Additional Comments - Coalition Senators

Bushfires have long been part of the Australian landscape and pose an ongoing risk to lives and property, however few can contest that the Australian bushfire season 2019-20 was one of the worst in recent memory.
Australians rightly expect and deserve answers to as to why the fire season in question was so devastating. Australians also expect Governments to present workable solutions to prevent, mitigate and manage future bushfire disasters.
It’s essential that we continue to learn from our experiences so we can deal with future bushfire situations more effectively and limit the impact on the lives of Australians.
Coalition Senators again want to highlight the Federal system and how it pertains to responsibilities when it comes to responding, mitigating, and preventing natural disasters such as bushfires. Within the federation, States and Territories are primarily responsible for preparation, mitigation and first response efforts. Commonwealth Government support has been structured in such a way as to complement arrangements with State and Territory jurisdictions to assist them in fulfilling their responsibilities.
In preparing this report, Coalition Senators also note the multitude of other inquiries into the bushfire disaster, which includes State and Territory reviews, as well as the Royal Commission into Australia’s Natural Disaster Arrangements (the Royal Commission).
This report should be seen as an addition to other such reviews and inquiries, which all levels of Government are currently responding to, and are in the process of implementing.
The Royal Commission presented its report to the Governor-General on 28 October 2020, and the report was tabled in Parliament on 30 October 2020.
The Royal Commission made 80 recommendations, with over 50 involving the Australian Government. The Australian Government response, which was delivered on 13 November 2020, supported, or supported-in-principle all recommendations for which it was responsible, and noted those recommendations directed at the States and Territories. The Royal Commission made:
15 recommendations directed to the Australian Government (12 of which have been completed, or have met the objective of the recommendation);
22 recommendations specific to States and Territories;
42 recommendations directed to the Australian Government and States and Territories; and
1 recommendation specifically focused on the insurance industry.
The Royal Commission made it clear that States and Territories should continue to have primary responsibility for the protection of life, property and the environment within their jurisdictions.
The Government agrees with the Royal Commission that the Government should play a greater role in relation to natural disasters on a national scale.
On 4 October 2021, to support the implementation of the Royal Commission recommendations, the Government announced:
a $2 million national education campaign for the Australian Warning System – to provide public awareness and understanding of nationally consistent emergency warnings being rolled out by States and Territories;
$20 million to implement the Australian Fire Danger Rating System to give clear and consistent fire danger information across Australia; and
a $4 million boost to the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) which will allow a National Large Air Tanker to be based in Australia to be readily available for earlier starts and later finishes to our fire seasons.
These improvements complemented earlier reforms announced by the Government on 5 May 2021:
The establishment of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency (the Agency) (recommendation 3.5) that will provide:
support to local communities during the relief and recovery phases following major disasters;
advice to Government on policies and programs to mitigate the impact of future major disaster events; and
$600 million for the Preparing Australia Program to improve the long-term resilience of Australian communities.
The establishment of the Australian Climate Service, a world-class service with detailed climate and disaster risk information to help Government better anticipate, manage and adapt to climate impacts (recommendations 4.1-4.7).
Enhancements to Emergency Management Australia, which include development of a real time ‘common operating picture’ in the re-named National Situation Room. This will support decision-makers to have the most up to date information to hand in a crisis (recommendation 3.6).
Supporting these initiatives, the Government is progressing a number of interlinked reforms, including:
Introducing and passing the National Emergency Declaration Act 2020 through Parliament, which came into force on 16 December 2020 (recommendation 5.1).
Making available $280 million through a Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants program to help communities still recovering from the 2019-20 bushfires address priority work that hasn’t been supported under other funding programs.
Establishing a reinsurance pool to make home and small business insurance more affordable and accessible for residents in cyclone‑prone areas, mainly located in Northern Australia, backed by a $10 billion Government guarantee.
Committing $40 million to a three-year pilot program to partially subsidise the cost of cyclone risk mitigation works to improve insurance affordability and access for strata title properties in North Queensland.
Committing $261 million with states and territories to the Disaster Risk Reduction Funding Package, including for a national education campaign on the Australian Warning System (recommendation 13.4), Bushfire Resilience Star Rating system, and the National Bushfire Intelligence Capability to equip decision makers with the capabilities and information they need to reduce disaster risk and manage residual risk.


The committee received 192 submissions from a range of sources, including individuals, grass roots community organisations, community groups, local councils, State and Territory Government agencies, as well as Federal Government agencies.
Coalition Senators would like to thank and acknowledge those individuals and groups who provided submissions to the inquiry.
In addition to evidence provided through submissions, the committee held 10 public hearings and had the opportunity to hear directly from communities directly affected by the fires, and agencies involved in the response and recovery after the disaster.
The thoughts, opinions, and personal stories provided by submitters and those who gave evidence at public hearings is greatly appreciated.

Additional comments on recommendations

Recommendation 1

Coalition Senators note that it is the responsibility of States and Territories to maintain an appropriate firefighting capability. However, the Commonwealth invests $30 million per year, through the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) to provide support for a sovereign aerial firefighting capability.

Recommendation 2

Coalition Senators note this work is already being progressed through the National Emergency Management Ministers’ Meeting (NEMMM).

Recommendation 3

Coalition Senators note that evacuation processes and facilities are a matter for the States and Territories.
Recommendation 6
Coalition Senators note that the oversight and responsibility for management of the Emergency Response Fund is the responsibility of the Department of Finance, as set out in the Emergency Response Fund Act 2019.
Recommendation 8
Coalition Senators note that the Government has committed to draw down two years’ worth of the $50 million annual allocation from the Emergency Response Fund to deliver mitigation and resilience projects. This is through the $100 million National Flood Mitigation Infrastructure Program.
Recommendation 9
Coalition Senators disagree with this proposal. Given the NRRA’s focus on responding to disasters, monthly reporting would be onerous. Quarterly reporting would be more appropriate.
Recommendation 10
Coalition Senators disagree with this proposal. Given the NRRA’s focus on responding to disasters, monthly reporting would be onerous. Quarterly reporting would be more appropriate.
Recommendation 15
Coalition Senators note that the National Cabinet has already agreed to establish a body focused on emergency management and recovery, this is the National Emergency Management Ministers Meeting (NEMMM). It may be more appropriate that the NEMMM focus on these issues
Senator Claire Chandler
Deputy Chair

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