Gippsland MP Darren Chester hopes the royal commission into Australia’s Black Summer bushfires will give a voice to those who know the bush well.
Mr Chester said there were many people throughout Gippsland with extensive knowledge and experience of managing the land to share.
“We need to make sure those experienced local voices are heard at this royal commission,” Mr Chester said. “No-one in Gippsland wants people in the
city telling us how to live our lives or run our businesses.
“People in my community want to see us do more in terms of hazard reduction.
“It’s clear to me that we need more boots on the ground to prepare and protect communities by undertaking practical land management tasks including controlling the fuel load on public and private land to keep our communities safe.
“The State Government has progressively de-staffed our region of Parks Victoria and DELWP workers on the ground in the more remote locations.
We need more boots and less suits to drive bushfire prevention, infrastructure upgrades and better management of our natural assets.
“Two of the lessons that we’ve learned over these past few months is the importance of maintaining reliable mobile communications and safe transport corridors during both the response and recovery phases of natural disasters.
“I hope the royal commission will clarify how the ADF can be deployed to provide critical support in a crisis, so there is no question about its role and how it is activated.”
The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements will look at three key areas:
- improving natural disaster management coordination across all levels of government;
- improving Australia’s preparedness, resilience, and response to natural disasters, across all levels of government; and
- the legal framework for the Commonwealth’s involvement in responding to national emergencies and how that works with state and territory legal frameworks.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the scale of the bushfires presented new challenges for all levels of government, requiring a detailed national inquiry.
“My priority is to keep Australians safe. To do that, we need to learn from the Black Summer bushfires how we can work better with the states and territories to better protect and equip Australians for living in hotter, drier and longer summers,” the Prime Minister said.
“In particular, we need to consider the need to establish new powers for the Federal Government to declare a national state of emergency to trigger direct Federal Government responses to national disasters, including the direct deployment of the Australian Defence Force. Currently, there are no such powers and federal responses are supposed to only be undertaken in response to state requests and authorisations.
“During the Black Summer bushfires, we entered a constitutional grey zone by directly initiating defence force deployments, utilising the first ever compulsory call out of reservists, with over 6,500 ADF personnel serving in support of state and territory response efforts. But we did that without clear rules.
“The overwhelming majority of the actions to protect Australians from bushfires are undertaken at a state level: everything from resourcing our fire services and hazard reduction, to land clearing and planning laws.”
The royal commission will cooperate with other inquiries announced by the states and review the work and recommendations of previous inquiries. Its final report is due on August 31 so that its recommendations can be acted on before next bushfire season.