Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 2 Hansard (3 March) . . Page.. 647..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
Mr Wood was one of those that worked over the Christmas break. Mr Quinlan worked over the Christmas break because he was acting Chief Minister. I returned to duty on 13 January fully expecting Mr Quinlan and Mr Wood to take their holidays some time after that. Mr Wood had made arrangements to commence his holiday on the Saturday.
I had decided-I think on the Friday-to accept responsibilities as minister for emergency services. It was my first day in my acting ministry as minister for emergency services. As a consequence of the fact that I was acting minister for emergency services on the day of the fire, I made the very obvious decision to ensure that I was briefed. I made the decision that I needed to be updated. I made the decision to seek that briefing at lunchtime. Therefore I drove to the Emergency Services Bureau headquarters at lunchtime, simply to be updated. It was a matter of some surprise to me when I got there to realise how grave the situation was.
Bushfires-declaration of a state of emergency
MRS DUNNE: My question is to the Chief Minister. In question time on 18 February last year Mr Stefaniak asked you, in relation to the January 2003 bushfires:
When were you first informed that a state of emergency might be necessary?
Your response was quite specific. You said:
Between 2.00 and 2.30-or 1400 and 1430 hours, as the Emergency Services Bureau likes to put it-on Saturday, 18 January.
Does the Chief Minister still stand by that answer?
MR STANHOPE: That was the time it was first put to me that there was a need to consider the declaration of a state of emergency. There had been some discussion at the cabinet meeting on 16 January around the mechanics of a declaration of a state of emergency, that there were procedures that allowed such declarations. But the first time it was presented to me that consideration of a state of emergency was necessary was after I arrived at the Emergency Services Bureau. There was some discussion at the cabinet meeting on 16 January about declarations of states of emergency in the context of what the legislation provided for. I believe that discussion was generated by a theoretical or a general discussion around the potential impact of the fire on electricity infrastructure.
MRS DUNNE: I ask a supplementary question. How does the Chief Minister reconcile that answer and the one he gave on 18 February with the evidence before the coroner that on 16 January cabinet was told that there was a 40 to 60 per cent chance that a state of emergency would have to be declared?
MR STANHOPE: This is all ifs and buts, and if this happens and if that happens. I have not discussed this with my colleagues, and perhaps I need to refresh my memory in relation to it, but I have a broad memory of a discussion-and I will not swear on the Bible as to the detail-around the potential for the fire to impact on electricity infrastructure and cause arcing in the Brindabellas, where the wires cross into the ACT and join up with the MacGregor substation. It was theoretical thinking being engaged in,