Attorney-General praises disaster response

Attorney-General praises disaster response

10 February 2011

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Australia — Mr McClelland said that as a result of warnings provided by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in November 2010, and of recommendations arising from the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, Emergency Management Australia (EMA) coordinated briefings for state emergency responders by Commonwealth agencies including Geoscience Australia, BOM, the Australian Defence Force (ADF), and Human Services.

“Arising from those briefings we arranged for liaison officers from EMA to be with state emergency responders to coordinate emergency responses.

“Those relationships have been extremely effective during the period that we have just gone through,” Mr McClelland said.

“No other country in the world has so much of its emergency response capability based on volunteerism.

“Whether we are talking about bushfire fighters, state emergency services or marine rescue they are all based on volunteerism.

“That is very much something that we are entitled to be proud of, to nurture and to support.”

The Attorney-General also commended the efforts of radio stations and announcers in doing “an outstanding job” of communicating expert advice and necessary information during Cyclone Yasi, and recognised a range of other groups, including the ADF, local law enforcement, charities, local government and community organisations.

Emergency management ministers are meeting this week to conduct a debriefing on the events including the cyclone, Queensland and Victorian flooding, and Western Australian bushfires.

The Council of Australian Governments will meet in mid-February to discuss planning for a national resilience strategy involving all arms of government and the private sector.

“While focusing on relief is important, we must continue to focus on prevention and mitigation.

“As part of that rebuilding effort, we must have constantly in mind the need for the betterment and improving that infrastructure so it is less susceptible to these natural events in the future.

“There is no doubt that resilience works, that building in mitigation and prevention techniques works, and I think the aftermath and consequences of Cyclone Yasi are testament to that.

“Lessons were learned from Cyclone Larry and it is a remarkable achievement that, although there were losses of life in the aftermath, as a result of the impact of the cyclone, it seems, there was no loss of life.

“Measures such as the National Emergency Warning System, which came online last February and has now issued literally hundreds of thousands of messages on SMS and telephone, have been responsible for keeping people safe.”

Mr McClelland also pointed to planning decisions and the enforcement of buildings codes, as well as community awareness, public advice and evacuation plans as “part and parcel” of developing resilience.

“It is through properly resourcing, thinking through, planning and working together at all levels of government and with the private sector that we further enhance the ability of local communities to cope with and bounce back from these natural environmental events that are very much part of our environmental history but are, as we have seen, so tremendously destructive and distressing.”

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