Laws flagged to declare national disasters

Paul Osborne
·2-min read

Laws will be introduced to federal parliament by the end of the year to enable the declaration of a national emergency.

The laws were part of the Morrison government's response released on Friday to the royal commission into natural disasters.

A declaration will fast-track national responses to bushfires, cyclones and floods, triggering the use of defence personnel, federal emergency services and health officials.

"We will not be taking over the operational management of disasters - that is the remit of the states," Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud told reporters in Canberra.

"But where there is needed to be a surge of resources, then the Australian government will come in."

A national agency will also be set up from July to take the lead on natural disaster resilience, relief and recovery.

"That will bring together the current flood and drought agencies and bushfire agencies into one," the minister said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there were good operating arrangements between the states, territories and Commonwealth when it comes to dealing on the ground with natural disasters.

But he said there were a number of "broken points" particularly around governance.

The federal government will also work with the states and territories on a new national forum for them to collaborate on strategic decision-making.

A new virtual climate and disaster risk information and services centre known as "Resilience Services" will also be set up mid-2021.

The centre will connect information held by the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

It will support the work of Emergency Management Australia and the new national resilience, relief and recovery agency.

The government merely "noted" a recommendation about developing an Australian-based national aerial firefighting capability, saying it would continue to put $26 million into existing arrangements.

"The federal government does not and has never determined the type of aircraft that comes into the country," Mr Littleproud said.

The minister also met with the Insurance Council on Friday to discuss the role of the sector in disaster recovery.

"To be candid, I haven't had significant complaints about the insurance industry in respect of bushfires," he said.

Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain earlier in the week told parliament many businesses and home owners in fire-hit southern NSW were facing unaffordable insurance premiums or were unable to access cover at all.