Virus won’t delay bushfire response: PM

04 September 2020

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AUSTRALIA – State and territory leaders have agreed to work together on a plan to ensure firefighters can cross borders without delay to tackle bushfires.

Concerns were raised at a meeting between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and premiers on Friday that limits on cross-border movement due to coronavirus restrictions could cause problems during bushfire season.

Emergency Management Australia will work with the states and territories to ensure firies and defence force members can travel as quickly as possible.

“We obviously don’t want firefighters doing two weeks in hotel quarantine when there’s a fire burning in Western Australia,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

“We need these arrangements to work first time.”

A report has recommended local councils be tapped for their expertise and given more information about what federal resources are available to deal with bushfires.

The royal commission into national natural disaster arrangements has released a 40-page list of propositions it wants local, state and federal governments to consider and respond to.

Among the ideas is ensuring states work more closely with councils to look at local vulnerabilities, demographics and resources.

The commission recommended investigating surge capacity of emergency workers and the need for specialist training.

As well, the federal government should ensure councils know how best to access the Australian Defence Force and agencies such as the Bureau of Meteorology and Geoscience Australia.

The report noted while national co-ordination was important, local delivery was critical, meaning decisions should always be made closest to where they will take effect.

“A systemic, whole-of-nation approach to national natural disasters necessitates co-ordination of strategic decision-making across the Australian, state, territory, and local governments,” the report said.

The commission proposed a single electronic tool be developed bringing together climate projections, natural hazard event risk assessments and maps.

This could be used to identify the exposure of a particular locality or region to bushfires or other disasters.

As well, emergency planners should work more closely with private land managers, charities, critical infrastructure operators, wildlife experts and health workers.

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