The Opposition has moved to establish a Parliamentary Select Committee into the 2022-23 River Murray floods, after the Malinauskas Labor Government ruled out conducting a crucial independent inquiry into the disaster.
Despite Joe Szakacs labelling it “one of the most, if not the most significant natural disaster in the state’s history”, in an extraordinary move he’s told Parliament Labor has no intention of instituting an independent inquiry to review the flood preparation, response and recovery.
Thousands of home and business owners along the River Murray had their lives turned upside down, with an estimated 4000 properties inundated with most requiring a complete rebuild or significant repairs.
Following the devastating 2019-20 bushfire season, the former Liberal Government moved swiftly to initiate an independent review to inform preparations for future seasons.
The Keelty Review was quickly accepted by the former Liberal Government, who took rapid action on the recommendations and findings and invested $97.5 million into the Emergency Services sector to boost the state’s capabilities to save lives and properties.
Leader of the Opposition, David Speirs, said an independent review is important not only to ensure South Australia is better prepared for future flood events, but so affected communities can have confidence in the Government’s response and recovery efforts.
“The refusal by Peter Malinauskas and his Labor Government to conduct an independent inquiry into the River Murray floods raises real concerns about transparency and accountability,” Mr Speirs said.
“By establishing a Select Committee, our aim is to fill the void left by Labor’s inaction and thoroughly investigate key aspects of the disaster – including the roles and responsibilities at all levels of Government, the grants processes and river flow management and modelling.
“South Australia deserves to be better prepared for future flood events, and affected communities deserve confidence in the Government’s response and recovery efforts.”
Shadow Minister for Water Resources and the River Murray, Nicola Centofanti, said the Select Committee should be public.
“South Australia’s river communities have endured the worst flooding event in a generation, so we owe it to them to properly examine this devastating, life-altering event,” Dr Centofanti said.
“It’s crucial this Select Committee operates as a public inquiry, so we can openly assess all the agencies involved in the flood response so they’re answerable to the community.
“We should be acknowledging what went well, and those affected deserve to know how and why decisions were made and what can potentially be done to be better prepared in the future.”
Member for Chaffey, Tim Whetstone, said the recovery grants process, eligibility and uptake would be closely scrutinised.
“Peter Malinauskas said the biggest funding package to any disaster in the State’s history was on offer for those impacted by the floods, but only a small amount has managed to trickle its way to those who need it,” Mr Whetstone said.
“Many in my community have told me the application process is so complex and there’s simply too much red tape when it has come to accessing these important grants.
“I think it’s vital we take a deep dive into the grants process – as it’s important this kind of funding gets to affected businesses in a timely manner.”
Member for Hammond, Adrian Pederick, said it is important to look at the management of both the temporary and permanent levee banks.
“Levee banks play a critical role in protecting our communities and farming properties from flood damage,” Mr Pederick said.
“The management of levee banks is a mixed responsibility between government and private land holders.
“An independent investigation into levee banks could provide critical information to help us better prepare for future flooding events.”