Preparing for natural disasters - The Good Oil by Rod Brown

The Productivity Commission(PC) tabled a draft report last month calling for a major restructure of federal funding for dealing with floods, bushfires and other natural disasters.

The central theme of the PC report is to spend more money on preparing for natural disasters rather than cleaning up after them.

Commissioner Coppel said ‘current funding arrangements are prone to cost-shifting, ad hoc responses and short-term political opportunism.’
The problem stems from state and local government having to bear the costs of mitigation and insurance under the current Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

But once the disaster strikes, the feds pick up most of the tab.

So there’s no incentive for the states and local government to prepare.

Commissioner Chester added that the inquiry heard of numerous firsthand accounts of assets repeatedly damaged by successive natural disasters, only to be rebuilt in the same location and to the same standard.

The Commission has thus recommended that the feds increase their mitigation funding for natural disasters from $40 million to $200 million annually.
Ministers Cormann and Hockey will choke on their Cornflakes when they hear of this.

Councils need to wait 18 months until the brakes come off, and then hammer the cost-benefit analysis.  

US perspective
Coincidentally, David ‘Preacher’ Dodd (Cockatoo member from Louisiana) was in Cairns recently to attend the Future of the Tropics summit at James Cook University.

The conference message was that the tropics has 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity and will be home to 2/3 of children born in the next 30 years.
Preacher, whose expertise includes disaster management (Hurricane Katrina), emphasised that the tropics are particularly vulnerable because the climate lends itself to more severe weather activity.

When you add in creeping urbanisation around the seacoasts, plus low-or-no-standard building codes in developing nations, the result is massive losses of lives, property and economic output.

His mantra is that disaster resilience is gaining traction as a legitimate global activity to reduce the costs of disasters. The evidence is that well-structured disaster resilience strategies deliver a 4:1 return on investment when disasters strike.

Preacher makes an awful lot of sense, and his views mesh nicely with the PC report’s recommendations.

Councils in the north particularly need to listen to him.

Who’s interested in getting him back here?

Model migrant communities?
The Green Paper on developing Northern Australia was released in June.
It talked about the prospects of populating the north with hard-working migrants.

Then, in late September, Immigration Minister Morrison, with the support of his new-best-friend, Independent MP Clive Palmer, flew a kite about an increased refugee intake overlaid with a resettlement program in Australia’s regions.

Now this is very interesting.

We’d actually pushed this concept a couple of years back.

The rationale is two fold.

First, international experience suggests that migrant workers could, in the right conditions, be a significant asset for the development of Northern Australia, vis-à-vis. a strong work ethic, intercultural capabilities, ability to think differently, a broader view of the world and a capacity for collaboration.
Hahndorf, Woolgoolga, Griffith and Mareeba provide the track record.
Secondly, the reality is that the current laissez-faire immigration system is leading to entrenched pockets of disadvantage, and growing community tension.

Of course it’s natural for new immigrants to locate near families or those of the same ethnic origin, but it’s not necessarily where the jobs are.
We are thus mulling over an integrated package of measures to create attractive regional locations for migrants, for example English language training, two-way cultural awareness training, cultural events, health and education services and job seeker support.

Such packages could also apply outside northern Australian communities.
The sticking point probably lies in identifying progressive local communities and local councils.

I suspect that progressive state ministers and officials need to be identified, because despite Minister Morrison’s enthusiasm, his departmental officials weren’t embracing the concept a couple of years back.

Please contact us if this interests you.

In brief:
Dick Warburton’s review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) is reportedly testing the idea that an oversupply of energy and increased competition in electricity generation is a negative.

Concern also that his review is using outdated solar PV and wind prices, thereby over-estimating the cost of clean technology investments.
Might be scuttlebutt, but Warburton is the former head of Caltex.

Retired major-general Jim Molan quit working for Defence Minister David Johnston just three weeks after being hired to help review our long-term defence policy.

During a nationally televised interview, he makes it clear that the Minister was the problem.

Just more evidence of Johnston being white-anted by the military.
Had a great meeting last month with an ethnic group wanting to develop an aged care facility in Canberra as a Lighthouse Project.

Would involve investment by foreign and local health providers and facilitation by feds and ACT Government.