Wednesday 15 Aug 2018 | 20:51 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 15 Aug 2018 | 20:51 | SYDNEY

Disaster relief: A bull market


Sam Roggeveen


24 February 2011 15:52

A wonderful Ruddism from Tuesday's joint press conference with Attorney-General Robert McClelland, held to announce Australia's assistance to New Zealand for earthquake relief. The Foreign Minister said:

...all relevant deployable assets in Australia are either ready, being made ready or in that state of readiness.

The speech-maker's instinct is there: he rhythmically repeats a word or phrase ('ready'), changing the context slightly each time. But he runs out of steam two-thirds of the way through his list. After all, if these 'relevant assets' are either 'ready' or 'being made ready', what else is there' Just 'state of readiness', I guess. Oh, dear.

On a more substantive note, I would draw readers' attention to an October 2010 Lowy Institute presentation by Professor John McAneney on the increasing rate and cost of natural disasters. As Professor McAneney put it in our 5-minute interview, the logic is quite simple: there are 'more people living in dangerous places with more to lose'.

The Australian Government can expect to be called on more often to bring relief from natural disasters, whether at home or abroad. And that almost inevitably brings the ADF into the picture, particularly its amphibious fleet, which we have learned is in a poor state of readiness.

There is relief on the way, with a Spanish shipyard having just launched the hull of HMAS Canberra. Along with a sister ship, Canberra will be the largest vessel in the RAN's history.

With their cargo capacity, helicopter facilities, on-board hospitals and command & control capabilities, these ships are going to be incredibly useful for responding to natural disasters. They are built to stage landings of Australian troops on enemy soil, but they are far more likely to be used for peacekeeping and disaster relief work. So why not get serious about those roles by designating these ships as national logistical assets, and operate them jointly with various law enforcement, disaster relief and non-government agencies'

This is an idea I floated on The Interpreter in 2008 (contrary views here and here) and is worth revisiting now, given Australia's own recent natural disasters and our upcoming leap in amphibious capability. Tell  us your views.