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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (13 November) . . Page.. 3578..


MS DUNDAS (continuing):

In short, it seems likely that we are focused on a relatively small proportion of fires and therefore a very small group of potential arsonists whose behaviour we are seeking to change. Antisocial behaviour is something that I doubt any government will ever succeed in wholly eliminating, despite concerted efforts and an arsenal of penalties. I was reluctant to support the substantive motion because I had serious doubts that it would have any real effect on the number of human caused fires in the ACT. However, I have little doubt that requiring greater emphasis on bushfire education in schools will place further strain on the already overcrowded school curriculum.

Fire safety is already taught in schools, as has been articulated by the ministers today, and I cannot see enough reason to expand on the current programs. Hence, I will support the government's amendment and the work that is already being done and hope that the community will take on the responsibility that we all need to accept to minimise the number of unnecessary bushfires occurring in our community. Almost ever child sees the effects of bushfires on TV and learns about the dangers of fire. If a child cannot empathise with the people affected, I think it is unlikely that a few more hours of teaching would make the difference and enable these kids to grasp the full impact of their irresponsible actions.

MS TUCKER (7.53): The Greens will be supporting this motion as amended by Mr Quinlan. I understand why Mr Pratt wants to raise a debate on the question of the damage that is done by fires. I am of the same view as Ms Dundas in terms of the actual percentage of fires that are the result of the actions of children. From the work that I have done in looking at this complex issue, I think that it is one than can be addressed by having more education occurring in schools, given that we already do have education occurring, as has been explained by Mr Quinlan.

The question of the motivation for arson is highly complex. I am not an expert on it at all but, from what I have read, it is certainly not something that could be dealt with by having an education program; the causes are much deeper than that. If you are interested in addressing children in particular who intentionally start fires continually, so they are children who have a serious problem, then you have to look at the question of what to do with children with emotional disturbances, which is the sort of issue that was picked up in the kids at risk report and other work done in this place for children who are troubled for various reasons which, if you look into them, are wholly justified and usually have to do with the chaotic family environment that they have been born into. If he wishes to deal in this way with these sorts of really serious issues in children who are lighting fires on purpose, I would suggest that Mr Pratt should get on with it enthusiastically and support the work that has been done in the past and is continuing to be done in terms of making sure that there is support for children who are troubled or at risk in our school system.

Amendment agreed to

MR PRATT (7.56): Mr Corbell's comment that I had not checked the system to see which sorts of education activities were under way was a quite unwarranted misrepresentation. Indeed, when he reads Hansard, he might like to check the front end of the speech I have given tonight, as I stated quite clearly that we are aware of programs undertaken in some schools and we are aware that lots of fire units are involved. Indeed,


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