MS BATH — To ask the Minister for Training and Skills (for the Minister for Police and Emergency Services):
A written response was ordered for both the substantive and supplementary questions.
My question is to the Leader of the Government. In past flood events Traralgon residents had a comprehensive flood warning system in place through the Latrobe City Council. The system won a statewide award. The communication of flood warnings was removed from council and transferred to EMV, with warnings to be communicated via the VicEmergency app. On 10 June, Minister, the first time residents actually received an ‘Evacuate now’ warning was 4 hours late, after water ran down the streets and after water was knee-deep in residents’ kitchens. Why did Emergency Management Victoria fail to warn Traralgon residents, business owners and community clubs that there was a major flood coming?
Thank you, President. I will see how this one runs. Minister, this relates to flood data. With a lack of sufficient warning, residents looked out their window to see a mini-skip flooding down the main street outside their homes. They also had to contend with furniture floating in their lounge rooms. My question is: why did EMV ignore flood data that was available many hours before the flood impacted locals and businesses?
The PRESIDENT: Order! While I regard Ms Symes’s answer to your substantive question, I redirect the supplementary to Ms Tierney as representing the emergency services minister, so I ask Ms Tierney to respond to the supplementary.
Answered: 23 June 2021
Verbal answer given in the House to the substantive question:
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Resources) (12:14): I thank Ms Bath for her question and indeed her commitment to her community that is suffering as a result of the extreme weather events in recent weeks. As I have indicated, the continued efforts of all members of Parliament, particularly those that are in that region, are much appreciated. In relation to the specifics of her question, I acknowledge that she has put it to the Leader of the Government, but this would be more appropriately directed to the emergency services minister, who would be in a better position to provide greater detail to the question that she has raised. So I would ask that the question be referred to the relevant minister, and the representative minister in this house is Ms Tierney.
Ms Bath: On a point of order, President, the minister responded with precedence today with respect to comments around the response to the crisis, to the floods and storms. She does sit on that management committee and she does have a right to actually respond to that question.
Ms Symes: In response to the point of order, President, I have made it my intention to attempt to answer fully the questions that are put to me by my members of this place, but just because I am a member of cabinet or any committee does not mean that I take on the responsibilities of relevant ministers. Indeed I will always attempt to provide high-level information as requested, particularly as I demonstrated in response to Mr Davis’s question, but this is a very specific question about a responsibility that does not fall within my portfolio responsibilities.
The PRESIDENT: Ms Bath, when you asked your question I had suspicions your question should be going straight to Minister Tierney because she represents the acting minister for emergency services, and Ms Symes made it clear that that is the responsibility of emergency services. I understand you said she is in the cabinet and things like that, but unfortunately it is up to you whether you direct your supplementary to Minister Tierney or we move on. Your supplementary has to go to Minister Tierney.
Verbal answer given in the House to the supplementary question:
Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (12:18): I thank Ms Bath for the question. This is a matter for the minister for emergency services. It will be referred to the minister for emergency services for a written response as per the standing orders.
The President ordered a written response for both questions (response due 25 June 2021).
Answered: 2 July 2021
The first advice message was issued by the control agency for Traralgon Creek on Tuesday 8 June at 1 pm to advise residents that flooding was expected over coming days. This was escalated to a warning on Wednesday 9 June at 6 pm which was updated to an emergency warning at 4 am on Thursday 10 June.
The rescues that occurred early on Thursday morning were in response to people who had driven through flood waters. Each of the previous warnings clearly identified the hazards of driving through flood water. The SES’s 15 to Float campaign was also being actively promoted through the media channels in this area.
Due to the escalating flood event an evacuation order was issued on Thursday morning (10 June) at 10:30 am by the Incident Management Team (IMT) located in Gippsland managing the response and coordinating emergency services in the field. Further information was provided to the community through doorknocking by Victoria Police.
The emergency management sector undertakes extensive planning and preparedness activities to ensure we are best placed to respond and work with communities to keep them safe. For the Traralgon Creek area this included pre-positioning of resources such as flood-rescue services and aerial support.
Victoria now has an integrated warnings system which provides information and warnings to the community through a range of channels. These channels include emergency.vic.gov.au, the VicEmergency app, VicEmergency social media including Twitter and Facebook, VicEmergency Hotline 1800 226 226, emergency broadcasters, and telephone-based Emergency Alert system; all of which work in concert to provide the community with information before, during and after emergencies.
The Victorian emergency management sector adopts a ‘continuous improvement’ approach that is defined in the EMV Lessons Management Framework, including the functions of public information and the State Control Centre. In line with the principles of continuous improvement, an After Action Review is being undertaken into the public information and warnings associated with the extreme weather event, and in particular the Traralgon area. This is a full evaluation of the core elements of the public information system. An independent reviewer is exploring a range of aspects, including capability, capacity, information flow, technology and, most importantly, community impact.
The Hon Gayle Tierney MP
Minister for Training and Skills
Minister for Higher Education