Emergency Management (Control of Response Activities and Other Matters) Bill 2015

Written on the 16 September 2015

 

15 September 2015

 

COUNCIL 

Second reading 

GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)

 

I am pleased to rise this evening to make a contribution to the debate on the Emergency Management (Control of Response Activities and Other Matters) Bill 2015.

As other members have highlighted in their contributions, this bill amends the Emergency Management Act 2013, which goes to the work of the coalition government. As has been noted that piece of legislation came off the back of some work undertaken by the previous government following the tragic circumstances of the 2009 bushfires and the floods of 2011.

I commend Mr Ramsay for his contribution, which highlighted many issues, and I also want to highlight that soon after the coalition first came to government in 2010 dreadful floods inflicted significant damage on huge parts of Victoria over many months, particularly in communities in the northern and western parts of the state. The emergency services involved in the floods at that time did an extraordinary job. Like other members of the coalition, I went to northern Victoria to assist our emergency services and saw firsthand the work they undertook to protect local communities.

As someone who has grown up in country Victoria, I am very aware of our changing seasonal conditions. I am someone who has experienced them. Where I grew up, we often experienced bushfires started by lightning strikes. Our property was surrounded by scrub and bushland, and was located in one of the most lightning strike-prone areas of the world. During the summer months it was very common to have bushfires, and our families were involved in the work of the Country Fire Authority (CFA) to assist local communities to protect lives, properties and livestock Our property was also on the edge of the Glenelg River, which flooded at times, so I am therefore very used to seeing firsthand the effects of our seasonal changes, especially some of those very severe seasonal changes, whether they be droughts, fires or floods.

All of our emergency services agencies involved in dealing with these situations do a tremendous job, as has been highlighted by other speakers. I know that from personal experience my family has been involved in the CFA. The CFA was established over 70 years ago, in 1945, and it was around that time that my father joined the CFA. My two brothers have also been involved in the CFA, and one has been involved for over 45 years, so I have a really strong understanding of the extraordinary work of the volunteers of the CFA and of the number of people associated with it. I think it is one of those organisations that do a tremendous job here in Victoria, and it is an organisation that we should protect and encourage, because it brings multiple benefits to many Victorian communities.

To get back to what this bill is about in relation to looking at our very necessary emergency management services, the key features of the bill are the introduction of an explicit requirement for agencies with a role or responsibility under the State Emergency Response Plan to act in accordance with that plan, the refinement of the powers and functions of the inspector-general for emergency management and the amendment of the powers of the Victorian State Emergency Service so that it is better equipped to respond to floods, storms and earthquakes.

As I have said, our state is very used to floods and storms but thankfully not major earthquakes. They do occur on occasion, but to this point we have not had a significant earthquake that has had devastating consequences such as those in recent years in New Zealand, New South Wales and elsewhere close to our shores.

This is a sensible bill that builds on the coalition's reforms in assisting emergency service agencies. I hope that with the amendments and the refinements that have been made so that emergency services can get into private property to put in the necessary levees, communities understand what this legislation is about. There is clearly a provision that, should certain circumstances prevail, written notification to the property owner is undertaken within a period of seven days to explain what has happened and why it has happened. I think that is a sensible and very necessary part of this legislation so that property owners can be informed about who has gone onto their private property and why a certain emergency response has been undertaken. They can then clearly understand what will ensue for proper management should that response be for a period longer than just a few days or weeks. Certainly that was the case during the floods in northern Victoria.

I think this bill is sensible. It builds on the coalition's reforms of the Emergency Management Act, and as other members of the coalition have said, the coalition will not be opposing the bill.

 


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