JOHN MENADUE. Who is responsible for ‘Commonwealth emergency management”?

The role of the Department of Home Affairs is clear

The Administrative Arrangement Orders sets out Commonwealth Minister’s and Department’s responsibilities .

The role of the Department of Home Affairs is set out-

‘Part 8, The Department of Home Affairs. Matters dealt with by the Department……

Commonwealth emergency management ; Natural disaster relief,recovery and mitigation and financial assistance including payments to the States and Territories and the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment’

( These AAO’s were signed and sealed by Peter Cosgrove on 29.5.2019. They are repeated on 5.12.2019 ,signed and sealed by David Hurley and operative from 1.2.2020)

One would expect that Peter Dutton would be front and centre in almost every respect of the  bushfire emergency. But he is no where to be found as far as I can ascertain.

Dutton is not at all shy about his public profile-  attacking asylum seekers or misleading us about boat arrivals, South African farmers or African youth gangs in Melbourne. But on the bushfire emergency he is as silent as the grave

Abul Rizvi  pointed out in this blog  on 13.1.2020 that

‘Around 18 months ago, Urgency Management in Australia(EMA) ,a division of the Department of Home Affairs warned in its National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework that climate change was exposing the country to natural disasters on ‘‘unimagined scales, in unprecedented combinations and in unexpected locations…As a result, the cost of disasters is increasing for all sectors of society – governments, industry, business, not-for-profits, communities and individuals’’.

So what did Dutton and Pezzullo do in response to this very clear warning?

Very little is the answer according to Mark Crossweller, the senior public servant responsible for developing the National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework. While $130.6 million over five years was allocated to the Framework, Crossweller told the Australian Financial Review (AFR) that it had been impossible to get proposals adopted “so that significant work can be done in preparation and mitigation.’’

Nothing concrete has been done with the $130.6 million according to the AFR. See

johnmenadue.com/abul-rizvi-where-have-dutton-and-pezzullo-been-hiding’

There are possible explanations for Dutton’s and Pezzullo’s failure in the bushfire emergency.

The first is sheer incompetence and the collapsed morale in the Department of Home Affairs. In this blog Abul Rizvi has cited numerous examples of just that.

The second explanation is,as an insider in EMA told me, the focus in EMA has been the possible threat of terrorism to the neglect of other threats like bushfires. Presumably this focus has been at the direction of Dutton and Pezzullo. This is consistent with the way we know how Dutton and Pezzullo have operated for many years- frighten us about the threat of terrorism because that delivers more political dividends.

Or is there just confusion in the Government about who is responsible? Is there shared responsibility with the Minister for Agriculture and Water.

At least one thing is very clear and that is  the responsibility of the Department of Home Affairs for Commonwealth Emergency Management. It has failed in that responsibility.

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John Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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