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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 3 Hansard (10 March) . . Page.. 969..


MR SMYTH (continuing):

Tuesday. How did the department contact Ms Cahill Lambert if they claim it was done on Monday?

MR CORBELL: I am advised that Dr Sherbon was in contact with Ms Cahill Lambert on the Monday. Given Mr Smyth's claims, I will check that. But that is my advice.

Bushfires-cabinet briefing

MRS DUNNE: My question is to the Deputy Chief Minister, Mr Quinlan.

I refer to your reply to a question from Mr Stefaniak on 3 March this year. You said in relation to the 16 January briefing that you recalled being told at that briefing that the Monday would be a "40-year fire event". You said:

I recall thinking that the bushfires might be worse on the Monday and that even though I had not been directed to return to Canberra on the Monday I, as minister, should be there.

If, as you said last week, the day of concern was Monday, 20 January, what additional arrangements were put in place to protect the vulnerable suburbs of Canberra on 20 January?

MR QUINLAN: I should not answer that, in as much as it is not my portfolio to answer. I will just confirm the first part. If I said it was a "40-year fire event", I meant to say it was a "40-year weather event"because that is what we were told.

Mrs Dunne: That is what I said too: "40-year weather event".

MR QUINLAN: I wrote down "fire". Anyway, let's not quibble. As long as the Assembly understands that the cabinet was briefed on that day that there would be a 40-year weather event. We talked of how close the fires would come to Canberra, and there was discussion of something maybe even a bit worse than the 2001 event, which you will remember we all celebrated as being a very successful fight against the fire.

For my part, while I have the opportunity, I would like to inform this house that nobody talked of firestorms or 60-foot walls of fire-even for Monday or Saturday. We talked about the possibility of the bushfires reaching the edges of Canberra. That is a wholly different scenario to what actually occurred. That is certainly what was communicated. We are mature enough here and have been around long enough to understand that any briefing like this has a tenor or an atmosphere about it. The atmosphere was one of concern-yes-but not of any impending disaster. People ought to understand that.

Whatever politics you want to wring out of it, please understand that a responsible group of people-no matter who they are; whether on this side of the house or the other-would not have acted as they did in going about their business and their various duties had they been warned in any way that there was going to be a huge firestorm that leapt clear ground kilometres at a time and blew 32kV lines out of the ground in Chapman. Nobody spoke in terms of that sort of event; nobody hinted at that sort of event. And I am fairly certain that nobody on the briefing side-rather than those being briefed-had any concept that the firestorm that struck Canberra was a possibility.


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