The Australian Government is undertaking a comprehensive review of homeland and border security arrangements in Australia. The review, being undertaken by the former Secretary of the Department of Defence, Ric Smith, will report midyear.
In response to 9/11, there’s been considerable planning and investment of resources by the Australian Government focused on Australia’s capacity to prevent, respond to and recover from a major terrorist attack in our homeland. The focus on disrupting the planning of terrorist acts, or to disrupt them once underway, has obscured the potential for much greater deaths and casualties caused by extreme natural disasters and therefore the need for an all-hazards risk approach in understanding and responding to all associated risks: if Cyclone Larry had impacted on Cairns in March 2006, not Innisfail, in conjunction with a king tide and storm surge this could have been Australia’s Hurricane Katrina.
A terrorism attack in Australia remains without question a distinct possibility, but assessed against the risk of probability, we have more to fear from natural disasters, which are not exceptional events.
More importantly, when it comes to time spent planning and resources applied to managing risks on an all-hazards basis, there hasn’t been sufficient effort to engage the Australian community on what Australians can do for themselves in the face of high consequence events like terrorism and extreme natural disasters.
This paper examines how Australia can bounce back from all hazards, not just terrorism. The paper recommends a number of specific measures to a build a more resilient Australia.