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Year of living dangerously: 16 million Aussies hit by natural disasters this year

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More than half of Australia’s local government areas have been slammed by natural disasters since the start of the year.

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The nation has been hit by over 40 natural disasters across more than 280 local government areas, with top bureaucrats warning the system is under pressure.

The areas affected cover more than 16 million people.

The head of the National Emergency Management Agency on Friday admitted concurrent natural disasters were straining resources.

“Since the Black Summer bushfires, many of our communities have been in a constant state of response and recovery,” coordinator-general Brendan Moon told parliamentarians.

There are around 350 defence force personnel on the ground in Victoria and 150 in NSW assisting with devastating floods.

More than 100 areas have had disaster recovery payments activated in the past month.

Nationals deputy leader Perin Davey said her hometown of Deniliquin in southern NSW had flooded four times in a decade.

“Not one of those floods has looked the same, not one of those floods has had the same impact or results,” she told a Senate budget estimates hearing.

Davey said defence members were proud of their work helping with disasters but were concerned it was becoming an expectation they would get called out.

“Their core business is to protect Australia, not from natural disasters,” she said.

“The army shouldn’t be our first port of call.”

Parliament will review Australia’s ability to handle natural disasters.

It will set up a new committee to assess disaster resilience, including the role of the defence force, the impact of frequent disasters and what volunteers and community groups can do.

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie spearheaded the new inquiry, saying Australians battling floods had been “whacked again and again and again”.

“Proper planning prevents piss-poor performance and we keep getting hit with our pants down, let’s be honest,” she said.

“We know these disasters are coming, we know they’re more frequent and more severe.”

The government said it would support Lambie’s push.

But the motion is yet to pass the Senate, which will not sit again until November 21.

Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt said federal governments hadn’t responded adequately to disasters in the past.

He is considering establishing a disaster response force but says planning is in the very early stages.

“We want to do better when it comes to disasters in this country,” he said.

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