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Defense warns of workforce gaps in disaster response


The Australian Defense Force is warning that the unprecedented scale, duration and frequency of natural disasters is putting pressure on its workforce to respond to them.

As Australians battle another natural disaster, this time in the far north, a federal parliamentary committee is examining the nation’s preparedness, response and recovery for such events.

But the Australian Defense Force, usually tasked with natural disaster response and recovery, is warning that its workforce cannot keep up with the growing demand for support.

Floods are slowly receding in remote villages and cattle stations in northwest Queensland, hit by record rains, but the emergency has moved south to Urandangi, near the border with the Northern Territory.

Earlier this month, the regional town of Lismore, New South Wales marked one year since devastating floods claimed five lives and more than 3,000 homes.
The Black Summer wildfires of 2019 and 2020 raged across much of the country, and the environmental and emotional toll is still being felt.

The federal government often calls in Australian Defense Force personnel to assist as part of the response to such disasters.

But a defense presentation to the committee details how his commitment has created labor pressures on his permanent and reserve ADF capacity.

The filing says the ADF has also had to re-prioritize its workforce to meet government instructions during natural disasters, reducing its ability to train, maintain and sustain workforce levels for defense purposes.

“The use of both full-time and part-time defense staff to support the Australian community since 2019 has been of an unprecedented scale, duration and frequency,” the filing said.

“Since 2019, more than 35,100 ADF personnel have deployed to national disaster relief operations, some on multiple occasions.”

The submission recommends that the government establish a scalable and deployable “civil contingency task force” as an alternative to the ADF that would support national disaster response and recovery.

Advocacy representatives will provide evidence to the committee along with the National Emergency Management Agency, CSIRO and the Met Office.

The defense warning comes as diplomats from nearly 200 countries and top climate scientists begin a week-long meeting in Switzerland on Monday to distill nearly a decade of published science into a 20-page warning about the existential danger of global warming. and what to do. do about it