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Bushfires royal commission starts hearings

THE NATIONAL ROYAL COMMISSION INTO AUSTRALIA'S UNPRECEDENTED BUSHFIRES STARTS HEARINGS

WHAT IS IT?

* The official name is the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.

* The six-month inquiry, which began in February, will deliver a final report by August 31, making practical recommendations in time for the next bushfire season.

* It is being led by retired defence force chief Mark Binskin, assisted by former Federal Court judge Dr Annabelle Bennett and climate expert Professor Andrew Macintosh.

* Independent inquiries into the 2019-20 bushfires are also underway in NSW, Victoria and South Australia. A Senate committee and ACT parliamentary committee are also conducting inquiries.

HOW IS THE ROYAL COMMISSION DOING ITS WORK?

* A two-week hearing begins in Canberra on Monday, but it is being conducted electronically due to coronavirus restrictions.

The hearing is focusing on climate change and natural disaster risks, the impact of the 2019-20 bushfires and the Commonwealth's responsibilities in relation to natural disaster arrangements.

* It has received more than 1400 public submissions.

* There will be another round of hearings in late June.

* The three commissioners met with fire-affected communities in South Australia, Victoria, NSW, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia before coronavirus restrictions stopped face-to-face consultation.

* A lot of evidence will be through written statements. It is also using pre-recorded video testimony from isolated community members.

WHAT IS THE ROYAL COMMISSION LOOKING AT?

* Improving natural disaster management coordination and responses across all levels of government

* Improving Australia's resilience and adaptation to climate change, and what can be done to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters

* The legal framework for the Commonwealth's involvement in responding to national emergencies, including new powers for it to declare a national state of emergency to trigger action such as the deployment of the Australian Defence Force

THE TOLL OF AUSTRALIA'S 'BLACK SUMMER' BUSHFIRES:

* 33 deaths

* More than 3000 homes

* More than 10 million hectares of land burnt - about 1.6 per cent of Australia's total land mass. Some estimates put it at 12 million or as much as 17 million hectares.

* 7000 outbuildings and other structures

* More than 80,000 head of livestock and over 2000 beehives

* Millions of native animals and plants, including severe impacts on many world heritage areas.

© AAP 2020