Member for Barker Tony Pasin has welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement that a national Royal Commission into Australia’s devastating Black Summer bushfires will be established following agreement from the Governor-General.

The Morrison Government has released the Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, informed by feedback from states and territories. 

Mr Pasin has previously voiced his support for a national Royal Commission into the recent bushfires, in particular the inclusion of hazard reduction as one of its priorities.

“Over recent decades fire loads have become larger as bureaucracies continue to restrict land clearing, ignore the need for well-maintained fire breaks and allow roadsides to become overgrown with vegetation,” Mr Pasin said.

“We need to begin the conversation about a cultural shift in thinking about vegetation and fuel load management.”

Mr Pasin said it was also important to have a clear direction on each Government’s role and responsibility in preparation, resilience and response to natural disasters.

“Much of the responsive action is currently taken at a State level including resourcing of fire services, hazard reduction and the declaration of emergencies and the assessment and delivery of payments even when they are funded by the Federal Government.”

“It became clear during the recent bushfires that Australians want a more coordinated effort at a national level to ensure the best possible response,” Mr Pasin said.

The Royal Commission is not intended to duplicate the work of other inquiries, but instead will work with other inquiries announced by the States and it will also review the work and recommendations of previous inquiries.

The inquiry has a national focus and will look at three key areas:

  • Improving natural disaster management coordination across all levels of government;
  • Improving Australia’s preparedness, resilience, and response to natural disasters, across all levels of government;
  • The legal framework for the Commonwealth’s involvement in responding to national emergencies and how that works with state and territory legal frameworks.

The Royal Commission will be led by Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin AC (Retd), who will be joined by:

  • The Hon Dr Annabelle Bennett AC SC, former Federal Court Judge, and
  • Professor Andrew Macintosh, a specialist in climate risk and impact management.

The Prime Minister has indicated the Royal Commission will begin as soon as possible with the final report due back by August 31, with the expectation that recommendations can be acted upon before the next bushfire season.