Former emergency services chiefs say they have been consistently ignored by the federal government about the potential for catastrophic natural disasters.
The Emergency Leaders for Climate Action group have called the handling of the latest flood crisis reminiscent of the lead up to the “black summer” bushfires when the government ignored warnings months before disaster struck.
This time, the government was warned by its own agencies – such as the Bureau of Meteorology – in October that states needed to gear up for potential flooding disasters, former NSW fire commissioner Greg Mullins says.
“The Morrison government was missing in action – not listening,” he told ABC News on Monday.
“It’s their job to prevent this getting worse and into the future while the emergency services get on with the response.”
The group is calling on the government to take action on climate change to prevent more frequent and severe disasters in the future.
“Those of us who do hold hoses know just how dangerous climate change has become,” Mr Mullins said.
“Australia is under-prepared, and Canberra has no answers to how it will rapidly slash emissions this decade.”
Meanwhile the NSW and federal governments are at odds about the timing of requests for defence force assistance during the floods.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the state first requested the federal government send in the defence force on February 27, before the full extent of the disaster hit northern NSW.
The state did not receive confirmation from the federal government on troop numbers and the ADF was also caught off guard by the announcement on March 5 that 5000 troops were ready to help, the Herald says.
Resilience NSW commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says he had no confirmation about troop numbers – hearing potential figures through a journalist and failing to receive clarification from the NSW ADF Brigadier.
But Emergency Management Minister Bridget McKenzie told the Herald as the federal government can’t deploy ADF into the states, it was up to the state government to decide where they should go and when.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has flagged a review into the floods in his state would look at how long it took defence forces to help, saying he’d have preferred them in disaster zones sooner.
It comes as NSW and Queensland begin an immense clean up effort in the wake of the devastating and deadly floods.
Nearly 7500 defence personnel are expected to be helping with aid and recovery efforts by the end of Monday.