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Natural disaster preparedness inquiry launches for small business

by Kate Aubrey4 minute read

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An inquiry into small-business natural disaster preparedness and resilience has been launched to help the sector cope with future catastrophes such as fires, floods and droughts.

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) said it will report its findings to Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, Stuart Robert, who referred the inquiry to the ombudsman, to make recommendations.

Ombudsman Bruce Billson said the recommendations aim to assist small businesses in preparing for natural disasters.

“Our inquiry will make recommendations about the types of supports that could be targeted to small business and how to achieve the best outcomes from those resources,” Mr Billson said. 

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“We will also make recommendations around the development of targeted resources that could be used by small business and government agencies to better support small business preparedness and resilience.”

The inquiry follows a recommendation in the 2020 Royal Commission into Natural Disaster Arrangements that “State and territory governments should continue to deliver, evaluate and improve education and engagement programs aimed at promoting disaster resilience for individuals and communities”.

“The impacts of natural disasters on small businesses can be devastating,” Mr Billson said.

“It can mean damaged and destroyed assets, reduced production and revenue streams, and sadly, a business-ending event in some cases that can have devastating personal impacts.

Mr Billson said that recovery can be “lengthy” and take a “heavy toll” on small-business owners, their staff and the broader community. 

“The cost of natural disasters and the time it takes for small businesses to get back on their feet could be reduced by being better prepared, taking sensible risk and impact mitigation action and bolstering resilience.

A recent Deloitte Access Economics report found that 97 per cent of government disaster-related expenditure was used for repairs and recovery and just 3 per cent on disaster preparation and mitigation.

Mr Billson said: “Governments at all levels have a key role to play in ensuring people have the information they need to make informed decisions about how to manage the risks they face from natural disasters and how to be best placed to recover after an unavoidable event.”

In undertaking the inquiry, the ombudsman will:

  • Examine how key preparedness and planning information developed by the public and private sectors have been communicated to and adopted by small business, including the various toolkits, guides and other resources produced since the 2019-20 natural disasters
  • Identify and evaluate education and engagement options to help support small-business preparedness for, and resilience to, natural disasters, including secondary effects. This includes
  • Make recommendations on how the federal government could contribute to improved collaboration and coordination to ensure enhanced preparedness, resilience and recovery of small businesses affected by natural disasters
  • Make recommendations on the types of supports that could be targeted to small business, and other recommendations as to how to achieve the best outcomes from such supports
  • Make recommendations for the development of targeted resources that could be used by small business and government agencies (local, state and federal) to better support small-business preparedness and resilience
  • Make recommendations for immediate response actions that small business and government agencies (local, state and federal) could take when presented with a natural disaster to better support small-business preparedness and resilience

[Related: Property market told to brace for more frequent natural disasters]

Natural disaster preparedness inquiry launches for small business
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