BUSHFIRE ROYAL COMMISSION PUBLISHES REPORT

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements has published its final report which makes 80 recommendations to improve Australia’s national natural disaster arrangements and to make the nation safer.

Commission Chair, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin AC (Retd) said there was an important role for all levels of government in relation to managing natural disasters.

“While state and territory governments have primary responsibility, and accountability, for emergency management, we have concluded that Australia needs a national approach to natural disasters. This calls for the Australian Government to play a greater role than it currently does.

“Effective national coordination will be a critical capability in managing natural disasters on a national scale or with national consequences. Arrangements need to be clear, robust and accountable.”

Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) CEO Andrew Hall welcomed the contents of the report: “The Royal Commission’s recommendations provide clear and urgent direction to governments and agencies on how they should work cooperatively to protect Australian communities from natural disasters.”

“Australia experienced its worst natural disaster season on record in 2019-20, with more than $5.94 billion in insurance claims. Without urgent action, hundreds of communities will remain vulnerable to the impact of cyclones, floods, tropical storms and bushfires.”

The Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience & Safer Communities (ABR) also welcomed the final report recommendations for the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.

Representing the collective views of its members – Australian Red Cross, IAG, Munich RE, Optus and Westpac Group – the ABR provided a submission to the Royal Commission which highlighted the importance of government investment in mitigation ahead of severe weather events.

IAG Managing Director and CEO Nick Hawkins said: “Natural disasters leave deep, emotional, physical and financial impacts on communities for many years. Our members have unfortunately seen the impact of many natural disasters firsthand over the last few decades, which has driven us to work collaboratively to make communities more resilient and people safer.”

Over 35 days of hearings, the Chair and fellow Commissioners, Dr Annabelle Bennett AC SC and Professor Andrew Macintosh, heard from more than 270 witnesses, including:

• individuals directly affected by natural disasters
• current and former representatives of state and territory fire and emergency
management agencies
• experts in a broad range of fields – for example, climate science, fire
prediction, and the health impacts of bushfire smoke
• representatives of charities, industry peak bodies, and consumer groups, and
• senior officials from the Australian, state, territory and local governments.

Binskin said, “There are lessons for all of us arising from our inquiry. Governments, essential services providers, insurers, charities, communities and individuals should consider what steps they must take across all phases of natural disasters to improve national natural disaster arrangements.”

“Progress on implementing our recommendations should be monitored, transparent and communicated nationally. Australian, state and territory governments need to commit to action and cooperate, and hold each other to account.”

The report is published on the Royal Commission’s website.