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SMB ombudsman launches natural disaster preparedness inquiry

An inquiry into small business natural disaster preparedness and resilience has been launched to serve the industry in better coping with future disasters such as fires, floods, and droughts. 

The inquiry will make recommendations to improve education and engagement programmes to better target and assist small businesses in preparing for natural disasters like fires, floods, and drought.

Bruce Billson, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), said that he aims to report its findings by March 18.

“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,” Ombudsman Bruce Billson said in a statement.

“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 Ombudsman added that 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 a sensible risk and impact mitigation action and bolstering resilience. 

“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,” he said.

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”.

As part of the inquiry, the Ombudsman will:

  • Examine how key preparedness and planning information developed by the public and private sectors has been communicated to and adopted by small businesses, 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;
  • 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 businesses and other suggestions 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 

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.  

“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.

“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.” 

Read the full terms of reference at https://www.asbfeo.gov.au/policy-advocacy/policy-insights/small-business-natural-disaster-preparedness-and-resilience

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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