Defence force needed for Australian disaster relief

Defence force needed for Australian disaster relief

26 February 2010

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Australia —  A new study, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) paper, states defence could expect to be used more frequently in domestic counter-disaster tasks, such as the Victorian bushfires a year ago.

But the defence force viewed domestic disaster assistance as a secondary activity to its priority role of war-fighting and other international tasks, the study said.

“Defence assistance to domestic disasters isn’t allocated a budget.

Nor does it have detailed capability requirements,” said study authors ASPI director of research Dr Anthony Bergin and Australian Security Research Centre executive director Athol Yates.

Australia could expect larger and more frequent extreme weather events due to climate change, while those living in coastal regions and bushfire-prone regions would be increasingly vulnerable, they said.

At the same time, there would a continuing reduction in the number of volunteers and emergency services personnel, with growing community and political expectations that military resources would be available.

Dr Bergin and Mr Yates recommended the government clarify that domestic disaster assistance is an Australian Defence Force priority task.

“Elevating domestic disaster assistance into a core defence activity will ensure that this priority flows through the Australian defence organisation,” they said.

As well, defence should undertake a fundamental review of its domestic disaster assistance role to maximise its ability to help.

“This requires that defence’s role in contributing to disaster management be better defined,” they said.

Dr Bergin and Mr Yates said such a change would not require significant adjustment to the defence force structure or new equipment.

“They are, however, likely to involve modifying existing organisations, policies and procedures, logistics and training,’ ‘they said.

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