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Authorities urge against ‘disaster tourism’
Scott Morrison will address the National Press Club today – and excerpts of his speech indicate a key theme will be expanding the powers of the commonwealth to respond to national emergencies.
First, Morrison describes the problem as he sees it:
“To date, the role of the Commonwealth in responding to natural disasters has been limited to responding to requests for assistance from state governments. They judge the time and form of support needed.
The scale of the bushfires this season – not least their simultaneous reach across state borders – has unequivocally demonstrated the limits of those arrangements.”
And then, the solution:
“I believe, however, there is now a clear community expectation that the Commonwealth should have the ability to respond in times of national emergencies and disasters, particularly through deployment of our defence forces in circumstances where the life and property of Australians have been assessed to be under threat.
… I therefore flag the following as issues to be considered in the wake of recent events, namely:
- The constitutional and legal framework that would allow the Commonwealth to declare a national state of emergency – with clear authorities and appropriate safeguards for Commonwealth action on its own initiative, including the deployment of our defence force;
- The legal interface with the states and territories on responsibilities when it comes to preparation for, and response to, natural disasters and emergencies of national scale;
- An enhanced national accountability for natural disaster risk management, resilience and preparedness. This should include the setting of targets and transparent reporting on key actions, with enhanced national standards where necessary.”
Morrison will also give a bit more detail on his proposal for a royal commission into the bushfires, explaining its first take will be to “audit the implementation of previous [inquiries’] recommendations, drawing on work that has already been done in this area”.
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