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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 3258..


(1) In relation to the preparation of evacuation centres at Lanyon High School and Hawker and Phillip Colleges on 18 January 2003 and a meeting called to discuss the possible evacuation of the suburbs of Duffy, Holder and Rivett on the morning of 18 January 2003 chaired by Mr Tonkin, then the head of the Chief Minister's Department, when was it decided that the fires were a direct threat to suburbs requiring the possible evacuation of these suburbs on the weekend of 18 and 19 January 2003;

(2) Who decided to call the meeting at 8 am on 18 January to discuss the possible evacuation of suburbs;

(3) What advice was provided to the Chief Minister about this critical meeting and (a) how and (b) when was it provided;

(4) When was it decided that it might be necessary to prepare evacuation centres at Lanyon High School and Hawker and Phillip Colleges on 18 January 2003;

(5) Who made the decision to prepare these evacuation centres and when was that decision made;

(6) How were these sites identified and what factors were critical to the selection of these sites;

(7) When and how was the Chief Minister advised of this decision;

(8) If the Chief Minister was not contacted on the evening of 17 January 2003 or the morning of 18 January 2003 to discuss the possible evacuation of suburbs, why not;

(9) If the Chief Minister was not advised of these significant developments in a timely manner, what disciplinary action was taken against the officers who failed to advise him; if disciplinary action was not taken, why not;

(10) Were any other ministers advised of this decision; if so, (a) what, (b) when and (c) how was it provided;

Mr Wood: The answer to the member's questions is as follows:

Under the provisions of the Coroners Act 1997 the ACT Coroner's Court is conducting a comprehensive inquiry into the cause, origin and circumstances of the fires which destroyed and damaged property in January 2003 and inquests into the deaths associated with those fires.

The Coroner presiding over the inquiry has legal authority to examine all aspects of these matters, including the evacuation procedures.

On this basis, I do not believe that it is appropriate to answer the Member's questions and pre-empt the findings of the Coroner. This Assembly should not usurp the functions of the Coroner. In addition, I do not have all of the answers to the Member's questions, as some of the answers to the Member's questions have been, or will be provided by witnesses through the coronial process. Further, answering some of the Member's questions may prejudice matters being dealt with by the Coroner. In particular these questions could have an effect on witnesses who are yet to give evidence.

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