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Speech on Disaster Readiness

On Tuesday 27 September 2022, I made a speech in Federal Parliament about disaster readiness and emergency management. You can watch the speech here or read the full transcript below.

E WATSON-BROWN: The Bureau of Meteorology has just declared that a La Nina event is underway, the third in a row. In Ryan we are particularly vulnerable. We've had three cataclysmic floods in my lifetime. They won't stop, and, with climate change, they're becoming more frequent. Our 60 kilometres of river frontage and 300 kilometres of creek and waterway frontages in Ryan put us at very high risk. And, as around 50 per cent of our total area of 366 square kilometres is bushland and conservation areas, bushfire is also a future risk in El Nino situations. So it's perfectly reasonable to ask, as La Nina 3 bears down on us, what action is coming out of this knowledge. Natural Hazards Research Australia chief executive Andrew Gissing says:

It's a really good idea to sit down with your family members or your employees and figure out what you're going to do…

Okay. Is it entirely up to our frightened, exhausted community? It can't be. So where's the government plan? Where's the funding? Currently 97 per cent of disaster spending happens in response and recovery, while only three per cent is in preparing for disasters. I believe this has to change.

The National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, has recently formed, through a merger of existing agencies, and is now the primary agency responsible for most Australian government disaster preparedness and response. The head of NEMA, former New South Wales fire chief Greg Mullins, who is now with Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, says we need change, a shift from responding to disasters to preparing for them. I agree, but my community in Ryan is sceptical that the full scale of what we need to be prepared for the disasters to come has actually been understood. The money is there for a full disaster preparedness plan. It's about priorities. The Labor government is about to spend over $100 billion on nuclear submarines from the US. The government's new Disaster Ready Fund, on the other hand, gets only $200 million a year. What we need right now is an action plan, coordinated, detailed, well funded and localised—an action plan to deal with the immediate, like escape infrastructure, rescue capacity, emergency support, housing food et cetera; the medium term, like compensation, buying back homes, rebuilding, integrated planning, no more development in flood plains; and the long term, like mitigation and climate action now, so no new coal and gas. In the absence of this, we in the Ryan electorate office are already rallying volunteers. (Time expired)

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