Senate inquiry calls for funding of mitigation projects through ERF

The Federal Government has been urged to release funding for mitigation projects through the Emergency Response Fund “as a matter of priority”.

An interim report into the lessons to be learned from the 2019-20 bushfire season tabled by a Senate committee this week has also recommended that the Commonwealth review the rate of the federal Disaster Recovery Payment and the Disaster Recovery Allowance “as a matter of priority” and with a view to increasing them.

Other recommendations include:

  • that the current review into the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) consider the need to streamline applications processes for assistance, harmonise eligibility criteria, and remove impediments to applying for betterment and mitigation initiatives;
  • that funding from the Emergency Response Fund be allocated to each state and territory for the establishment of a dedicated hazard-reduction workforce; and
  • that funding cuts to the ABC be reversed and that the broadcaster be provided with discrete funding for its emergency broadcast services.  

Coalition inquiry members issued a dissenting report disagreeing with the recommendation for funding to establish dedicated hazard reduction workforce in each state and territory, arguing that the function of hazard reduction is a state responsibility shared with landholders.

They also asserted that the ABC is “adequately funded to provide the news coverage of emergencies that Australian expect”.

However, Coalition Senators agreed with the recommendation that mitigation funding be released “pending advice from Emergency Management Australia, which is required to access the [Emergency Response] fund”.

The ERF was established in 2019 (with and Initial investment of $4 billion) to enable the Commonwealth to draw on as much as $200 million in any given year to fund emergency response and natural disaster recovery and preparedness “beyond what is already available”.