WHAT IS A NATIONAL EMERGENCY?

Governor-General David Hurley will be asked on Friday to approve the declaration of a national emergency on the advice of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and with the support of the Queensland and NSW premiers. It will be the first such declaration since laws passed in December 2020.

* The idea of a national emergency declaration came out of the Black Summer bushfires royal commission.

* The royal commission noted Australia’s disaster outlook “is alarming”.

* The declaration would signal to communities the severity of a disaster, act as a marshalling call for the early provision of federal government assistance, facilitate co-ordination with state and territory emergency agencies, and, in very limited circumstances, allow the federal government to act without a request from a state or territory.

* The laws, passed by the federal parliament in December 2020, allow a national emergency to be declared “where an emergency has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur, and it has caused, is causing or is likely to cause nationally significant harm”.

* It requires the prime minister to get a formal request from premiers and then present advice to the governor-general through federal executive council.

* The prime minister has spoken with the NSW premier and will speak with the Queensland premier on Thursday, before seeking the formal declaration on Friday.

POWERS

* The laws allow ministers to “suspend, vary or substitute ‘red tape’ requirements in laws that they administer, where doing so would be of benefit to the public, or a section of the public, during a national emergency”.

* This can include such things as removing barriers to people in emergency-affected areas accessing payments, benefits or services without the need for ID documents or witnessed signatures.

* It also allows the prime minister to find out what stockpiles, assets and resources the government has at its disposal, whether stockpiles need supplementing, and what could be made available to assist in the recovery.

FUTURE

* A review of the use of the powers must be conducted within 12 months of the declaration.

 

Paul Osborne
(Australian Associated Press)

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