Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 1 Hansard (28 February) . . Page.. 26..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
people should evacuate immediately. Sir Peter, a very experienced retired public servant, a man who has held most senior postings, told the inquiry:
If, some hours earlier, there had been an official vehicle with a loud-hailer travelling up and down Eucumbene Drive and other streets announcing "Be ready to evacuate"lives might have been saved and we and others would have been in a position to save at least some of our valued and valuable personal possessions.
Coroner Doogan concluded:
Contrary to the submissions ... to the general effect that there was no evidence that people would have acted differently if they had been warned—the evidence of the residents, whom I consider representative of the community, made it clear they would have acted quite differently had they been warned.
Members, do not ever underestimate the people of the ACT, because when proper warnings were given on 21 January and it looked like the fire might come back to north-west Belconnen people did not panic. People made their preparations and conducted themselves with very good order indeed. That, I think, backs up very much the prophetic statement made there by the coroner.
The Chief Minister may try to worm out of it, but at the end of the day he cannot. Even if he was somewhat confused and did not appreciate the risk, it still does not explain the inexplicable. Why didn't he warn us? After all, proper warnings had been issued only a short 13 months ago by his government and its agencies in relation to the December 2001 fires. Why not on this occasion? Anyone in the street could have told him that warnings had to be given, yet he and his government did not do so. Why on earth not?
He was the face of the government during this crisis. Despite his absence on the 17th and the early hours of the 18th, he was the man at the relevant meetings, including the cabinet meeting on the 16th. He was the man who only three days later said, "If you want to blame someone, blame me."We do, Chief Minister. It has been disappointing in the months since January 2003 to see the Chief Minister try to distance himself from what was a noble statement at the time. It is disappointing to see him now not accept the responsibility. The buck stops with you, Chief Minister.
I put it to members of the government that they have a duty and a responsibility to hold the Chief Minister accountable. This is a situation in which our Westminster system of democracy demands that the Chief Minister must go. On his own definition of ministerial responsibility, it demands that he must go. If the Chief Minister is not accountable, then who is? Who was in charge during those fateful days? Who was making the decisions, or perhaps who was not making the decisions that should have been made? Was the territory in limbo? What was going on?
Members, these are not my findings or the findings of anyone else in this Assembly, and this is not one politician throwing mud at another in the cesspit of politics. This is a respected judicial arbitrator finding fact after a mammoth inquiry which