Ex-cop to lead new bushfire recovery agency

 

A former federal police chief will head up a critical operation to help bushfire affected communities recover as Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he's open to a national royal commission-style review of the disaster in the future.

Mr Morrison was in Canberra on Sunday morning where he announced the immediate commencement of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency to be headed by former federal police chief Andrew Colvin.

Former AFP chief Andrew Colvin will lead the new bushfire recovery agency. Picture: Gary Ramage
Former AFP chief Andrew Colvin will lead the new bushfire recovery agency. Picture: Gary Ramage

The agency will work with states and Defence to co-ordinate recovery efforts ranging from income payments to rebuilding infrastructure and mental health support.

"This organisation will be stood up for at least two years." Mr Morrison said.

"I have no doubt they will have a long list of recovery tasks that (the states) will be performing … rebuilding bridges, roads and other critical infrastructure and we will work hand in glove."

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The federal government will not seek matching funding from states and territories.

Mr Morrison also addressed criticism of his government's failure to alert NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons it planned to call up 3000 Defence Force reservists to help handle the fallout from the fires.

In a rare public criticism, Mr Fitzsimmons said he only found out about the deployment from media reports.

"I was disappointed and frustrated in the middle of one of our worst days with massive dislocation and movement of people," Mr Fitzsimmons said.

"We spent a fair amount of the day yesterday trying to seek clarity."

NSW RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons publicly admitted he was not informed of the decision to deploy Defence Force reservists for help. Picture: AAP/Jeremy Ng
NSW RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons publicly admitted he was not informed of the decision to deploy Defence Force reservists for help. Picture: AAP/Jeremy Ng

Mr Morrison said he called premiers from every affected state to inform them of the decision to call up the reservists as soon as he left the National Security Committee meeting on Saturday, but admitted there was a "breakdown" in communications.

"I want to stress the decisions we took … were a statement all about the scale of this crisis," he said.

"It is in no way a statement on the performance of the state and territory agencies."

Mr Morrison said he would also consider a national review of the fires, such as a royal commission, to better determine how future disasters could be approached.

"Certainly … it is something I would consider in concert with states and territories," he said.

"But right now the message I have from state premiers and from fire commissioners is, we are fighting the fires now.

Bushfires have raged across Australia since the start of summer. Picture: Rohan Kelly
Bushfires have raged across Australia since the start of summer. Picture: Rohan Kelly

"We are dealing with the emergency response now.

"There is a broad agreement about the need - as there always is after any natural disaster - for there to be a thorough and proper review from the contributing factors and the response and improvement that can be made.

"What form that ultimately takes is something that I will work closely with the premiers."

Mr Morrison said he had been "consistently complimentary" about the "extraordinary work" of state governments and officials.

"Without their work, without the planning, without the preparations, I fear what has really been a terrible tragedy which have been far worse," he said.

Mr Morrison, who has moved his family to Canberra so he can better access fires burning across the country, is expected to travel to NSW later today to meet with premier Gladys Berejiklian and other officials.

He said he would not be "distracted" by criticism of his leadership during the crisis.

"The public, I know are not distracted by that," he said.

"What they need us to focus on, all of us actually … (is) the needs and the communities in getting the support where it needs to go.

"That is very much my focus is and that's where it will continue to be."



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