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Minister not keen on federal natural disaster response body

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A federal emergency service specifically for natural disasters is unlikely to be established, Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt says.

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Amid calls to reduce reliance on the Australian Defence Force during natural disasters, Senator Watt says the government will help fund organisations responsible for disaster responses.

“It’s about supplementing that disaster workforce because unfortunately we’ll probably need to do it a lot more,” he told the National Press Club on Tuesday.

But the primary responsibility for disaster management remains with the states and territories, the minister added.

“I don’t really envisage setting up a federal emergency service,” he said.

“We do need to recognise that the prime responsibility for disaster management rests with the states and territories, supplemented by local government.

“But we are certainly open to funding organisations that can help particularly with that clean-up and reconstruction work.”

Watt said he’d had preliminary discussions with Defence Minister Richard Marles about the ADF’s role in natural disaster responses and the government was looking at “non-defence mechanisms” to help with recovery efforts.

“We are in no way downplaying the importance of the role the ADF play in disaster recovery,” he said.

“They have incredible skills and equipment that aren’t necessarily around elsewhere and having been in disaster zones when these troops roll through, you can’t underestimate the morale boost that gives to a community.

“There will always be a role for the defence force, but we do have concerns about how far they are being stretched and their core job is the defence of the nation.”

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