These questions come from a member of one of Queensland’s emergency services:

  1. Could you please advise if there is any obligation by a government/agency/department to implement findings (recommendations) from an inquiry? Or are they just that … recommendations.
  2. Are the entities still empowered with the responsibility and still obligated to act when State governments have changed and agencies and departments have had corporate restructures and name changes? Would the current government or entity still be charged with the responsibility to implement this change if they hadn’t been completed?As an example, following the 2011 Flood inquiry the government’s reply delegated responsibility to oversee change to entities that no longer exist (Emergency Management Qld – EMQ – is now called EM and is a service within QFES, the Department of Community Safety – DCS – now subdivided into the following entities QFES, Qld Corrective Services, Public Safety Business Agency – PSBA and Qld Ambulance Service – (which is now part of Qld Health).

Question 1

The answer to this is easy – there is no obligation to implement findings (recommendations) from an inquiry. They are just that … recommendations.

Question 2

Given there is no obligation question 2 may be unnecessary to answer as the obligation to implement measures comes from the government.  First, re-organising government departments may be part of implementing the recommendations, depending on what they say – so for example the abolition of Fire and Emergency Services Authority in Western Australia was giving effect to the recommendations of the report into the Perth Hills Fires of 2011 (Mick Keelty, A Shared Responsibility: The  Report of the Perth  Hills Bushfire February 2011 Review (Government of Western Australia, 2011), Recommendation 46).

Where recommendations relate to a task or function, and that task or function is transferred to a new or restructured agency, one would expect that agency to seek to apply the learning from the inquiry and that the government would require them to implement those recommendations the government had agreed to implement.

Finally in order to give effect to changes in structure, there will be provisions in the legislation that creates the new entity that says, in effect, any reference to the old entity is now taken to be a reference to the new one and things done by the old entitiy are now deemed to be done by the new one.  This is certainly the case with the Queensland emergency services legislation – see Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 (Qld) Part 5 – Savings and transitional provisions (ss 155-205).

Conclusion

In conclusion, my answers are:

  1. No, there is no obligation to implement recommendations, they are just that, recommendations.
  2. If a government has agreed to implement recommendations, then that would be expected to apply even if the various authorities have changed. How that is done, and whether that can be described as an ‘obligation’ depends on the attitude of the government of the day and the terms of any legislation creating the new entity but generally speaking, transitional legislation does impose obligations and liabilities on the new entity.