Morrison government blasted for ‘bungling’ eastern Australian flood disaster after refusing to heed warnings

High-ranking former emergency services chiefs have attacked the Morrison government for “bungling” the flood disaster still affecting communities along the nation’s east coast.

The Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ECLA) say Australia is “under-prepared” for “climate-fuelled disasters”.

Greg Mullins, a former commissioner of fire and rescue New South Wales, says the ELCA is made up of 37 former emergency services leaders with “hundreds and hundreds of years” of combined emergency management experience.

The floods are the latest in a line of “escalating” natural disasters, according to a statement released today by the ECLA.

The group claims the government has a track record of neglect in relation to disaster preparation.

Former commissioner and ACT emergency services authority Major General Peter Dunn says he was ignored when he and others flagged 2019 as a potentially very dangerous bush fire season.

Mr Morrison gets a briefing on the ADF flood response in Brisbane last week.(AAP Image: Darren England)

“We were ignored,” he said.

“Late last year, the federal government was similarly briefed about the high risk of this year’s floods. Yet they were not prepared.”

According to Mr Mullins, the Morrison government “sat on its hands” prior to the floods.

“It ignored the warnings yet again — its own agency, Emergency Management Australia, were briefing states and territories and charities in October and November that we could face flooding catastrophes, and the maps showed the very areas that were impacted,” he said.

People in a boat rescue another man in the water
Local residents are rescued in a flooded street in Lismore on February 28.(PAA: Jason O’Brien )

“The biggest failing is they’re doing nothing about what’s driving these unprecedented disasters, and that’s climate change.”

Mr Mullins said the government consistently “fails to listen to expert advice”.

“There are 80 recommendations of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements gathering dust. The government has failed to implement them,” he said.

Major General Dunn agrees.

“After every disaster, the federal government initiates an inquiry but fails to implement the recommendation,s” General Dunn said.

Firefighters under an orange sky.
The 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires were not followed by an improvement in Australia’s preparedness for a similar disaster, the ECLA says.(ABC News: Jonathan Hair)

“It’s clear the lessons of Black Summer have not been learned.”

Former commissioner of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Lee Johnson said the flooding in his home state is proof of a degrading climate.

“We live in Australia’s most disaster-prone state, but the disasters of today are not like the disasters of the past,” he said.

“The records keep tumbling. This is climate change in action and we’re all in danger.”

A group representing the ECLA will speak today in Brisbane.


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