There have been a number of recent developments in the area of emergency management and the law, the significance or impact of these remains to be seen.
In Victoria the Parliament has been considering the Bushfires Royal Commission Implementation Monitor Bill 2011 and the Country Fire Authority Amendment (Volunteer Charter) Bill 2011.
The Implementation Monitor Bill will give effect to one of the recommendations from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission namely that the 'State appoint an independent monitor or the Victorian Auditor-General to assess progress with implementing the commission's recommendations and report to the Parliament and the people of Victoria by 31 July 2012.'
The Bill, when passed, will require the Minister to prepare an action plan to implement to Royal Commission’s recommendations and this plan will be supervised by the Implementation Monitor. The Monitor will be required to table, in Parliament, a report on the progress of the action plan. The Monitor is independent from Government being appointed by the Governor and reporting to the Parliament, not to the Minister.
The amendment to the CFA legislation is designed to give legislative effect to the Volunteer Charter. The Charter was originally signed off in 2001 and according to the Minister is “a statement of the commitment and principles that apply to the relationship between the government of Victoria, the CFA and CFA's volunteers.” By enshrining the Charter in legislation the Government is seeking to affirm the CFA’s volunteer ethos. It commits the CFA and the government to consult with the Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (that represents CFA volunteers), to ensure that volunteers are given training and development opportunities and that organisational structures are in place to allow volunteers to serve at all levels of the CFA, alongside CFA paid staff.
In Queensland, legislation to facilitate rebuilding after the 2011 floods has been passed. The Queensland Reconstruction Authority Act 2011 establishes the Reconstruction Authority to coordinate and manage the rebuilding and recovery of affected communities. The actions of the Authority will be supervised by the Queensland Reconstruction Board. Although created in response to the floods of 2011 and Cyclone Yasi, the Act is not limited to those events but will apply to any disaster that is proclaimed to be a relevant disaster under the Regulations. The Authority will have significant powers to direct decision makers or take over the decision making powers to facilitate reconstruction and recovery works in areas affected by disasters.
The litigation arising from the 2003 Canberra fires has resumed in the ACT Supreme Court. See the report from ABC Online.
4 April 2011.