Podcast / Episode #25

#25: The 2019-20 Victorian fire season inquiry, phase 2 report

By renae hanvin

nov 9 2021

This episode

In this week’s episode of Doing Disasters Differently the Podcast, Renae talks to Tony Pearce who is Victoria’s first Inspector-General for Emergency Management (IGEM). He shares with us how this role was created and how it is impacting the Victorian community as we continue to see a rise in disasters in our country. He shares how he is partnering with businesses and government and switching the approach from recovery to preparedness.

key moments from the conversation

About Tony

Tony was appointed Victoria’s first Inspector-General for Emergency Management in July 2014, an independent Governor in Council Statutory Appointment.

For 41 years he has worked in intelligence, national security, emergency and crisis management and has held a number of senior roles in both State and Federal government including 4 years in the national role of Director-General, Emergency Management Australia.


I’d like to start with where we met...

Renae met Tony over a decade ago when working at Australia Post, after attending a 2-day program where Tony was a guest speaker and was inspired by his holistic approach to disasters.

They’ve managed a few coffees over the years and have connected again recently given the launch of the Phase 2 Report of the Independent Inquiry into the 2019-2020 Victorian Fire Season which we are glad to see has a big inclusion of businesses.

Here are some questions I asked...

Renae Hanvin
Tony, so great to talk with you today.

Tony Pearce
Thanks for joining me.

1. Now, let’s start with what is the role of the Inspector General for Emergency Management.

Tony Pearce
Okay, so I guess just very shortly, a little bit of history as to where we came from. We were effectively a product of the accommodation of the Victoria was a royal commission following 2009. The black Saturday fires, and then the review of the flood, which looked at the massive floods in Victoria in 2010-2011. From both of those two events, there was a white paper process that the government went through, recognising that the emergency management system hadn’t functioned very well at all in either of the events. So we went through the white paper process, consulted with communities, with the private sector, with government agencies and others, and asked the question – In a perfect world, what would a new system look like if we turned it on its head. As a result, they came up with a whole range of answers. But within that, there were four changes to or four additions, into the governance structure of the system as it was at the time.

One of those was the creation of the Inspector General for emergency management. And the creation of that was a recognition by both the Royal Commission and also on your committee who did the flood review. One of the things that were missing from the energy management system was a capacity for the system to be assured and to monitor to ensure that the system is actually working as a system effectively. Recognising where they sit within that ecosystem and applying the relevance of it for the greater good of the community in responding to these events. So as a result of that, this regional emergency management was created. The only thing I’d say that I found a little disappointing with, I think Inspector General is probably not a good title for it. Because, it’s something that sort of suggests that it’s a punitive type organisation, and people come looking for you, find you and hang you up and blame you. That’s not what we’re about. We work collaboratively and cooperatively with anyone because we have to keep going back event after event.
We’ve got two objectives in the Emergency Management Act – assure the government and the community about the effectiveness of the Emergency Management arrangements. And the second one is to foster continuous improvement of those. And because they’re so generic and broad in their wording, it actually allows us to be very, very agile and flexible. Sitting underneath the two objectives, we then got 12 functions if you like. They’re identified and articulated in the act. And they really fall into five broad, broad category areas. One is that we are responsible for maintaining or developing and maintaining an assurance framework for emergency management. So that is the framework that guides the way in which all levels of the system actually provide an assurance function because it’s not just an agent’s job, everybody has a responsibility to assure themselves about the effectiveness of their operations. So, therefore, it actually defines how you go about doing that. Who’s responsible for what and articulates the relationships. It also provides methodologies and tools and ways that you can go about doing that. So that’s the first one.

We did a refresh of that in 2018. If you go to our website, you can actually see the refreshed version on it. I had an obligation to maintain what’s called the Forward plan of annual reviews, which effectively is the outline for the following 12 months each year of what I entail of my own volition to actually review. And that can be anything. We’ve done community preparedness for major emergencies, we’ve done insulin control systems, we’ve done our range of things. But the other ones that I’m doing are always not in response to an emergency having occurred, they are just about looking at elements of the system, planning to do a review on those and then coming up with some improvements in relation to those.

The third part is conducting inquiries, then reviews at the request of the government. For example, the review of the Victorian 2019-2020 fire season was a request by the government to do. It was obviously specifically in response to a major event having occurred, and we have had quite a few of those over the years in that context. We have had the Wye River bushfires in 2015, thunderstorm asthma which people would remember ten people died in Victoria in 2016, and several others, so they are a bit specific. They usually end up being accepted by the government. Then that is where you will see significant amounts of money put into the system to try and address those recommendations.
We also monitor the implementation of any recommendation from any level of inquiry, including my own parliamentary inquiries, Royal Commissions, or otherwise, that have an emergency management relationship where government accepts those. Then it is our job to monitor each of those recommendations through to acquittal. So, I would say that the most important thing we do in the big picture is to make sure that all recommendations are ultimately implemented or acquitted. And if they are not, there is a legitimate rationale as to why they could not be or should not be. Sometimes that happens over years because some of these things take years to implement.
Finally, the fifth category is the area of performance monitoring, where we have responsibility again in legislation to monitor the non-financial performance of the emergency services telecommunications authority. As you know, that is quite topical at the moment with call answer speed delays in the ambulance, etc. So, we work in that space. We are also monitoring Victoria’s infrastructure, resilience arrangements, which were again put into legislation in 2018 to make critical infrastructure and ensure its resilient. We also investigate Department of Environment land, water, and planning plan-burn breaches. That is, so when one of their plan-burns gets away and becomes a bushfire, we are then responsible for conducting the investigation into that independent of DOE to ensure that the proper outcomes are achieved and ensuring that it does not happen again. And there you go, a very potted history.

Renae Hanvin
So, Tony, there is not much going on then. It is not a very big list that you have responsibility for! Having known you for several years now, I have to say that your experience in the sector and your passion for delivering continuous improvement across the sector is something that I really value in our conversations. I cannot think of a better person to be in the IGEM role and have that oversight in view. You and your team have led many reviews over the years and provided recommendations, a few of them that departments and agencies have implemented, all for bettering the emergency management sector.

2. So, what was this inquiry about? And when did it start? And why was there a phase one and phase two?

Tony Pearce
Good question. Sometimes people sort of think – oh, geez, why did it take so long to do something like that. And if you look at the vibe is actually about trying to understand. These fires rolled out over the period of time, leading up to Christmas, in 2019, and they’ve been going in some areas. So if we’re right about October, late October, we had quite a slow but consistent leading of fire activity. And then, of course, all hell broke loose and the event took off. And then, it took a really good amount of time to get on top of, and then to start getting into the process of recovering from that. And we saw quite a number of things occur that we’d never seen before.
So, if you think about the mass evacuations, along with a number of other things that occurred that we just hadn’t seen in the past. And so, as a result of that, it’s really almost a no brainer. I’d anticipated well ahead of January the 14th, which is when we would get tapped on the shoulder and we would have to do something. So, we were already like in the background from around November 2019, starting to gather information and data evidence that we called that was freely available to the local visible to us without sort of burdening the agencies as such at that stage. And then, sure enough, the government came to me targeted saying they’re going to get you to do it. And then the announcement was made on the 14th of January 2019. That’s way back when if you like and as you would be aware, that this phase two.

Phase two reports have just been tabled in Parliament two weeks ago, that’s when the inquiry finished – 21 months from start to finish. The reason this was done in two phases was almost to recognise that and we knew it was going to be a very, very big inquiry. It’s quite simple to say, well, we want you to look at preparedness leading up to the response to the fires and the relief of recovery. That’s four elements that you design a sentence around without drawing too much of a deep breath. But to actually do that, and to do it properly, you need to do it justice.

With regards to identifying the improvement opportunities, we really need to split it into two, because we were sort of approaching fast approaching the start of the 2021 fire season. And it was obvious to us that from a preparedness perspective, and also a response perspective, we needed to get that work done, hopefully by the 30th of June, which was a plan. We did in 2020, to allow government time to have those recommendations identify the low hanging fruit, and we had to get a few things done before the 2021 season started. So that was the intention. And we also knew as we all do that recovery is a very long process and actually takes quite some time before you can start to get an understanding of what it is that’s happening in the recovery environment. So, there’s really no urgency to attack that early on.

So, we put absolute focus for the first six months into the preparedness leading up to the season is both from a community and government perspective. And also, then the response to the fire again, from both community and Gavin’s perspective and delivered that report as phase one which led government then to start doing some implementing etc. As soon as we handed that over, we then kicked off and we were even doing some work in the background as we got closer towards the end of phase one. But we officially kicked off phase two, which sort of led to relief arrangements. What did they deliver, how did it function in relation to the fire, and then of course, into the recovery.

An important part of this is to acknowledge obviously, that recovery is a very long process. And it’s different for everybody. It’s very, very personal. And therefore, it’s a moment in time. So, I always like to say to people don’t look at this as being the be all end all of the recovery picture, but up to a moment in time. Which, for most of those people who went through that event, some 15 months after the event by then you start to get a pretty good feel for what’s happening. And you can also really start to see where the system’s working where it isn’t. And that’s the reason why we actually break it into down into two phases. And as I say, we’ve I think we’ve been successful in delivering the recommendations in both and they’ve all been accepted by the government.
Renae Hanvin
A massive project to deliver on, obviously with COVID on top of that. I know the announcements and the connections into the communities moved to virtual, which normally would have been face to face. So, I mean a massive job over that time to connect with and collect data and really understand the experiences from communities.
Now, as you know Tony, businesses big and small and business communities on my passion, and I was really glad to see a number of inclusions relating to the stakeholder group in the report. What were the main findings that came through relating to businesses and their role and contribution towards thriving communities?
Tony Pearce
Yeah. If I give you my thoughts, and I think I’ll make a comment a little bit of business too, because for those that aren’t actually business owners, or business operators, and all of the things that the broader community went through, and all of the issues that impacted them impacted business owners as well. Unfortunately, on top of those things, then other things were a little bit more specific to business, our business community has more impacts on it. But the way that we look at it in the report, you won’t see massive sections on business and business impacts, because it’s a given already that many of the standard things that don’t work well for communities, actually don’t work well for businesses either. So, therefore, if you accept that the recommendations are designed to address those, and if the government implements the recommendations, then a lot of the issues that impact business will be picked up. And then there are some specific things that are left over. And we know there’s problems with communication, the gate, etc. That’s already picked up in the recommendations.

So, getting back to the more specifics: engaging the business committee was really the first thing for us. We weren’t quite sure how to do that in a way that it would give them the opportunity to actually speak to us just about the needs. Because as I said, it was important to acknowledge that a lot of business owners turned up their board committee meetings, face to face meetings. And I did mention business impacts, I didn’t have enough time to focus on those because it wasn’t just about them. So we picked up through that. But then we work with a small business commissioner’s office, and a number of peak bodies to get the word out about the inquiry, what it was about, and to provide an opportunity. And unfortunately, because you can’t, we did 63 face-to-face community meetings. So that’s without the online – 163 in total across three local governors across both phases of the inquiry.
I think for me, there’s quite a number of people to adapt to it, which is right, but also having a lot of feedback to say- Well that’s no good because we can’t get you in that one location. But obviously, it was just not possible practical to hold them in mass numbers, just the business alone. So, the public submission- we’ve got a lot of feedback for businesses in relation to through our public submissions, etc. And it was very helpful as main issues or business, that we tried to ensure that those acknowledged in the report, but also the recommendations will start to pick up where that the fires were almost if you’d like the middle part of the event for business operators in the community.

Business operators specifically were coming off the back of a very significant drought throughout Victoria. And a lot of people in country Victoria and the businesses and agriculture etc. repackaged deliberately by the drought. We then rolled into the fire season and the fires occurred and did the damage that they did, and introduced a whole range of new impacts. And then we rolled into COVID. So one of the big problems that we tried to launch for business was that it’s not just a single event that impacts on them. And government can’t think about it in that way, you have to look at the environment in which business functions it’s an ongoing day to day proposition. It’s a continual activity that is not a one-off activity being a business operator, therefore, compounding emergencies impact businesses and communities. There was a lot of prospective interest in making sure that it is understood, primary areas affected were identified, retail tourism and hospitality – they were the obvious ones because in those areas there was a lot of tourism activity. So, there was a lot of vocalisations of the impacts on those types of sectors. But unfortunately, there were a lot of others who are primary producers, there are the groups who are actually working on the land, but because of their business model structure or because it’s not their first income or not seem to be primary producers. And yet they are earning an income through that they are running a business. And yet they are not paid for in the same way as the primary producer would be, for example. So, I think at some parts of the broader business community that really won’t recognise it for what they do and be for the damage and the impact of the urgency on them. So that was problematic. And we’re trying to try to make sure that was acknowledged in the report.
And there’s a whole range of issues that come around. For example, they provide a forum for business communities and thick industry bodies and industry leaders to discuss the economic impacts of the fires, which is really great. And to identify opportunities to support local and regional economic recovery, that’s again, a great thing to do. And they implemented introduced a number of financial grants and those sorts of things that were provided to you to help these people through. However, the problem is that the very same things in a broader sense that impact the community, so poor communication or engagement, not asking what it is that would most benefit business, rather giving them something and expecting that they can actually use it. And, utilise examples of people in some great situations being adding the expectations, they would commit there and then to the ongoing sustainability of their business, if they were given the grant. Well, of course, there’s no way that any business ticket, the smaller ones could actually say, well, we know we will be going to use it in a year They needed the money, they needed the system to help them now to try and get them in a position to be able to know that they can move forward in the future. Unfortunately, the grants didn’t make it easy for them. So, there’s a whole range of things that impact business communities, more so than the broader community. Some of the needs that arose through our investigations of this were can, as I said, those businesses have said outside the tourism and accommodation industry.

Financial Assistance and application fees were said to be poorly communicated and so not everybody actually knew what was available. Often by the time they find out about it was too late. They’d actually missed it. The processes were extremely complex. And therefore, you’re looking at people who have their families in turmoil. Their product life in the residence is in turmoil and their business is in turmoil and you’re expecting them to be able to sit down in a cogent way be able to put together a very complex grant application or funding application. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that this just simply doesn’t work. And unfortunately, at times, the government systems don’t understand the impact of those systems themselves, on the ongoing recovery of businesses. So that’s something that we focused on really heavy. They are often really lengthy delays and effectively businesses are getting the money too late and have gone. And so, by the time they got the money they’d already folded, and therefore the managers I couldn’t come back from having fallen. So that was problematic.
think it’s really important to acknowledge that the business community is also part of the broader community. It’s important to recognise business as a community that has to be considered properly. But by doing that, you have to be careful that you don’t oversimplify the complication for them, and forget that everything else that impacts the community impacts them, as well as those additional items.

Renae Hanvin
Tony, I couldn’t have said it better myself and I think that’s how we see it as well. There’s so much focus on preparing households, and absolutely vital and fundamental, but businesses need a different approach. It’s a different level of anxiety and stress. And it’s a different level of preparedness. We worked with Business Victoria, maybe 12 months ago now, on creating a disaster resilience or business toolkit, because preparing yourself and your household is one thing, but preparing your businesses is another thing. We know when these disasters strike, we need businesses to safely keep trading. If anything, it’s like when we put the kids back at school. When it’s safe, we want the businesses to keep running.

Tony Pearce
Is it’s often easy to overlook, that just by having viable businesses in your community that can actually get back up again, and start functioning. The image that portrays the broader community is confidence. People can say – you know what, we actually are going to get through this and we can move forward. It can’t be underestimated. And I think that’s really important that not only did they provide services during disasters, but the very fact that they are actually up and running is a sign of confidence and something to give you the hope that things will be good. And I think without using business in that way, you’re undermining the manual.

Renae Hanvin
Yeah, 100%. And we’ve got a toolkit project that we’re piloting in New South Wales, north and south at the moment. One of the upcoming topics of that is ‘my community needs me’. And it’s all about shining a light on the value of businesses, and not just from a good service or even jobs perspective. But businesses, particularly small businesses are really the economic and social part of the community. So, if we keep them resilient, prepared and able to adapt and keep trading that it’s been great all-around from a socio-economic, and resilience perspective as well.

3. Now, you talked a little bit about state government. So, what role do you see state government could or should play in building resilient and prepared businesses for future disasters? Whose responsibility, is it? Is it business? Victoria? Is it emergency management, Victoria? And, where it is helping businesses to build resilience fit?

Tony Pearce
Businesses specifically identified in many, many areas of the state’s emergency management arrangements as being a major stakeholders. I think part of the problem is that, because it’s done on a sort of sporadic basis, sometimes it’s because an immediate need is identified, so yes, people talk. But it’s not done in the same way where you might say, well, local government is engaged ongoing. Other areas are the nonprofit sector are engaged on going because they are contributors to emergency management systems. I think businesses are not necessarily seen as a major contributor to the international system, it’s seen as a recipient of the leads in the system. And if that were to change somewhat, I think you would then see a far greater engagement because just the issues that we identified in the inquiry in implementing those recommendations by business-specific and the community more broadly. Communication is important. You communicate with them before, during and after emergencies, to allow them to be able to be prepared, but also to get there to get a sense from them about what is important to them, and what their needs are and how they function and think and operate. Which is very different to the community more broadly. I think is probably one of the best things governments could do.

So, it’s not about looking at which individual agency could do something. Whether it’s a small business commission or otherwise, the collective of government agencies can collectively engage with the business community. There are lots of big bodies. In fact, if I use COVID, as an example at the moment, where I’m seeing significantly greater engagement with industry and the business sector than I’ve ever seen before by the state government. It is chalk and cheese to anything we’ve seen before. But when you look at what the pandemic is, and the massive, massive impact. That’s what has brought it to a head and caused it to be the way it is. One of the silver linings of the legacy of the pandemic would be that government recognise, And I’m hopeful they will, the very need that they saw in the midst of the pandemic to engage in that way easily. And you don’t have to do it that intensely. So, as you are continuing to just simply talk to him day in day out, 24 hours a day, you do need to understand that there is a need for an ongoing dialogue with the business community. And to use the peak bodies appropriately and to use the various other organisations that were businesses to engage them. Because I think, if the government did that, that’s probably one of the that’s one of the biggest potential benefits that you could see. It’s about saying – well, the business sector or the business community is one that the state’s economy and our livelihoods cannot exist without this community. Therefore, it’s about a partnership between the business community and government more broadly. And if you get that partnership in place, then that’s really important.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that it’s a one-way street. I’ve spoken to many business operators, and some very senior ones too, who continue to poo-poo government and suggest that it doesn’t matter what you do, or otherwise, you will never come to the party. They don’t know how to engage and therefore, we will do what we’re going to do. You can’t go into the debate in the dialogue with a deaf attitude. There’s a responsibility on both sides to make this work. And I would suggest that COVID is a great example where the business community through its representative bodies is able to stand up and say – a look at what we all did together because we had to. That’s really important

Renae Hanvin
Spot on Tony, and that’s why I set up C2C. It’s all about connecting businesses to communities and collaborations with the government is certainly a key part of that. But I think COVID has absolutely flipped the switch. Recognising the value and the opportunity of involving businesses in the business communities in that shared responsibility of all playing a role, and how can we activate or reshape a business as usual, so that we are all much more prepared, which is exactly what C2C has been doing and running in several pilot projects. Resiliency is finally on the agenda, whereas for a number of years before the bush fires and whatnot. It’s not going to happen to me, so it kind of wasn’t there.

Renae Hanvin
Shared responsibility is important. You can’t, say as a government, use phraseology, like shared responsibility, and then not actually engage people to allow them to contribute as I share partner sharing partner. And just the opposite of that is as a business, you can’t expect that you will be engaged and you have opportunities be given to you and you don’t step up. You’ve actually got to step up contribute to it as well, that way it is true shared responsibility.

Tony Pearce
I like to say it is shared responsibility, shared accountability, and collective input. We have to do something and be 100%. Now, in our Phase Two report, that’s just coming out the recommendation that everyone’s talking about lucky number 13, which is where we are obviously moving nationally with a new agency and other states. So, can you explain why this is so key as a recommendation for the inquiry?

Tony Pearce
Yeah, I think I think the event itself wasn’t exactly rocket science, I’d say. When you read the two phases of the inquiry, you’ll find that the second phase, which is about debt relief, and recovery, you’re finding that one is harsher and more critical. It was meant to be done in a way that actually acknowledges the fact that relief and recovery really have never been looked at in any great detail in this state. So the Royal Commission dedicated 20 Pages, four massive volumes, to recovery. We’ve never ever had a significant event that has had such a huge impact on the state or anybody is actually going to this level of detail of reviewing the recovery system. So by definition, recovery has not developed at the same pace as preparedness and response since 2009. So I was always behind the eight ball. And as a result of that, you would have to have expected that the findings will be less than complimentary compared to say phase one. But that wasn’t to suggest in any way at all that those who’ve been working the recovery system since 2009, haven’t been doing their absolute best. So that’s the context.

So then when we get to recommendation 13. It wasn’t too far into this, the start of the recovery process that the need for a greater level of coordination, both in relief and recovery, the technique was there, it was really, really very evident. If you look at recovery space it has got a lot of players in it. No, that it should have but, it has got a hell of a lot of players at all levels of government. Then in the not-for-profit sector and a whole range of others so, there is so much activity going on. All of it is designed to help people get through and come out of the other side of what’s happened to them in at least a sustainable way, if not a better way. But it’s very, very poorly coordinated.
The government perhaps have coordinated to an extent. But there is not the best theoretical notion across government, that’s for sure. Once you’ve been bringing outside of the outside players, it becomes even more complex. And really, the picture gets quite ugly from there. There’s not necessarily agreement about principles of recovery for example, and how a recovery system should work. People have their views. And it’s not that they shouldn’t have and it’s not that disagreement is a bad thing. It’s just simply that there is no environment that is coordinated, which allows people to have the device. So as the system itself can identify what is the best we can come up with based on all the differences that we have certainly get a better outcome at the end of the day.

So my thinking about this was that you have to have an organisation that is established in a permanent and ongoing way, recognising that it’s not just possible as it occurs. Now, yes, they might be a predominant hazard that is realised, but there are lots of other things happening. We’ve seen a number of them over the last few years that have brought scale impacts on the state. So, therefore, there needs to be an agency in place that is permanent, comprehensively required to dedicate all of its effort to Recovery Management and, it’s got to have the authority to do that. It’s going to add capability capacity, it’s going to be resourced appropriately to coordinate planning, literally prevention of all wounds. So that is the wording of the recommendation if you like.

What are the key bits? Permanent, Authority and coordination. They are the most important bits. Is an organisation that sits within a department something different? My response to that is, it actually doesn’t matter to me what it is, we’ve articulated, in addition to just the three lines of recommendation, or the findings of the observations that sit behind that, and in fact, all the findings, observations that sit behind all the recommendations in phase two, tell you what it is, that this entity has to actually be able to manage. So, therefore, if you put in the government department and call it something if it has the authority and the capability to do that, that’s fine. If you decide that couldn’t happen, you make a statutory authority to allow to do that. And that’s fine, too. I don’t really care what the structure looks like. But what I will be monitoring very assiduously as we move forward is what it’s actually achieving, to make sure that they attend to every single one of those recommendations. So that’s why you have to have an entity or an organisation like that.

The other thing is, we involved the recovery agency and others in NDMA, and a whole range of engineering glory. I didn’t take into account and wasn’t considering their business and the way they go about their business when I looked at this/ But, of course, it’s absolutely implicit in my mind, but they’re kind of explicit in the report. But it’s clear that if you’re going to have something that is disparate, disconnected, uncoordinated in Victoria, and every other area, or many other areas, including the National Government are moving towards a well-coordinated process. So there’s that part of it as well, which as I said, was implicitly my thinking.

I’d encourage people if they’re interested in that recommendation, not just to read the recommendation but the report. Now, unfortunately, the online is now an executive summary report 200 pages that covers it all, and then it starts to make a lot of sense as to why this is really important. It’s an absolute no brainer, there is no other way to go. And if we’d have made any other recommendation, it would not have been right. It’s the only way we can move forward. And I believe as the government has accepted all the recommendations is extremely positive to me because I know that no matter how I structured, it will work. But if it doesn’t work initially, or I can see it’s not starting to work, I have the capacity then to influence that, by the way, I report on the implementation.

Renae Hanvin
Well, I think without a doubt, we need a centralised agency that’s there for all types of disasters. That’s their long term. And it’s not a reactive pop-up. So I’m really excited. And again, it’s a really important recommendation that’s come out of it. It just makes sense to where we are in the world.

What 2 things would you like to be done differently in the disaster space?

Tony Pearce
All right, I’ll tell you three because I know you like me. So one of the things that we’ve alluded to a number of times in this if we look at Victoria, we’ve pulled things together significantly over the nearly 11 years, rather than some since Black Saturday. We have a consistent approach to the way that we go about a business in Victoria and it can always be improved. And that’s the very root of having an idea and other organisations doing their own work. But I still think we desperately require a nationally consistent Identity Management System assurance mechanism. We brought the whole country together, including New Zealand as an end, to talk about these two years running to see if we could influence potentially other states. The evidence shows very clearly, by having a system-level assurance mechanism in place, you get far better outcomes in the continuous improvement context. So I’d love to see that genuine, diverse, inclusive engagement through all communities.
The emergency management process before, during and after emergencies is absolutely critical. It’s a human right, and business falls into this as well. The reason I say human rights, is because everything we do results in a consequential impact on the community. They have to live with the recommendations that I make and the government accepts. Therefore, it is unbelievable to expect that they should not be allowed to actually engage in the process of decision making. And not in the urgency scenario in the heat of the moment, but be involved before, during and after.
Then the third one is the benefits of investing in preparedness versus only responding to a recovery. We’ve heard all this before. You may not be able to see when they’re going to occur, but we know they are going to occur. So, therefore, preparing properly for those, whether you are a business community, whether you are government, doesn’t matter who you are, more effort has to go into preparedness. And we just don’t do enough of it. Every inquiry identifies that we weren’t as well prepared as we could be. There is that much data around the world that shows the financial benefit of doing it. And yet what happens every time something happens? We respond to the event like it is the first time that it happened. That’s just madness. So if I was the big bloke and had the big hat, I would make those three things happen.

Renae Hanvin
So I know what you did there. And you were quite strategic because if you said the first one last, I would have just stopped you on the first one because obviously, that is absolutely fundamentally what we’re focused on too.

Tony, thank you so much for talking with me today. So I’ve been talking to Tony Pearce, Victoria’s first Inspector General for emergency management. And we’ve been talking about the idea of recommendations from the independent inquiry into 2019 to 2020 Victorian fire seasons. Can’t wait to have a face-to-face coffee catch up with you again soon, Tony.

Tony Pearce
Thanks a lot. Looking forward to it. Thank you.

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