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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (26 September) . . Page.. 3381..

Aboriginal tent embassy

(Question No 280)

Mr Cornwell asked the Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Corrections, upon notice, on 24 September 2002:

In relation to your reply of 4 April 2002 to Question on notice N. 65, that despite a total fire ban in force in the ACT in the fortnight following Christmas Eve 2001, the small ceremonial fire maintained by the Aboriginal Tent "Embassy" occupiers was allowed to remain lit having "been assessed by the Fire Commissioner... that it does not present a danger to life or property".

(1) What guidelines apply to a total fire ban in the ACT.

(2) What discretion does the Fire Commissioner enjoy to override a total fire ban and what are the factors taken into exercising this discretion.

(3) How was the embassy fire assessed as not presenting a danger to life or property compared with say, an open backyard barbeque.

(4) What other culturally significant issues could be used by people maintaining fires in defiance of a total fire ban in order to escape prosecution.

(5) Will these culturally significant factors at (4) together with the discretionary points the Fire Commissioner may use to override a total fire ban (2) above be advertised publicly so that all ACT residents can decide whether or not they are required to comply with a total fire ban.

(6) If the points at (5) are not publicly advertised is this not racial discrimination or at best discriminatory.

Mr Wood: As Acting Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Corrections, the answer to the member's question is as follows:

(1) The guidelines that apply to total fire bans in the ACT are as prescribed in the Bushfire Act 1936 - Sect 7A, (as amended), whereby;

(1) a person shall not light, use or maintain a fire in the open air on a day or during a period in respect of which the Chief Fire Control Officer has caused-

(a) to be published in a newspaper circulating in the Territory;

(b) to be broadcast from a broadcasting station in the Territory; or

(c) to be televised from a television station in the Territory; a warning of the likelihood of the occurrence of weather conditions conducive to the spread of fires.

This Section of the Bushfire Act then goes on to describe the instances when (1) above does not apply, as follows;

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