The first sentence from Gladys Berejiklian’s press release sums up the levels of idiocracy in our three levels of Government. World-Leading means what exactly? When was the last time someone with a brain said that an Australian Government at any level was “World-Leading”, had planned or prepared for anything from a disaster to growth?
This new agency didn’t just pop up overnight yet there is very little information about it, they have hired 150-200 staff at a cost of $30 million just in wages alone but aside from a press release and a few media interviews no information is forthcoming.
The Press Release
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today announced the creation of a new NSW Government agency, Resilience NSW, which will drive world-leading disaster preparedness and recovery approach for the NSW community.
This follows Commissioner Fitzsimmons’ retirement after decades of service in the RFS, including 12 years as its leader.
Ms Berejiklian said NSW is proud of Commissioner Fitzsimmons’ role during the recent bushfire season and for his outstanding service over many decades to the RFS.
“The NSW community has shown extraordinary resilience in the face of many disasters – bushfires, drought, flood and now the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We know the next six months will be very difficult but we must already turn our mind to recovery.
“Through Resilience NSW we will re-double our efforts to prevent, prepare and recover from crisis which impact NSW.”
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said he was honoured to have the opportunity to continue to serve the people of NSW in this vital new role, and to work alongside the leadership of the state’s combat agencies.
“Resilience NSW will lead the whole-of-government prevention, preparedness and recovery effort. It will oversee and coordinate emergency management policy, service delivery and all aspects of disaster recovery at a state, national and international level,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
“There was never a more important time to make sure that communities devastated by drought, bushfires and now COVID-19 are getting the help they need to rebuild and recover.”NSW Media Release | 6th of April 2020
The Incompetence of government
The NSW community has shown extraordinary resilience in the face of many disasters – bushfires, drought, flood and now the COVID-19 pandemicNSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian | NSW Media Release | 6th of April 2020
Without any doubts all of these so called disasters were exacerbated because of a combination of incompetence and lack of planning by the Local, State and Federal Governments. How an additional layer of bureaucracy will fix issues that run deep into other areas of government is beyond idiocracy.
- Bushfires were so widespread mainly because of cutbacks to the hazard management in NSW.
- Drought is down to poor planning and the failure to build dams when you have doubled the population in most places of Australia.
- Flooding is often exacerbated because of poor planning and allowing homes to be built in inappropriate areas, poor maintenance of stormwater and lack of infrastructure to get rid of flood water quickly from built up areas.
- Covid-19 is a sterling example from the NSW Government given they allowed the Ruby Princess passengers to disembark in the middle of the night with no checks. Of the 2,700 passengers that disembarked, over 700 were infected and at least fifteen have died (at the 8th of April 2020) and these passengers have travelled all over Australia. This was a failure at the Federal Government level as well but nearly all the blame must lie with the State Government who is responsible for health. A criminal investigation is underway but no doubt the people responsible will be promoted or moved sideways into a new agency or department.
The Agencies Mandate
Resilience NSW will lead the whole-of-government prevention, preparedness and recovery effort. It will oversee and coordinate emergency management policy, service delivery and all aspects of disaster recovery at a state, national and international levelNSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons | NSW Media Release | 6th of April 2020
Prevention, Preparedness and Recovery
According to Shane Fitzsimmons the new agency will not only be about prevention but also preparedness and recovery.
Does this suggest they will be ordering the building of infrastructure such as dams and stormwater infrastructure? What about ordering hazard reduction in forests? And stopping housing development in low lying flood prone areas? If not how will they PREVENT anything from happening?
Given that the departments and agencies already responsible for these areas are supposed to be responsible how does an additional agency identify these areas? Who is responsible for the failures as now there will be multiple departments and agencies responsible and no doubt finger pointing will ensue.
Preparation entails knowledge of the areas that you are responsible for, this new agency is responsible for everything from a Pandemic to Cyber Security to Drought to Flooding to Fire and beyond.
How will it be in a position to ensure preparedness for the local, state and federal governments to respond when required?
Recovery is another vast area and this one agency is going to be responsible for all types of recovery from Cyber Attacks, Pandemics, Drought, Floods to Fires and more. How will it be able to recover when local government resources are required? All levels of government already show they cannot work together particularly when different parties are in power in different levels of government.
State, National and International
Further Shane Fitzsimmons said the new agency will oversee and coordinate emergency management policy, service delivery and all aspects of disaster recovery at a state, national and international level.
This is ok as they are a state government agency but will they have the power to direct councils at the local government level?
Will Resilience NSW have the power to order other states and the Federal Government what to do? If not this is just fanciful thinking.
Exactly what will a “World-Leading” NSW Agency have to offer other countries let along believe that they will be engaged with overseeing and coordinating emergency management policy, service delivery and “all aspects” of disaster recovery?
Staffing is currently 150-200 at the outset. Allowing for all the staffing costs and the numerous senior staff that will be involved and working off the 200 staff figure x $150,000 and you have a cost in wages along of $30,000,000 per annum and this will likely double or triple in the months to come to approach $100 million per annum. Add in office space in the CBD, vehicles, infrastructure and travel and this is becoming a $200 million agency but time will tell as no details have been released.
The team itself is probably about 150 people, less than 200 people at the momentNSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons
Is the agency Resilience NSW going to outsource it’s infrastructure to cloud providers as required by the NSW Government or run everything in house? Given it’s role includes Cyber attacks on infrastructure, logic would suggest it would run it in house so an attack on the poorly secured infrastructure in Australia would not see it cut off from it’s information.
As usual this information is not available.
Alternatives to the Resilience NSW Agency
There are multiple departments and agencies that should or do perform the roles of the new Resilience NSW Agency.
The Department of Premier and Cabinet
The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) leads the NSW public sector to deliver on the NSW Government’s commitments and priorities.
Our mission is to enhance the lives of the people of NSW by driving priorities, brokering outcomes and delivering programs and services.
We support the NSW Premier and Ministers by:
– carrying out a coordinated policy, project and reform agenda that boosts the efficiency, productivity and effectiveness of NSWAbout the Department | Department of Premier and Cabinet Website
– partnering with NSW Government agencies, as well as the private, not-for-profit and academic sectors, to ensure that services are delivered on time, within budget and to the community’s expectations
– coordinating the initiatives of Ministers and their agencies to achieve the government’s targets
– managing the passage of government legislation
– supporting the delivery of major projects
– coordinating and planning significant state events
– working with the federal government and other state and territory governments on national reforms.
The Minister for Emergency Services
What exactly does the Office of Emergency Management do?
Looking at the OEM it appears that they do everything the his new agency is going to do and more. They already have a minister responsible (even if he did take a European holiday in the middle of the bush fires in NSW).
State Emergency Operations Centre (SEOC)
This section is directly from the Office of Emergency Management Website on the 7th of April 2020.
When an emergency occurs that is not under the control of a Combat Agency (as defined in the State Emergency Management Plan), the State Emergency Operations Controller (SEOCON) assumes control. The SEOCON is supported in this role by the State Emergency Operations Centre (SEOC).
The SEOC has the necessary staff and communications equipment to control the emergency operation. When an emergency occurs that is under the control of a Combat Agency the SEOC may support that agency in controlling the emergency.
Roles of the State Emergency Operations Centre
The main roles of the SEOC during an emergency operation are:
- To control the emergency operation
- To plan for the ongoing emergency operation
- To plan acquire and allocate resources
- To provide public information about the emergency operation.
In addition to this operational role, the SEOC collects, stores and disseminates information to support emergency operations.
NSW Emergency Management Arrangements
This section is directly from the Office of Emergency Management Website on the 7th of April 2020.
The community of New South Wales lives with a variety of natural and technological hazards. The more common hazards are floods, severe storms, and bushfires but other events such as exotic animal disease, major aircraft crashes and earthquakes are possible.
Most incidents are handled using standard procedures, however, if an event requires a significant and coordinated response, then this is termed an emergency.
The New South Wales Government acknowledges the inevitable nature of emergencies and their social, economic and environmental consequences. Accordingly, it recognises the need for a co-ordinated response by all agencies having roles or responsibilities in such emergencies.
A number of Acts of Parliament set out the duties and responsibilities of the emergency services. The State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989 (as Amended) is the Act that provides the legislative basis for co-ordination of emergency preparedness, response and recovery operations.
The Act provides for:
- the preparation of the Emergency Management Plan (EMPLAN) and subordinate plans to ensure a co-ordinated response for necessary operations;
- the establishment of Emergency Management Committees at State, Regional and Local Government levels; and
- arrangements for controlling emergency operations.
The State Emergency Management Plan
The key element of emergency management planning in NSW is the Emergency Management Plan (EMPLAN). The objective of EMPLAN is to ensure a co-ordinated response by all agencies having responsibilities and functions in emergencies.
- identifies the combat agency primarily responsible for responding to the emergency;
- specifies the tasks to be performed by all agencies in the event of an emergency;
- provides for the co-ordination of the activities of other agencies in support of the combat agencies; and
- specifies the responsibilities of the Minister and the State, Region, or Local Emergency Operations Controller.
Planning below State level
An important principle of Emergency Planning in NSW is that local communities have a greater insight into the needs and resources of their support of the wider community. Accordingly, EMPLAN devolves control and co-ordination of emergency operations and the responsibility for preparedness, response and recovery to the lowest possible level but lays out a structure by which these resources may be augmented by Region and State resources if the Local level resources cannot cope.
A combat agency is the agency with the specific expertise and equipment to deal with the effects of designated hazards. The agency responsible for each major hazard is designated in EMPLAN.
Animal Health Emergency
Emergency Operations Controller
NSW Rural Fire Service
Fire and Rescue NSW
Flood Storm, Tempest
NSW State Emergency Service
Land based: Fire and Rescue NSW
State waters: NSW Maritime and NSW Port Corporations
Inland waters: Fire and Rescue NSW
Marine Oil Spill
NSW Maritime and NSW Port Corporations
Sub-Plans: planning for specific hazards
A Sub-Plan is a plan developed to counter a specific hazard, where the planning required is either more specialised or more detailed than that provided for in EMPLAN.
The following Sub-Plans have been produced:
- Animal Health Emergency (Exotic Animal Disease)
- Aviation Emergency
- Hawkesbury/Nepean Flood Emergency
- Major Structural Collapse
- Marine Oil & Chemical Spill
Supporting Plans: planning for a coordinated response
Emergencies can develop to the point where a combat agency requires support, assistance, and advice from other agencies. Displan identifies Functional Areas and requires “Functional Area Supporting Plans” to be produced to ensure appropriate support is provided for the efficient supply of the necessary assistance. The following supporting plans have been developed:
- Agriculture and Animal Services
- Disaster Recovery Human Services
- Engineering Services
- Environmental Services
- Health Services
- Public Information Services
- Transport Services
Emergency Management Committees
Emergency Management Committees are established at State, Region, and Local Government levels. The Minister appoints the Chairperson of the State Emergency Management Committee. Regional Emergency Operations Controllers chair the Regional Emergency Management Committees, and Local Government Councils provide chairpersons for the local committees. Membership includes the heads of the Emergency Service organisations at each level and representatives of the functional areas. At state level, the Department of Infrastructure, Planning & Natural Resources, the Department of Local Government, the Premier’s Department, and Treasury are also represented. Functional areas are not represented at local government level unless their structures extend to that level.
Control of operations
Where a combat agency is designated in EMPLAN, the head of the Combat Agency controls the operation. Where no combat agency is designated, control of the operation is vested in the Emergency Operations Controller.
At State level the State Emergency Operations Controller (SEOCON) is appointed by the Governor. Emergency Operations Controllers (who are also Police Officers) are also appointed at Region and Local levels.
Emergency Operations Controllers co-ordinate support or assist in co-ordinating support to a combat agency when requested by the Head of a combat agency.
What the new Agency does apart from check on other departments and agencies is unknown. Why isn’t this being undertaken by the NSW premier’s department whom surely the responsibility lies that the departments and agencies are doing their job? And what about the Office of Emergency Management that already does what the new agency does and more?
Another agency costing $200 million or more to perform checks that Departments are doing the job they are paid to do is absurd.
This new agency is duplicating the role of the ministers and the heads of these departments and agencies. The Premier should be putting competent people in these positions that are held criminally responsible for failure and as the the Premier of NSW they should also be held responsible for the failures of their departments and agencies.
This is like the changes to government that occur with newly elected politicians that want to be seen to be doing something so they split or merge departments at massive cost and disruption to “save” money or provide “better” services. How many times have Transport and Main Roads been merged and split in Queensland for example.
The Australian States need a core set of Departments like Transport, Main Roads, Education, Emergency Services and Health that are set and cannot be changed, merged or split at the whim of a new government. Each of these departments would be headed by ONE Minister and not multiple like we see now in some states like Queensland for example. Ideally in the future these departments that are working the same in each state would merge to remove the duplication and confusion between states as well as duplicated licensing costs for workers that operate in multiple states.
No doubt the other states will follow quickly with rushed agencies to perform similar tasks and each will want to outdo the others.