Australia — Australia needs to conduct a major national inquiry into natural disaster management and implement a campaign encouraging people to help themselves, a new study says.
In a paper released on Thursday, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) research director Dr Peter Bergin said Australia was a land of natural disasters and needed to be prepared for when it was king hit again.
He said there were now six inquiries under way following a summer of disasters. Advertisement: Story continues below
That includes investigations of Queensland and Victorian floods, West Australian bushfires, disaster insurance and federal parliamentary inquiries into communication networks and the insurance industry.
Dr Bergin said a call for national reform came from Suncorp insurance chief executive Patrick Snowball who said the current patchwork approach would not do the job.
Mr Snowball said Australian leaders recognised in the 1980s that the Australian economy was vulnerable to the impact of globalisation and needed reform.
Those reforms were preceded by the Wallis inquiry. Mr Snowball said Australia should have the equivalent of a Wallis Inquiry into disaster management because it deserved to be a much higher government reform priority.
Dr Bergin said Suncorp’s call should be supported, but after other inquiries have been completed.
“At that point a federal inquiry could examine the national implications of their findings, as well as to what extent the recommendations of numerous other Australian disaster inquiries over the last decade have in fact been implemented,” he said.
Dr Bergin said the Commonwealth bore the cost of disasters to a significant extent but had limited ability to improve resilience in its own right.
He suggested a number of principles, such as a requirement that natural disaster funding be provided on the condition that new structures should be better than those they replaced.
Dr Bergin said insurance had to play a key role in encouraging resilience with policy holders notified of the risk faced by their property.
“We need to address legacy issues around land use planning. This should include a national policy on retreating from hazardous areas to reduce people’s exposure to severe risks,” he said.
Dr Bergin said there should be a national communications strategy promoting preparedness and encouraging people to help themselves.
“Any campaign should explain that governments won’t pay for uninsured losses or provide a fire truck at the end of every street,” he said.