The interim observations from the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements have been published. Commission Chair Mark Binskin said the national scope of the inquiry demanded broad consideration of matters across all levels of government, the private and not-for-profit sectors, communities, families and individuals. The interim observations relate to the issues that will be addressed in the Commission’s report, which will be presented to the Governor-General by 28 October 2020.
“We are mindful that many Australians are still living with the effects and devastation caused by the 2019–20 bushfires,” Binskin said. “The Commission has delivered these preliminary observations to share our present perspectives as we approach the final stages of our inquiry.” The Royal Commission will continue to analyse evidence from more than 270 witnesses, over 50,000 pages of tendered documents and more than 1700 public submissions.
The Royal Commission will invite comment on a number of propositions developed by Counsel Assisting the Commission. “These views will be considered along with the evidence presented during our final hearing block set down for the week commencing on 21 September 2020,” Binskin said.
The interim observations are available here, on the Royal Commission’s website.
The Honourable Craig Crawford, Queensland’s Minister for Fire and Emergency Services and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, voiced his support for greater national coordination and increased federal government resourcing. Crawford also noted that Queensland’s history of floods, cyclones and bushfires has demonstrated that the most effective disaster management arrangements are locally led, regionally coordinated and state facilitated.
To prepare for the 2020 bushfire season, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) have completed twice the number of hazard mitigation activities compared to 2019. The hazard reduction activities include the ‘Cool Burn’, where QFES assesses the landscape and conditions to identify the locations where reduction burning is the best strategy to provide the greatest reduction in risk. More than 540 bushfire mitigation activities have been completed as part of Operation Cool Burn.
This includes 274 hazard reduction activities, 137 fire break upgrades and 130 community education activities. Despite wetter than average conditions forecast for many parts of eastern Australia during Spring, the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC bushfire outlook for September to November indicates that parts of Queensland could still face above normal fire potential. However, the “outcomes from the 2020 Operation Cool Burn period means Queensland is well positioned for the season”, Crawford stated.
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