Former emergency services bosses have blasted the Morrison government for failing to act on warnings ahead of this year’s deadly and devastating floods in NSW and Queensland, echoing the lead-up up to the catastrophic Black Summer bushfires.
Emergency Leaders for Climate Action want the federal government to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 and set a net zero by 2035 goal.
In their joint letter released on Monday they say the federal government was warned of the flood risks in October and better preparation for natural disasters is needed.
“The federal government’s fumbling of this flood disaster is Black Summer all over again,” former Fire and Rescue NSW chief commissioner Greg Mullins said.
“Last October, charity leaders met with the federal government and were warned of massive flooding this summer.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been under intense criticism for the slow rollout of assistance and aid for flood-affected areas across NSW and Queensland.
The group of 37 emergency services leaders includes Mr Mullins, former Queensland Fire and Emergency Services head Lee Johnson and former ACT Emergency Services Authority chief commissioners Peter Dunn.
They say if the federal government had acted on the findings of the Royal Commission into Natural Disaster Arrangements called in the wake of the 2019-20 bushfire season, the flooded communities would have been better prepared.
This would have meant more prepared first responders, reinforced critical infrastructure and stronger telecommunications networks, the group said.
“The disasters of today are not like the disasters of the past,” Mr Johnson said.
“The records keep tumbling. This is climate change in action and we’re all in danger.”
Former NSW State Emergency Services boss Chas Keys said terms such as “one in 500-year” flood were “meaningless” to the people repeatedly experiencing disasters.
“We need the federal government to take climate change seriously by cutting back drastically on the mining and burning of fossil fuels,” Mr Keys said.
“We also need to reset the way we manage disasters … there is no more manageable hazard in Australia than flooding.”
The ACT’s Mr Dunn said he was part of a group of ex-emergency services chiefs Mr Morrison ignored ahead of the Black Summer bushfires.
“More than two years after Black Summer and many Australians are still living in tents. Are the victims of these floods to expect the same?” Mr Dunn said.
“As climate change escalates these disasters, history cannot continue to repeat itself.”