via tax concessions or exemptions (such as those attached to
grants for primary producers affected in early 2019 by the north and far north
Queensland monsoon trough).
A $3.9 billion Emergency Response Fund will be
established in the 2019–20 financial year.
State and territory governments may seek Commonwealth approval to draw up to
$150 million from this fund in the event that there is a need for
additional financial assistance—beyond what is supported by existing national
disaster response programs for domestic incidents—following a significant and
catastrophic natural disaster.
Disaster Recovery Funding
The DRFA provide a basis for the Commonwealth to enter into
cost-sharing arrangements with state and territory governments where a disaster
presents a significant financial burden. The DRFA is a form of contingent
payment from the Commonwealth, stipulated in the Intergovernmental Agreement on
Federal Financial Relations as follows:
D42 The Commonwealth may provide
financial assistance, usually in the form of partial reimbursement, to the
States and Territories for eligible expenditure incurred in relation to a
D43 Payments will be made on the terms and conditions
determined in 2011 Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements
Determination Terms and Conditions, as amended from time to time by the
Up to 75 per cent of state expenditure on natural disasters
can be eligible for reimbursement by the Commonwealth under the DRFA.
Eligibility since November 2018 is contingent on claims meeting current terms
and conditions, including relevant categories of assistance measures,
thresholds, reimbursement rates and triggers. The categories of assistance
measures attract different levels of financial assistance; and disbursement can
be through grants or packages relating to recovery from specific disasters or emergencies.
The DRFA categories are:
– Emergency assistance for individuals.
– Emergency assistance for the repair of essential public assets and to support
primary producers and small businesses recover from a disaster event.
– A community recovery package that is intended to support a holistic approach
to the recovery of regions, communities or sectors severely affected by an
Category D – Covers ‘exceptional circumstances’, in the
opinion of the Commonwealth, to alleviate distress or damage.
The DRFA allow for advance payment from the Commonwealth
where the cost of responding to a severe disaster ‘is likely to be greater than
the state can manage in the short-term’.
State and territory governments can reinvest DRFA funding towards to ‘natural
hazard mitigation activities’ where efficiencies are realised from
The assistance measures and funding available under the
DRFA do not bind or limit state and territory government expenditure where
Commonwealth financial assistance is not called upon for mitigation or recovery
Individual assistance: Disaster
Recovery Payment and Disaster Recovery Allowance
The Australian Government provides financial assistance to
individuals through the Department of Social Services in the form of:
- the Disaster
Recovery Payment—a one-off payment to eligible Australian residents who are
adversely affected by a major disaster and
- the Disaster
Recovery Allowance—a fortnightly payment for up to 13 weeks for eligible
individuals whose income has been affected by a major disaster.
These individual assistance payments are both contingent on
the responsible minister making a determination that an event is a major
The Australian Government collaborates with state and
territory governments on emergency or disaster preparedness, management and
recovery. The Department of Home Affairs holds Commonwealth responsibility for
this role, performed through the Emergency
Management Australia division—Australia’s national disaster management organisation.
Emergency Management Australia’s functions also form part of
governance arrangements and operational capabilities underpinning the
Australian Government’s responsiveness to emergencies that do not relate to
natural hazards, but to national security risks (such as terrorism) that
present significant threats to public safety, public health and/or critical
Under Part IIIAAA of the Defence Act 1903
(Cth), the ADF may be called upon to assist in the event of ‘domestic violence’
(for example, civil unrest or a terrorist incident).
Recent and upcoming Australian
involvement in international initiatives
Australia will host the 2020 Asian Ministerial Conference
on Disaster Risk Reduction, a biennial regional summit held under the auspices
of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. The Ulaanbaatar
Declaration, which was the outcome of the 2018 conference in Mongolia, set
a target to ‘substantially increase the number of countries with national and
local disaster risk reduction strategies’ by the time the next conference is
held in Brisbane in June 2020.
The 2020 conference is ‘expected to produce a political declaration on disaster
risk reduction and an updated regional action plan’.
Delivered primarily through the Department
of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia’s aid program provides funding for disaster
risk reduction, resilience and relief efforts through its humanitarian programs.
The Australian Government pledged in its 2017
Foreign Policy White Paper to increase overall funding for
humanitarian programs to $500 million per annum, up from
$433.8 million in 2016–17.
In this context, the Australian Government typically considers that ‘$1
invested in risk reduction can save up to $15 in the aftermath of a disaster’.
Australia is an ASEAN
partner nation and cooperated with the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for
Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA
Centre) to conduct the 2018 East Asia Summit International Disaster
Assistance Workshop series. Australian participation in this multinational
workshop series included all levels of government and a number of
non-government stakeholders, to test a plausible scenario that exhausted
Australia’s response capabilities and resources and prompted a call for
international assistance. The outcome of this workshop series is to inform the
next iteration of Australia’s Catastrophic Disaster Planning Capability
Roadmap, which ‘will support the development of guidelines on requesting and
managing international assistance in support of existing systems, and will
support a better understanding of how domestic arrangements can be repurposed’.
Links to other key resources
This quick guide does not encompass emergency pest and disease response
Adapted from Australian Government, National
disaster risk reduction framework, Department of Home Affairs (DoHA),
Canberra, 2018, p. 21. The Framework lists ‘examples of sectors with a role to
play in reducing disaster risk’, including: insurance; finance and investment;
agriculture; energy; health; and community services (see p. 20).
Act 2004 (ACT); State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989 (NSW); Emergency Management Act 2013 (NT); State Transport Act 1938 (Qld) and the
Safety Preservation Act 1986 (Qld); Emergency Management Act 2004 (SA); Emergency Management Act 2006 (Tas); Emergency Management Act 1986 (Vic) and the Emergency
Management Act 2013 (Vic)(NB: there are a range of specific
states of emergency covered by other legislation in Victoria); Emergency Management Act 2005 (WA).
Australian Government, National disaster risk reduction framework, op.
cit., p. 16. This figure mirrors a 2017 estimate published by the Australian
Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities (ABRDRSC) and
Deloitte Access Economics, which placed the average total economic cost at
$18.2 billion per year over the ten years to 2016: ABRDRSC and Deloitte
Access Economics, Building
resilience to natural disasters in our states and territories, Deloitte
Touche Tohmatsu, Sydney, 2017, p. 7.
ABRDRSC and Deloitte Access Economics, Building resilience to natural
disasters in our states and territories, op. cit.
Commonwealth funding under the National Disaster Resilience Program was
matched by state and territory governments under the National Partnership on
natural disaster resilience through to 2018–19. Commonwealth funding for this
National Partnership was not allocated in the 2019–20 Budget forward estimates:
see Australian Government, Federal
financial relations: budget paper no. 3: 2019–20, p. 61.
Commonwealth assistance to local governments through Financial Assistance
Grants is a general purpose expense provided for in the Budget under the
‘General purpose inter-government transactions’ sub-function, for which half of
the expected 2019–20 allocation was ‘brought forward to enable the immediate
use of these funds in 2018–19, particularly in areas affected by severe or
unexpected weather events’: Australian Government, Budget
strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1: 2019–20, p. 5-43. The DRFA do
not apply to these general purpose expenditures.
Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2019–20, p. 19 (North Queensland
Flood Recovery Package—tax treatment of qualifying grants); S Robert (Assistant
supporting the recovery from the Queensland floods, media release, 4
April 2019. See also Australian Taxation Office (ATO), ‘Australian
disaster relief funds and tax deductible gifts’, ATO website, last modified
12 October 2016.
Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2019–20,
op. cit., p. 8.
Australian Government, Budget strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1:
2019–20, op. cit., pp. 6-19–6-20.
Clauses D42 and D43 of Schedule
D to the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations. The National
Disaster Recovery and Relief Arrangements (NDRRA) was the long-standing
title of successive ministerial Determinations from 2012, but changed to a new
title under the Disaster
Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) when the new Determination came into
effect in November 2018.
See, for example, Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper
no. 2: 2019–20, op. cit., pp. 111–12 (Disaster Recovery Funding
Arrangements—funding for Northern Queensland floods measure; associated with
the North Queensland Flood Recovery Package (pp. 62–63)).
Australian Government and Government of Western Australia, Disaster
recovery funding arrangements Western Australia 2018, Department of
Fire and Emergency Services (Western Australia), p. 19. Refer to DoHA, Disaster
recovery funding arrangements 2018, DoHA factsheet, n.d., or Clause 4
(pp. 15–23) of the DRFA for more detail.
DoHA, Disaster recovery funding arrangements 2018, op. cit.
Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Answers to
Questions on Notice, Home Affairs Portfolio, Additional Budget Estimates
AE19/171, 29 March 2019.
A ‘major disaster’ is defined under the Social Security
Act 1991 (Cth): section 36 relates to the Disaster Recovery Payment;
whereas section 36A Part 2.23B relates to the Disaster Recovery Allowance. The
definition of ‘adversely affected’, and the circumstances to which it applies,
are subject to ministerial determination in each instance that the responsible minister
determines that an event is a major disaster for the purposes of the Disaster
Recovery Payment: see Australian Government, Social security
guide, Department of Social Services, Version 1.254, released
6 May 2019: 184.108.40.206
Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP)—Description and 220.127.116.11
Disaster Recovery Allowance (DRA)—Description.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) may provide assets under Defence
Assistance to the Civil Community arrangements: see Australian National Audit
Office (ANAO), Emergency
defence assistance to the civil community, Audit report, 24,
2013–14, ANAO, Canberra, 2014. The ADF can also provide support overseas in
times of international humanitarian crisis: Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF),
support’, RAAF website, n.d.
report 2017–18, p. 91. The Crisis Coordination Centre also facilitates
Australian Government Crisis Committee and National Crisis Committee meetings.
These plans do not appear to be publicly available. Other plans canvass the
reception of Australian citizens and foreign nationals evacuated from overseas;
coordination between government and industry stakeholders in the event of an
actual or imminent aviation disaster; and risk mitigation for space debris
re-entering the atmosphere that may impact Australia: for further information,
see DoHA, ‘Emergency
response plans’, archived DoHA webpage, n.d.
For example, the Crisis Coordination Centre is also responsible for managing
the National Security Hotline. DoHA, ‘About
emergency management’, DoHA website, last updated 23 November 2018.
The Commonwealth developed these provisions through the Defence Amendment
(Call Out of the Australian Defence Force) Act 2018 in response to a
special counter-terrorism meeting of the Council of Australian Governments
(COAG) in October 2017: see COAG, Communiqué, Special
meeting of the COAG on counter-terrorism, Canberra, 5 October 2017 and
COAG, Communiqué, COAG
meeting, Adelaide, 12 December 2018.
J Bishop (Minister for Foreign Affairs) and A Taylor (Minister for Law
Enforcement and Cyber Security), Australia
hosts disaster risk reduction conference, media release, 6 July 2018.
Declaration, Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction,
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 6 July 2018, clause 10, p. 2 (referring to Target E of
Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction).
United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Brisbane to host the 2020
Asia–Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, media
release, 5 April 2019.
. Actual expenditure
under the Humanitarian and Disaster Response program reached $492.2 million in 2017–18:
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Australia’s
international development assistance, official sector statistical summary
2016–17, DFAT, Canberra, May 2018, p. 26; DFAT, Australia’s
Official Development Assistance, statistical summary, 2017–18, DFAT,
Canberra, December 2018, p. 38.
aid budget summary 2018–19, DFAT, Canberra, May 2018, p. 2; DFAT, Australian
aid budget summary 2019–20, DFAT, Canberra, April 2019, p. 1. For an
overview of Australia’s aid spending, see A Clare, Official
Development Assistance (ODA): a quick guide, Research paper series
2018–19, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 30 April 2019.
East Asia Summit Disaster Management Initiative, 2018
East Asia Summit international disaster assistance workshop outcomes report,
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