AUSTRALIA: To respond to “near persistent” natural disasters, the defence department warned the incoming Labor government that it was under extreme pressure. It also mentioned “the impacts of climate change” when requesting more economical ways to handle the ongoing callouts.
The Australian defence force is frequently mentioned as being under pressure in the incoming government brief created by the defence department, which Guardian Australia was able to receive under the request of information legislation.
In recent years, the use of soldiers in civilian capacities has increased. During the Covid pandemic, they were sent into nursing homes, and they handled several flood and wildfire situations.
While the new military minister, Richard Marles, and the emergency management minister, Murray Watt, have acknowledged the growing strain on staff.
Then-shadow defence minister Brendan O’Connor floated a new civilian disaster response agency earlier this year to relieve pressure on ADF resources.
In the brief, it is said that the defence department must balance “competing pressures” such as “regional contingencies” with providing aid to the civil community.
The statement in the document reads, “The ADF has aided, in nearly persistent form during recent years, the civil community at home and partners overseas in managing a wide range of natural calamities.”
“We need to think about more affordable methods to handle what is quickly turning into a consistent concurrent issue for Defense, possibly through improved community-based disaster response arrangements, which are outside of Defence’s jurisdiction.”
On the eve of an international meeting, the federal government on Sunday pledged an additional $58 million for disaster relief in the Pacific region. It also announced the appointment of a new emergency management chief.
Last month, Watt complimented the ADF’s role in disaster recovery, but he also stated that Labor was looking at other disaster response plans.
“We do have worries about how far the defence force is being stretched, but we do think that there will always be a need for them.” He said to the National Press Club that the nation’s defence is its primary responsibility.
A new defence strategic mobilisation plan, according to the incoming brief, would specify how to strengthen the department’s capacity to respond “to a range of contingencies, including large-scale domestic natural disasters and national emergencies,” as well as carry out a risk assessment of the implications of climate change for national security.
To “manage concurrency pressures and maximise the capability available to respond,” it was stated that the defence department would work with other organisations.
It was noted that natural disasters were anticipated to become more frequent and powerful. As part of the FoI release, the names of the other organisations were redacted.
According to the brief, “Defence recognises the implications of climate change and is dedicated to both sustaining the estate and putting forth steps to lessen the impact of our operations.”
“Our strategic guidance and planning, force structure, readiness, estate and infrastructure planning, and capability development all take climate and disaster resilience into account.”
With plans to restructure current federal financing mechanisms and enact a new Disaster Ready Fund of at least $200 million annually, the Labor government has committed to increasing spending on disaster mitigation and resilience. Watt is in charge of organising the fusion of many catastrophe agencies into the new National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Brendan Moon, the former CEO of the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, was named the new coordinator general of Nema on Sunday, according to Watt. The minister hailed the new employee as “one of Australia’s foremost natural catastrophe professionals” and declared that the new organisation was already working to get ready for the summer’s high-risk weather season.
In collaboration with state and local governments, Watt claimed that their major objective was to “develop resilience to future disasters and support any response to emerging events while keeping firmly engaged with communities still suffering from past disasters.”
“Being better prepared and adapting to the effects of climate change is the greatest way we can all deal with more frequent and severe disasters.”
The Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction is taking place this week in Brisbane and is attended by some 3,000 delegates from 40 nations. Together with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Australia is hosting the occasion.
The Australian Humanitarian Partnership’s risk reduction programme, Disaster READY, is provided through the Pacific, and Watt and the minister for the Pacific, Pat Conroy, confirmed $50 million in government financing for the initiative on Sunday.