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Recommendation for national disaster plan del -

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PETER CAVE: The key recommendation in a secret report criticising Australia's ability to manage a
catastrophic emergency hasn't been implemented.

The report was produced by Emergency Management Australia but it was only made public in the past
two weeks.

It calls for an "overarching whole-of-government disaster plan" to manage catastrophic events like
cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis and of course, a pandemic.

But that key recommendation has been ignored, prompting calls from the former head of Emergency
Management Australia for more action.

David Mark reports.

DAVID MARK: Victoria's Black Saturday Bushfires prompted a rethink by the Council of Australian
Governments.

Just four weeks ago the Prime Minister, premiers and chief ministers agreed there was an "urgent
need for governments to re-examine Australia's arrangements for managing natural disasters."

The agreement came despite the fact COAG had access to a report on that very subject.

In October 2005 Emergency Management Australia produced a Review of Australia's Ability to Respond
to and Recover from Catastrophic Disasters.

Its premise:

EXCERPT FROM REVIEW OF AUSTRALIA'S ABILITY TO RESPOND TO AND RECOVER FROM A CATASTROPHIC DISASTER:
Significant limitations exist in national capability to deal with the consequences of a
catastrophic event arising from natural, technological or human cause.

DAVID MARK: The report notes there is no Australian Government disaster plan that clearly explains
the authority, roles and responsibilities of Australian Government agencies.

David Templeman is the former director general of Emergency Management Australia.

DAVID TEMPLEMAN: Unfortunately people are now starting to realise that probably mistakes have been
made and they now need to address some of these things so we don't have a major problem on our
hands.

DAVID MARK: The review was only released publicly two weeks ago when it was tended in evidence at
the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

Earlier this week David Templeman's successor Tony Pearce gave this reason for keeping the review
secret when he was cross-examined at the commission.

TONY PEARCE: Fear. More likely it could engender fear in the community if they didn't understand
the context of the report.

DAVID MARK: The "context" relates to four hypothetical scenarios that were used by a working group
to help write the report.

The group modelled the possible responses to a cyclone and storm surge in Cairns that kills 1,700
people; a massive earthquake near Perth that kills 2,500 people and leaves 25,000 homeless, a
tsunami that hits the New South Wales coast killing 10,000 and an influenza pandemic that kills
28,000 and makes millions ill.

After modelling these imagined disasters the report's authors came up with 32 recommendations.
These range across the need to maintain governance, banking, financial systems and communications;
to the ability to supply meals to homeless people, repair buildings and how to manage up to 5,000
orphans.

It even considers how to humanely kill farm animals and house up to 100,000 domestic pets.

"The World Today" asked the Federal Attorney-General's Department how many of the 32
recommendations had been implemented.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General said he couldn't comment on 14 recommendations because they
were the responsibility of the states and territories. Of the others he said they had been
implemented or "were in train."

But there's one so called "high level" recommendation that hasn't been acted on.

EXCERPT FROM REVIEW OF AUSTRALIA'S ABILITY TO RESPOND TO AND RECOVER FROM A CATASTROPHIC DISASTER:
The Working Group recommends that the Australian Government consider developing an overarching
whole of government disaster plan.

DAVID MARK: David Templeman thinks it's key.

DAVID TEMPLEMAN: We don't as yet have what I would describe as a national emergency management plan
to deal with a major catastrophic type of event, no matter what the cause. It really articulates
very clearly who is actually responsible when things go wrong; who is accountable and who is the
authorised person to make very clear decisions about these matters.

DAVID MARK: Mr Templeman says Australia needs an emergency body to coordinate disaster management -
one that cuts across state and national jurisdictions.

DAVID TEMPLEMAN: Now that has never been tested and that requires mindsets, cultural shifts, all
those sort of things will get in play here including significant turf issues.

DAVID MARK: Are you arguing that the states and territories aren't capable of handling the front
line of these sort of problems as it is at present?

DAVID TEMPLEMAN: I think that we certainly see that our resources in the sort of events that we
actually deal with, they do a magnificent job; but where they are actually going to be tested to
actually deal with a catastrophic event has never been put to the situation as far as Australia is
concerned.

DAVID MARK: The spokesman for the Attorney-General told "The World Today" the Ministerial Council
for Policing and Emergency Management would consider a national catastrophic disaster plan later
this year.

PETER CAVE: David Mark reporting.