PM set to flag constitutional shake-up
Prime Ministers would be allowed to declare national disasters and call in the Defence Force under new constitutional and legal powers flagged by Scott Morrison.
The move would allow the commonwealth to bypass states, which presently have to ask for assistance, and comes in the amid bushfire crisis that has engulfed the nation.
It has also emerged ahead of Mr Morrison's National Press Club Address today.
The Australian reports the government's long-term response to the bushfire season and future emergency response plans will be the focus of the Mr Morrison's speech.
The address, titled An Even Stronger, More Resilient Australia, will also highlight the government's economic management that has allowed its bushfire recovery efforts to be delivered without increased taxes or levies.
"I believe there is now a clear community expectation that the commonwealth should have the ability to respond in times of national emergencies and disasters, particularly through deployment of our defence forces in circumstances where the life and property of Australians have been assessed to be under threat,'' Mr Morrison will say, according to The Australian.
The speech will not feature any changes to climate policy, but will promote a response to protect Australians and the economy from fires, floods and cyclones.
He is expected to say cabinet will have a greater focus on national disasters, and will touch on the importance of a royal commission into the bushfires.
"One of the first tasks of a royal commission will be to audit the implementation of previous recommendations, drawing on work that has already been done in this area," he will say.
"As the years pass, the bush grows back and fuel loads increase, people move in still larger numbers to live in fire-prone areas and dangerous fires occur again in a cycle which must be broken.
"We must continue to learn from this fire season so we are better prepared for the next one, whether that be the deployment of the ADF, local hazard reduction, access to resources such as aerial firefighting equipment, consistency of disaster recovery arrangements or resilience in the face of a changing climate."
Climate change and other environmental issues will also be recognised as growing threats to Australians' livelihoods.
Mr Morrison will say the scale and reach of the bushfires across state borders means it's crucial to clarify how the commonwealth will use its resources to respond to future crises.
"As I've said before, I have been very conscious of testing the limits of constitutionally defined roles and responsibilities this bushfire season," he will say.
Mr Morrison has come under pressure for his response to the bushfire crisis.
Last week, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull launched a blistering attach, accusing his successor of failing to show leadership and downplaying the influence of global warming.
"Everybody knew we were in a very dry time and as a consequence the fire season was likely to be very bad," Mr Turnbull said.
"So rather than doing what a leader should do and preparing people for that, he downplayed it and then, of course, chose to go away on holiday in Hawaii at the peak of the crisis.
"It's just not consistent with the way in which a prime minister would or should act."