Media Release 4 January 2020
COSBOA and its members have expressed horror and shock at the current bushfire situation. The loss of life is tragic for families and whole communities. The loss of infrastructure while a far lesser loss will cause great difficulties for business folk and their employees, and communities, for years to come unless the repair process commences now. We acknowledge the recently announced comprehensive support by the Prime Minister. The recovery task forces at federal and state level must have the federal small business Ombudsman and state small business commissioners included to ensure full coverage.
Peter Strong, CEO of COSBOA, stated today “we need action now, people, business people in particular, need to see and hear that governments are not waiting for the fires to disappear before doing anything but are meeting now, consulting now, developing plans now. We welcome the development of recovery task forces.There needs to be action on the frontline but as with any war there also needs to be action from the experts on reconstruction behind the front lines. We know that infrastructure has been destroyed and must be replaced. Let’s start the process of replacement now, at least with plans and with engagement with those in the effected areas, those where the fires have passed but the damage remains and is often profound”.
Mr Strong added ‘failure to accept and manage change and risk has been a key issue leading up to this disaster. We are concerned that the attitude from climate deniers that ‘this is normal’ and ‘nothing to see here’ means that we will continue to have that small number of government MPs with ideological beliefs and dented egos having too much say and too much influence. This will only hold us back from repair and regrowth.”
COSBOA notes the sacrifice and commitment from so many in the affected areas. Businesses have been opening all hours, often providing free meals and support and their employees have volunteered to work long hours as well. Residents have been helping each other through long nights and through tragedy. Truck drivers have delivered essential services and fuel by driving through devastated areas where fire remains a real danger. Businesses and community are always on song when crisis occurs.
The government must consult and involve the farm and business communities around Australia who have been proactive for years in preparing for and mitigating the effects of negative events, drought in particular. While media reports focus on the negative impacts there are many stories of communities and businesses people who prepared well, and well in advance. Local people know what to do, consult them.
Mr Strong added “we have for some time been trying to take the emotion out of the climate debate by talking about ‘change management and risk management’ but the small cadre of deniers in government ranks and elsewhere have refused to budge because they believe they are right and the rest of us are wrong. They have denied anything has changed and when confronted with the common sense of preparing for the risk of fires and disaster they have turned deaf and refused to prepare for what always happens in Australia - bushfires, droughts and floods. Their denial is because they do not believe disasters occur any more often than in the past. This intellectual indifference of the few has endangered us all. No successful business will ignore a risk as unlikely and will always prepare for any situation.
Action, transparent inclusive action on rebuilding is needed now. Comprehensive risk management plans, transparent and inclusive of people likely to be affected in the future are needed now. Let’s hope a risk management plan will never be implemented but let’s have plans ready to be actioned when crisis strikes. Many communities do that already, its about time governments also plan for these events.”