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AUSTRALIA AND THE IDRL GUIDELINES

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AUSTRALIA AND THE
IDRL GUIDELINES
Michael Eburn
Senior Lecturer
School of Law
University of New England
ARMIDALE NSW 2351
13 natural disasters with 50+
fatalities since 1900
200
180
160
140
120
100
80
60
40
20
0
173
173
Fatalities by type of disaster –
since 1900
65
492
761
Bushfires
Cyclones
Floods
Smith review of Homeland
Security (2008)
“While crisis management by the Commonwealth
has generally been done well ‘on the day’, the
current hazard-specific approach and the absence
of consistent national arrangements for handling
significant crises exposes the Government to
several areas of vulnerability.”
• One area of vulnerability may be Australia’s
ability to manage an inflow of international
assistance.
COMDISPLAN
EMA will:
• Receive offers of international assistance;
• Seek international assistance ‘where resources
to meet a particular need are not available in
Australia’; and
• Make arrangements to receive and register
international assistance including spontaneous
assistance.
Border controls
• It will be ‘business as usual’
• No special arrangements are in place to deal
with visas, customs, quarantine, legal facilities
or legal personality.
Too many jurisdictions –
Commonwealth and state
• Disaster management and response is seen as
a matter for State and Territory governments.
• BUT the Commonwealth is responsible for the
national border – therefore visas, quarantine,
the importation of relief supplies and the
relationship with other nation states is a matter
for the Commonwealth.
Too many jurisdictions – states
• Incoming agencies will need to liaise with
Commonwealth agencies to gain access to
Australia and then State agencies to gain
access to the disaster area.
• Coordinating authorities will vary from
jurisdiction to jurisdiction so arrangements have
to be negotiated in each State.
• There is no provision for a National State of
Emergency and no provision, should the
disaster take on national proportions, that the
Commonwealth will take on a central
coordinating role.
Part I: Core responsibility
• Rests with the states, not the nation state.
• No Commonwealth counter disaster legislation
so



No single Commonwealth authority to manage the
Commonwealth response.
No facility to appoint a Commonwealth “Coordinator
in Chief”.
No power to waive or vary the rules eg for
immigration
Emergency Management
Australia
• Is part of the Attorney-General’s department.
• Has no statutory authority.
• Following a review is also responsible for
counter-terrorism response.
• There could be confusion between:
 the Director of EMA;
 the Secretary to the Attorney-General’s Department;
 the National Security Adviser;
 the Attorney-General; and
 the Minister for Home Affairs.
• Their respective roles in advising the
Government is unclear.
Accountability
• Incoming actors would be required to comply
with Australian law – corporations law, tax law,
OHS law, building standards etc. Subject to
Australian common law including tort law.
• Some legal protection for agencies that work
with, and under the direction of State counter
disaster controllers but it does depend on the
legislation in each state.
Guideline 10: Initiation
• States can, and do, make their own
arrangements – there are standing agreements
between fire agencies in Australia, the USA,
New Zealand and Canada. Fire fighters can be
brought in without reference to the
Commonwealth.
• NGOs my liaise directly with state governments
or their Australian chapters.
Parts IV and V: Legal facilities
• There are no procedures in place to preapprove or identify agencies that should be
granted legal facilities.
• Visa requirements, customs, immigration,
quarantine etc will all be applied ‘as usual’.
• There is no power to ‘waive’ customs or
immigration requirements though the Minister
may issue special purpose visas with relative
ease.
• Recognition of foreign qualifications is a State
matter. The ACT recognises the qualifications of
a person providing disaster relief services
pursuant to a ‘cooperative agreement’.
As an aid donor
• The Tsunami Evaluation Coalition
recommended that an international process of
accreditation of non-government organisations
was needed, but failing that, donor countries
should have in place a domestic accreditation
process.
• NGOs seeking to deliver programs funded by
AusAID must show that they have appropriate
corporate structure and accountability
provisions, that they are competent to undertake
the task and adhere to international standards.
IDRL Guidelines –
Guideline 10: Initiation
• AUSASSISTPLAN – requests for Australian
assistance are directed to mission in country
but
• States can provide assistance direct, without
reference to the Commonwealth.
Guideline 11: Military
assistance
• Australia claims to adhere to the Oslo
Guidelines but the ADF are used as a primary
emergency response organisation.
• The Prime Minister has announced that,
following the 2020 summit, the Commonwealth
is to consider developing a “Deployable Civilian
Capacity” and to improve civilian-military
cooperation.
Guideline 17: Goods and
Equipment
• AUSASSISTPLAN provides details of packaging
for goods to be delivered by Australia as
overseas aid.
• There is no requirement that goods are labelled
in the language used in the receiving country.
Summary
• Australia is not well prepared to deal with an
inflow of international disaster assistance.
• The Commonwealth continues to operate on a
‘business as usual’ model. There is no clear
structure of the Commonwealth’s emergency
response arrangements.
• The planning for the response to a natural
disaster does not equate to the planning for a
response to a terrorist incident. This is not an
‘all hazards’ approach.
• Many of the problems seen before may be
expected in Australia.
Solutions? Experience?
• Will it really be a problem?
• How does it work in your experience?
• How do we better prepare for a disaster of truly
international proportions?
• Do you have suggestions?
• What is the experience in New Zealand and
other countries?
Contact:
E: meburn@une.edu.au
P: (02) 6773 3701
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