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Western Australia Letters Patent – 5 May, 2020

  • Letters Patent
Publication date

Western Australia


appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into and report on

national natural disaster arrangements


To: Air Chief Marshal Mark Donald Binskin AC (Retd)
  The Honourable Dr Annabelle Claire Bennett AC SC
  Professor Andrew Kerr Macintosh


  1. Australia is experiencing an extreme bushfire season in 2019-2020, resulting in devastating loss of life, property and wildlife, and environmental destruction across the nation.
  2. These bushfires have profoundly affected communities across Australia and engaged the responsibilities and powers of State and Territory Governments as well as those of the Commonwealth Government.
  3. The changing global climate carries risks for the Australian environment and Australia' s ability to prevent, mitigate and respond to bushfires and other natural disasters.
  4. Australia as a nation must take action, including the development and implementation of adaptation actions, to address the consequences of longer, hotter, drier seasons and severe weather events.
  5. Recognising that, while all levels of government will review various operational aspects of the 2019-2020 bushfire season as they consider necessary, an inquiry focused on national coordination, conducted jointly between the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments will give Australians confidence that natural disaster coordination arrangements are the best they can be.


By this commission under the Public Seal of the State, I, the Governor, acting under the Royal Commissions Act 1968 and all other enabling powers and with the advice and consent of the Executive Council -

  1. appoint you to be a Royal Commission to inquire into the following matters -
    1. the responsibilities of, and coordination between, the Commonwealth and State, Territory and local Governments relating to preparedness  for, response to, resilience to, and recovery from, natural disasters, and what should be done to improve these arrangements, including with respect to resource sharing;
    2. Australia's arrangements for improving resilience and adapting to changing climatic conditions, what actions should be taken to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters, and whether accountability for natural disaster risk management, preparedness, resilience and recovery should be enhanced, including through a nationally consistent accountability and reporting framework and national standards;
    3. whether changes are needed to Australia's legal framework for  the  involvement of the Commonwealth in responding to national emergencies, including in relation to the following -
      1. thresholds for, and any obstacles to, State or Territory requests for Commonwealth assistance;
      2. whether the Commonwealth Government should have the power to declare a state of national emergency;
      3. how any such national declaration would interact with State and Territory emergency management frameworks;
      4. whether, in the circumstances of such a national declaration, the Commonwealth Government should have clearer authority to take action (including, but without limitation, through the deployment of the Australian Defence Force) in the national interest;
    4. any relevant matter reasonably incidental to a matter referred to in subparagraphs (i) to (iii);
  1. direct you to make any recommendations arising out of your inquiry that you consider appropriate, including recommendations about any policy, legislative, administrative or structural reforms; and
  2. direct you, for the purposes of your inquiry and recommendations, to have regard to the following matters -
    1. the findings and recommendations (including any assessment of the adequacy and extent of their implementation) of other reports and inquiries that you consider relevant, including any available State or Territory inquiries relating to the 2019-2020 bushfire season, to avoid duplication wherever possible;
    2. ways in which Australia could achieve greater national coordination and accountability, through common national standards, rule-making,  reporting and  data-sharing,  with  respect  to  key  preparedness  and   resilience   responsibilities, including for the following -
      1. land management, including hazard reduction measures;
      2. wildlife management and species conservation, including biodiversity, habitat protection and restoration;
      3. land-use planning, zoning and development approval (including building standards), urban safety, construction of public infrastructure, and the incorporation of natural disaster considerations;
    3. any ways in which the traditional land and fire management practices of Indigenous Australians could improve Australia's resilience to natural disasters;
  1. declare that you are not required to inquire, or to continue to inquire, into a particular matter to the extent that you are satisfied that the matter has been, is being, or will be, sufficiently and appropriately dealt with by another inquiry or investigation, or a criminal or civil proceeding; and
  2. without limiting the scope of your inquiry or the scope of any recommendations arising out of your inquiry that you may consider appropriate, direct you, for the purposes of your inquiry and recommendations, to consider the following matters, and authorise you, as you consider appropriate, having regard to the date by which you are required to submit your final report, to take (or refrain from taking) any action arising out of your consideration -
    1. the need to establish mechanisms to facilitate, subject to any applicable law, the timely communication of information, or the timely furnishing of evidence, documents or things, including, for example, for the purpose of enabling the timely investigation and prosecution of offences;
    2. the need to establish appropriate arrangements for information-sharing in relation to any other inquiries or reviews, in order to support concurrent inquiries or reviews as well as your own, in ways consistent with relevant obligations, and in ways that avoid unnecessary duplication, improve efficiency and avoid unnecessary trauma to witnesses;
  3. appoint you, Air Chief Marshal Mark Donald Binskin AC (Retd), to be the Chairman of the Royal Commission; and
  4. declare that the Royal Commissions Act 1968 section 18 applies to the Royal Commission; and
  5. declare that you are authorised to conduct your inquiry into any matter under this commission in combination with any inquiry into the same matter, or a matter related to that matter, that you are directed or authorised to conduct by any commission, letters patent, order or appointment issued or made by the Commonwealth, another State or a Territory; and
  6. require you to begin your inquiry as soon as practicable; and
  7. require you to make your inquiry as expeditiously as possible; and
  8. authorise you to submit to me any interim recommendations that you consider appropriate; and
  9. require you to submit to me a report of the results of your inquiry, and your recommendations, not later than 31 August 2020.

Issued under the Public Seal of the State

at Perth on 5 May 2020.