Flood Mitigation – Question without Notice

Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (15:09): (301) My question is to the Minister for Emergency Services. Minister, the Maribyrnong council had a multi-agency debrief request denied by a regional
SES officer post the October 2022 floods. Was it government policy that in the shires of Campaspe, Gannawarra, Loddon, Buloke, Pyrenees and Mitchell, as well as in the Maribyrnong City Council, there were no after-action reviews post the devastating floods in 2022? Was it government policy?

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (15:10): I thank Ms Bath for her question. What I can say is that when it comes to any emergency we have
people in the State Control Centre that start reviewing an emergency the minute it starts, if not before. It is called real-time monitoring, real-time review. That informs continual improvement, and that is a really important feature. I think what you are referring to is whether there would be an IGEM multi-agency review in relation to the 2022 floods. That is not something that has been requested of the IGEM, notwithstanding that that organisation can indeed initiate their own reviews. In relation to the 2022 floods, as you would be aware – as I believe you might be a member of the select committee – there is a parliamentary inquiry that is undertaking a review of the floods. In addition to the real-time, continued monitoring review that I talked about, what I do not want to see happen is multiple reviews at the same time applying to our hardworking emergency services, because what that means is that when you have a review people have to respond to it – that they are responding to real-time monitoring and they are responding to a parliamentary committee. We fully endorse that that process should be fully embraced and should be responded to appropriately, but it is not appropriate to just have multiple reviews so that you are tying up your resources when I actually want them focused on preparing for the next emergency, and we know they are continual. In relation to reviews, there are several that are underway, including the parliamentary inquiry. In relation to any other formal reviews, at this point in time, I think where we are at is appropriate.

Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (15:12): I note the minister’s response. In relation to Rochester, at the Rochester hearing CFA volunteer Cameron Lovering stated: To date there has been no formal AAR … in Rochester … Because of this the actual emergency response is yet to be clearly determined, defined or recorded.
Third-generation volunteer Leigh Wilson stated: Zero is the confidence the community has that if we were to experience another event in the near future, there would be any change to this response.
Minister, 12 months on, flood-affected communities feel abandoned by your government. Will you commit to holding multi-agency debriefs in situ with the aforementioned shires and towns to support locals to learn how to better provide support in a future flood event and how you can be accountable for your actions?

Members interjecting.

The PRESIDENT: I am hearing interjections about an ongoing inquiry. If this has come from public hearings on the public record, then I do not think it is about deliberation. You are speaking from public statements. It is a bit tricky, but what I am saying is that this will be on the public record anyway. What is in Ms Bath’s question is not divulging anything that is not on the public record anyway

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (15:14):  Ms Bath, there were over 3000 real-time observations as part of the real-time monitoring that occurred throughout the flood incident. To suggest that we put a full stop at the end of any emergency and say that is it is just a false assertion. In relation to preparedness and supporting the recovery of those communities, it is always about what will happen next time as well – so flood mapping, working with councils, making sure that people have learned from the experience to ensure that the next time something happens they can learn from what happened. Your first question was about formal reviews and now you are talking about debriefs with the community, so I am a little unclear about specifically what you believe is the gap in relation to the response and the support of these communities to recover, to rebuild and to prepare for future emergencies, and that is something that is an ongoing process that we are committed to.