Bushfire report’s big recommendation
The federal government should to be able to declare a state of national emergency, according to a final report handed down by the Royal Commission investigating last summer's catastrophic bushfires.
The proposed change is among 80 recommendations made public on Friday after the report was tabled in parliament.
The Black Summer blazes torched 10 million hectares, destroyed more than 3,000 homes and killed 33 people.
Hundreds more died from the thick smoke that blanketed parts of Australia for weeks on end, the inquiry found.
In order to prevent similar disasters in the future, the commission recommended the federal government should have broader powers to declare a state of emergency.
"The declaration should be made by the prime minister, and legislation should be clear about the circumstances in which a declaration may be made, and the actions that the Australian government can then take to support state and territory governments," the report says.
Such a declaration would signal the severity of the situation to the community and put agencies and troops on high alert.
In a national emergency, the report says, the federal government should be able to act in response to a natural disaster regardless of whether or not a state has asked for help.
But such a declaration "should not purport to give the Australian government the power to determine how the resources of states and territories are to be used or allocated, without their consent".
That recommendation will count as a win for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who asked for such powers in January after copping heavy flak for what many perceived as his slow response to the crisis.
The report hints at that public perception, stating the more than 1,700 submissions made clear "the Australian public expected greater Australian government action" during the bushfires.
The final report makes several recommendations in relation to climate change, after hearing from experts who said the warming planet boosted the fires.
The report makes clear disaster management arrangements must catch up to a new reality in which climate change has made natural disasters worse.
Climate change will continue to whip up wilder storms, lead to higher sea levels, and stoke hotter and more out-of-control bushfires, the report says.
"We are likely to see more compounding disasters on a national scale with far-reaching consequences. Compounding disasters may be caused by multiple disasters happening simultaneously, or one after another."
"Some may involve multiple hazards - fires, floods and storms.
"Some have cascading effects - threatening not only lives and homes, but also the nation's economy, critical infrastructure and essential services, such as our electricity, telecommunications and water supply, and our roads, railways and airports."
Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said the government welcomed the report.
"The Commonwealth will now carefully and methodically consider the report and its recommendations, as will the states and territories, but we are committed to responding to and actioning many of the recommendations as soon as possible," he said in a statement.
The inquiry, formally known as the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, was commissioned by Mr Morrison, who initially set a six-month deadline for September.
Commissioner Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin was granted a two-month extension in July.
Labor Leader Anthony Albanese said last year's severe fire season showed more needed to be done to address the challenge of climate change.
"During last year, we had the Deputy Prime Minister say that it was just an inner city issue," Mr Albanese said, speaking ahead of the report's release.
"Tell that to the people around Canberra here, the people around the Snowy Mountains region, the people around Batlow, the people around the coast who saw so much damage.
"We had such a loss of life as well as a loss of habitat, a loss of flora and fauna. It was a devastating period and I hope that the Government adopts all recommendations from the Bushfire Royal Commission."
More to come
Originally published as Bushfire report's big recommendation