Queensland Premier establishes Commission of Inquiry into flood disaster

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has launched a statewide independent Commission of Inquiry to forensically examine Queensland’s unprecedented flood disaster.

Ms Bligh said the Commission would be headed by widely respected Queensland Justice Cate Holmes with Deputy Commissioners Jim O’Sullivan, a former Queensland Police Commissioner and Phil Cummins, an international expert on dams.

She said the Commission of Inquiry, approved by Cabinet today and appointed by the Queensland Governor after a special Executive Council meeting, would deliver an interim report in August 2011, and its final report by January 2012.

The Premier said the Inquiry would have the powers of a Royal Commission, would take public submissions from across Queensland and would make recommendations in its interim report for future wet seasons.

“The last three weeks have been truly shocking for all Queenslanders and now is the time to forensically examine the devastating chain of events and the aftermath,” Ms Bligh said.

The Commission will be asked to inquire into and report on:

The preparation and planning by federal, State and local governments; emergency services and the community for the 2010/2011 floods in Queensland.

The performance of private insurers in meeting their claims responsibilities.

All aspects of the response to the 2010/2011 flood events, particularly measures taken to inform the community and measures to protect life and private and public property, including:
o immediate management, response and recovery;
o resourcing, overall coordination and deployment of personnel and equipment;
o adequacy of equipment and communications systems; and
o the adequacy of the community’s response.

 The measures to manage the supply of essential services such as power, water and communications during the 2010/2011 flood events

Adequacy of forecasts and early warning systems particularly as they related to the flooding events in Toowoomba, and the Lockyer and Brisbane Valleys.

Implementation of the systems operation plans for dams across the state and in particular the Wivenhoe and Somerset release strategy and an assessment of compliance with, and the suitability of the operational procedures relating to flood mitigation and dam safety.

All aspects of land use planning through local and regional planning systems to minimise infrastructure and property impacts from floods.

In undertaking its inquiries, the Commission is required to:
– Take into account the regional and geographic differences across affected communities.
– Seek public submissions and hold public hearings in affected communities.

The Commission of Inquiry is also required to make recommendations which it considers appropriate, feasible and cost effective to improve:
– The preparation and planning for future flood threats and risks, in particular the prevention of the loss of life.
– The emergency response in natural disaster events. Any legislative changes needed to better protect life and property in natural disaster events.

30 Responses to Queensland Premier establishes Commission of Inquiry into flood disaster

  1. Luke January 17, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    Well should be good – we’ll see Motty, Cohers and Plan B at the inquiry.

    The Climate Sceptics Party must be champing at the bit to show us the way forward. This could be a “tipping point”.

  2. John Sayers January 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    Don’t be so silly Luke – whenever we have a major event such as the Brisbane floods, and the resultant Clarence and Victorian floods it’s prudent to analyse the performance of those involved. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.

  3. el gordo January 18, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    This is Plan B in action, see where we went wrong and prevent it happening again. More importantly, the Inquiry will highlight the failure of BOMs models to predict the deluge.

    A strong La Nina was revving up in a cool IPO and BOM could only see that it was going to get unusually wet in SW West OZ.

    A true ‘Independent Inquiry’ would question the whole AGW theory and find it wanting.

  4. cohenite January 18, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Any enquiry would certainly be deficient if the climate patterns as pertaining to flood frequency and intensity were not studied. To do that properly would necessitate scrutiny of forecasting by BoM and to what degree AGW assumptions play a role in those forecasts; there is overwhelming evidence that those forecasts have been inadequate.

    I would be calling David Stockwell and Stewart Franks as witnesses. Who would you call luke to bolster the tatters of BoM and CSIRO forecasting successes?

  5. val majkus January 18, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    I’ve put this comment on Warwick Hughes blog but it bears repeating here

    Dr Tim Ball has an article on the Qld floods http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/32223

    final paras:
    I chaired the first attempt to establish a management strategy for the Assiniboine River and drainage basin in Canada (Figure1). As usual it was an extreme event that triggered a conflict – it was typical of the ongoing practice of crisis management. The extreme was caused by the drought across western North America in 1988/89 that was in the same pattern of the 1930s drought. Conflict developed when water flow in the Assiniboine River reached the lowest flow in 94 years of record. In 1996, the worst flood in 101 years was recorded. It was valuable because I could more easily convince Board members that any strategy must consider the extreme variability.

    Engineers and hydrologists, among others, deal with what is called the recurrence frequency. When planning they determine what level of natural events will set the limit for their design. It is described as a one-in-100 event, but the second number can have any value. Usually the design is limited by the length and accuracy of the record and cost. The difficulty is, if an event exceeds the limit, then the disaster is exacerbated. The approach assumes the record is adequate in length, which it isn’t. It assumes the range of the record is consistent because they assume the weather is the same over long periods of time. All this ignores the third critical measure of statistics, the variation. Global warming alarmists have claimed the weather is more variable, but more variable than what? Variation changes occur all the time and has increased because of cooling not warming as the cold air of Antarctica expands.

    There are human factors involved in the Brisbane flooding. Apparently a dam designed for flood control was allowed to fill with limited release. “We need a full inquiry into why this dam managed by SEQ Water, and others managed by Sunwater, were managed in a way that actually produced the kind of flood it was designed to prevent.”

    Another problem, learned from our research of the Assiniboine Basin, was the pattern caused by the wet and dry cycle, as in Queensland. During wet periods, demands are for flood control by dams and drainage ditches. In dry periods the demand is opposite. Now storage and prevention of runoff is required. These systems can serve dual purposes but it requires knowledge of the extremes and management that anticipate the swing from one to another. This is limited by the failure to understand that the records used are totally inadequate in length, trend and variability. I am grateful to Professor Stewart who drew attention to three papers that address the problems. His 2004 paper, “Multi-decadal climate variability, New South Wales, Australia.” A joint paper with Danielle Verdon, “Long-term behaviour of ENSO: Interactions with the PDO over the 400 years inferred from paleoclimate records” And a third paper with Anthony Kiem and George Kuczera titled, Multi-decadal variability of flood risk.”

    Living In High Risk Zones
    Finally, there is the problem of people being allowed to live in high-risk zones, such as flood plains. Often these zones are ill identified because of the lack of understanding of the true cyclical climate pattern. Maybe people shouldn’t be allowed to live in flood plains, especially at the first flood stage level, but that’s another subject.

  6. Luke January 18, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    “to what degree AGW assumptions play a role in those forecasts”

    What waffle

  7. el gordo January 18, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    The Inquiry will squeeze BoM from both ends, they were asleep at the wheel. ‘There should have been some fairly big alarm bells going off at the bureau’, said Anthony Cornelius.


  8. cohenite January 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    What waffle says luke; he who peddled paper after paper by such S-F writers as Meehl, Vecchi etc who argue strenuously that AGW has penetrated macro-climate patterns like El Nino. Like Bob Brown luke has no shame.

  9. spangled drongo January 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm #


    Maybe he was finally agreeing with us. [koff]

  10. el gordo January 18, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Luke has failed to nominate witnesses for the Inquiry, so I suggest David Karoly speak on behalf of the warminstas.

    Karoly says conditions now are similar to 1974, except the oceans are warmer because of AGW and so the floods are worse, which is debatable.

    He’s a world renown ‘expert’ on the subject of climate change and should be heard.

  11. el gordo January 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    This fellow is bound to be called.

    Senior Brisbane engineer Michael O’Brien, who analysed the dam’s outflow for The Australian, said: “We have a dam that should have worked but we did not use it properly. It didn’t work and we flooded Brisbane. That flooding did not need to occur.”

    Full story in today’s Oz.

  12. cohenite January 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    There are reports that apparently Karoly is now taking legal action against Stewart Franks.

  13. val majkus January 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    I have asked someone with much more expertise than I have to ascertain who the dam expert is
    My view is that this commission of inquiry needs international experts (engineers and hydrologists who have experience with bigger dams than Wivenhoe) and meteorology experts and other experts of the type Dr Ball talks about in the excerpt I’ve put above
    That is not going to happen and in my view the findings are going to be limited both in scope and possibly politically because of that
    hopefully my view is wrong

  14. el gordo January 18, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

    If that is the case Val, then it will be unfortunate for our cause. They had a similar problem in the UK with the Inquiries set up in the aftermath of Climategate, a complete whitewash.

    If cohenite is correct and Karoly takes Franks to court, it may still provide an opportunity for us to be heard.

  15. val majkus January 18, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    I agree el gordo check out Warwick Hughes blog http://www.warwickhughes.com/blog/?p=793#comments
    for the latest update on the dam expert
    As to evidence I totally agree with what Dr Ball in my comment above says
    Keep in mind what Anna Bligh has currently called is not an enquiry into ‘climate change’ as such at any point but where the warmist/deniers points of view are relevant is in what Dr Ball calls the recurrence frequency
    anyway nose to the grindstone and I’ll look forward to what you guys come up in the morning
    and kudos to Luke for being polite; Luke don’t disgrace yourself tonight

  16. el gordo January 18, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

    It’s a moot point, but justification is probably the best defence for Franks, if he can prove that the defamatory imputations are ‘substantially true.’

  17. Johnathan Wilkes January 18, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    el gordo,
    cohenite will be able to correct me but I think after the latest changes to the defamation laws, the truth of the matter has no little or relevance.

  18. Johnathan Wilkes January 18, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    “has no little or relevance”

    should read: “has little or no relevance.”

  19. Luke January 18, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    I’m stunned how off beat and off the pace you guys are. Tim Ball – ROFL ! zany ….

  20. el gordo January 18, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    The Commission’s terms of reference are narrow, there’s only one par of interest to me.

    ‘Adequacy of forecasts and early warning systems particularly as they related to the flooding events in Toowoomba, and the Lockyer and Brisbane Valleys.’

    ‘Adequacy of forecasts’, BoM will already have their PR people working overtime to come up with the appropriate answers.

  21. Stacey January 18, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    It is about time the so called environmentalists stepped to one side and let civil engineers deal with water storage and flood mitigation measures.

    They should have an input and if they wish to set free into the dam a couple of hundred of the lesser spotted five legged newt then no problem, provided they are happy to be supervised.

    The sadness is that the disaster that has happened could have been prevented with sensible planning but how can people plan sensibly when their views are skewed by alarmist mumbo jumbo.

  22. cohenite January 19, 2011 at 7:32 am #

    A claim for defamation is sustained by the promulgation of statements and/or images which are UNTRUE and impugn the aggrieved person’s reputation.

    Under the Uniform Defamation Laws which began in 2006 not only is truth a defence but such a defence can be maintained by the alleged imputation being only substantially true.

    As well there are a myriad of other defences including honest opinion, political debate, advancement of education etc.

    Still, for all that Defamation proceedings are both messy and expensive. It is unfortunate that a passionate person like Franks may have to be the vehicle to get this before the courts.

  23. Malcolm Hill January 19, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    But what are the standards of proof required to make the case.?

    Karoly may also be in queer street if he has to show that its beyond all reasonable doubt and there is no room for any scepticism.

    What fun heh

  24. cohenite January 19, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    There is a criminal form of defamation but the action, if any, by Karoly would be a civil one where he has the onus of satisfying the claim on the balance of probabilities.

  25. el gordo January 19, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    Thanx cohenite, we are definitely ahead of the news cycle on this story.

  26. A Wilson February 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    Reported in the Sydney morning herald on 8/8/10 was an article pertaining to the Queensland government contracting a company based in Thailand called ‘Thai King’ to conduct cloud seeding operations, otherwise known as weather modification, to break the drought. I sincerely hope the inquiry is made aware of this article, and not sweep it under the carpet.

  27. Lorraine February 10, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    I believe that the amount of money planned to be spent on the flood inquirey is an utter & complete waste-wake up it was a flood so build a bridge & get over it -so to speak-
    This amount of money being wasted to have an inquirey -which I might add will prove simply
    nothing -would be better spent on rehousing flood victims & rebuilding roads. YES I was involved in the flood – I had a healthy husband who tore a hole in his heart through lifting furniture up & down and has now gone through open heart surgery -he will never be the same man again.

  28. Julies February 12, 2011 at 7:45 am #

    Jo Bjelkey Peterson advocated the building of such a dam along with the several others and stated that Wivenhoe was NEVER TO BE ABOVE 30% capacity (enabling it to act efficiently under any situation to protect Brisbane from floods).
    The Goss Government supported by Kevin Rudd bowed down to public pressure, gaining votes and won power, scrapping the construction of any further dams.
    I also believe that the timing of the water released from Wivenhoe was a contributing factor to a lot of distruction to property, after such a wet September and with the prediction of such severe changes in weather patterns Wivenhoe should never havbe been at the level that it was. However, most of this will be “brushed under the carpet” – What’s new?


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