Climate change a harsh reality for emergency minister after year of record floods – Sydney Morning Herald
At the time, Watt wrote on Twitter that Stone should be sacked, claiming he had “failed to build a single flood mitigation project”.
By mid-November, Watt had similar feelings to Stone after floods hit rural Victoria, Melbourne and northern NSW. Months earlier, devastating floods in Sydney’s Hawkesbury region and northern NSW caused 22 deaths, thousands of rescues and a cumulative damage bill tallying billions of dollars.
Since those floods, Watt said that natural disasters, which were once rare and often far away for most Australians, were hitting closer to home far more frequently because of increased extreme weather under global warming.
“If I think about my childhood, you would see the TV stories or on the radio, or the newspapers, about quite infrequent, big events that were happening in faraway places,” he said.
“Often, you’d find out about small country towns in another state because they were hit by a flood or a fire or something like that. But now, the events are happening much more frequently, much more severely and affecting much more of the country at the same time. And that, obviously, is an indication that climate change is here right now.”
Watt conceded the increasing impacts from extreme weather events had raised public expectations of the federal government’s disaster response role, but said he did not agree with calls from some quarters to expand the role of the defence force.
“The ADF [Australian Defence Force] will always play a really important role, particularly in the clean-up process,” he said.
“But we need to be careful not to stretch them too far, when we do have this the scale of disasters that we have, and when we have a pretty uncertain security environment.”