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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6476

Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) (6:57 PM) —The government regards emergency management as a crucial issue. Since the turn of the last century over 1,200 Australians have died as a result of natural disasters. Obviously, more recently we have seen the tragedy of the Victorian fires. To enhance our capability in this area, we have developed a restructure within the Attorney-General’s Department to focus on emergency response capability, which I think it is fair to say had been done—and has continued to be done—extremely well. But we wanted to have a greater emphasis on the area of long-term resilience policy development and on genuine national development in this area with the states and territories as well—hence a national security resilience policy division which looks at this concept of all hazards, whether they be terrorism or natural disasters. We have also developed a national security capability development division which looks at issues of procurement, trying to get long-term procurement of standard equipment; interoperational equipment; education programs; training programs; and engagement with volunteers. Of course, the role of the EMA will continue in terms of its incident response capability.

This budget has allocated some $203 million in the area of emergency management and, for resilience, $79.3 million. We have introduced more flexibility so that applicants will have greater flexibility in how it is applied. For the National Aerial Firefighting Centre there is an additional $12.8 million, bringing it up to $14 million per year. The other items include a wireless priority system, at $6.8 million; volunteers, at $12.8 million over four years; the fire mitigation program, at $10 million over two years; and resources for developing an enhanced coordination centre so that it has counterterrorism and disaster resilience capabilities, at $6.8 million. For the national emergency warning system we have invested $26 million. For critical infrastructure protection we have invested $36 million over four years. They are substantial investments indeed.

In the area of national security, we have focused $685 million in additional funding over five years in the area of law enforcement and national security, including $53.1 million in the area of airport security. I have gone through a number of those issues.

In addition, there is some $116 million in other areas, including: $5.5 million for the National Indigenous Intelligence Taskforce; $20 million in the area of additional guarding, as a result of the threat of a terrorist event; $7 million for a continuity-of-government project; $44.5 million in the area of Project Wickenby—I have mentioned the area of critical infrastructure protection, which should also be included in this category; $2 million to continue the national information campaign; and I have also indicated that the government will be appointing a national security legislation monitor.

I note in that context that Lord Carlile was out here and while, yes, it is important to protect the civil rights of Australians, equally, from my discussions with Lord Carlile, I sincerely believe there are benefits all around in having the community confident that our national security legal framework is sound, balanced and reasonable, both in enabling strong law enforcement and counterterrorism measures and in protecting human rights. Indeed, I believe that it will be of some comfort to the judiciary, who we require to enforce these laws. Obviously of their nature they are coercive powers, but if they believe the laws, both in their introduction and application, are being administered for sound, sensible and balanced reasons, we believe there will be greater efficacy all around in the long-term enforcement of counterterrorism measures.