In the face of increasing natural disasters the Government must ensure States, Local Governments and the Commonwealth have in place the resources and capabilities to respond to emergencies before sidelining the Defence Force.
Shadow Emergency Management Minister, Perin Davey agreed with the recommendation of the Defence Strategic Review that Defence should be the force of last resort but said there are capability gaps that to date only defence can fulfil.
Senator Davey said the Senate Select Committee into Australia’s Disaster Resilience is particularly interested in looking at what resources and capabilities are needed to ensure disaster response is fast and fit for purpose.
“The Committee has heard from several witnesses about a perceived, if not real, increased reliance on the defence forces over recent years,” Senator Davey said.
“We have also heard how this comes at a cost, not just financially, but also to our Defence capabilities through diverting defence resources to disaster response.”
Senator Davey noted that the Labor Government held some responsibility in creating community expectations for defence deployment in natural emergencies.
“In opposition Murray Watt, who is now the responsible Minister, was very quick to demand ADF support in emergencies – even before state requests were made,” she said.
“It didn’t take long in Government for the Minister to concede he had raised expectations from opposition.
“There is no doubt that in recent disasters, Defence has been crucial in both emergency response and aiding clean up.
“Defence have the equipment and they are self-sufficient, so they don’t drain Local Government or other emergency management resources.
“In restructuring our emergency response, we need to make sure we don’t exacerbate the problem.”
The Senate Select Committee into Australia’s Disaster Resilience is still taking submissions and further public hearings are being schedules around Australia. The inquiry can be followed at Select Committee on Australia’s Disaster Resilience – Parliament of Australia (aph.gov.au).