Disaster risk report buried by McGowan Government secrecy

The McGowan Labor Government has buried a report detailing worst case scenarios for 28 prescribed hazards that Western Australia might face.

Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Hon Martin Aldridge MLC has called on the Premier to immediately publicly release the ‘State Risk Report’ in the interests of ‘gold standard transparency’.

“This report was the culmination of eight years of work at a Local, District and State level at a cost of almost $14 million,” Mr Aldridge said.

“The project found pandemics and animal or plant biohazards posed the highest risk to Western Australia, with that assessment occurring prior to the onset of COVID-19.”

The ‘State Risk Report’ was created in partnership with the Australian Government and similar projects were conducted across all States and Territories.

“There is absolutely nothing to be gained by the Government burying this report which has been undertaken at considerable financial cost to West Australian taxpayers, and includes significant contributions by stakeholders across the State,” Mr Aldridge said.

“The Opposition first sought the report in August 2022 after some detail was published in the ‘Emergency Preparedness Report 2021’ and our request resulted in the Cabinet considering the report in November of the same year.

“The Department of Fire and Emergency Services recently rejected a request to access the report under the Freedom of Information Act 1992, claiming that it is considered cabinet-in-confidence.

“This is despite multiple public references to its content prior to Cabinet consideration and the fact that other jurisdictions have published their equivalent report in full, well before now.

“It begs the question what is DFES and the McGowan Labor Government trying to hide.”

Mr Aldridge said Western Australia is a natural disaster-prone environment and will increasingly become so with climate change impacts.

“Since this project commenced, we have seen natural disasters at a scale that our State has not seen before,” he said.

“This includes Severe Tropical Cyclone Seroja, the Kimberley floods, COVID-19, animal biosecurity threats and the February 2022 bushfires which according to DFES ‘stretched’ their capability under the worst weather conditions experienced in many years.

“Preparedness for natural disasters is not exclusively a Government responsibility which is why it is incumbent on the Premier to release this report to the public.”

The Opposition has referred the Government’s refusal to release the State Risk Report under the FOI Act to the Information Commissioner.