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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 2 Hansard (8 March) . . Page.. 368..


Questions without notice

Bushfires—coronial inquest

MR STEFANIAK: My question is to the Chief Minister. I refer to this finding in chapter 7 of Coroner Doogan's report:

On Thursday 16 January, two days before the firestorm hit the suburbs, the Cabinet generally, including Mr Stanhope, knew a potential disaster was on Canberra's doorstep but did nothing to ensure that the Canberra community was warned promptly and effectively.

Chief Minister, can you point to a more damaging finding by a coroner against a minister in the history of the Assembly?

MR STANHOPE: I cannot point to one that is more incorrect than that. As I have said, and I repeat, the coroner is simply and utterly wrong in the conclusion that she draws on what cabinet was and was not told. I have said that, I think, a dozen times in the last few weeks. I repeat it. Mr Stefaniak and the Liberal Party continue to recite those particular comments, but that does not change my opinion or the opinion of Mr Corbell, Mr Quinlan, Mr Wood, Mr Rob Tonkin or Mr Tim Keady. Perhaps most significantly, it does not change the opinion or evidence of Mr Mike Castle or Mr Lucas-Smith.

If one were to suggest that there was anybody with a particular interest in providing evidence to the coroner to the effect that cabinet was told these things, it would have been those that were responsible for the briefing, namely, Mr Mike Castle and Mr Peter Lucas-Smith. I refer members to their evidence, which is available to the public and to members. I refer you to the evidence of Mr Mike Castle and Mr Peter Lucas-Smith, the two people, as events have unfolded, that would have had a significant personal interest, it would seem to me, in providing evidence, if it existed, to the coroner that they briefed cabinet in the terms that the coroner ultimately found. But they did not.

MR SPEAKER: I remind the Chief Minister that there are proceedings afoot by Mr Castle and Mr Lucas-Smith.

MR STANHOPE: Thank you very much. I will leave my answer there. I commend to all members and the public at large the evidence of Mr Mike Castle and Mr Peter Lucas-Smith to the coroner on the information which they provided to cabinet. Not even Mr Peter Lucas-Smith or Mr Mike Castle, in their evidence, supported the conclusions arrived at by the coroner. In fact, nobody has. I would have to do a quick count, but I, Mr Rob Tonkin, Mr Tim Keady, Mr Mike Castle and Mr Peter Lucas-Smith gave evidence on that matter. Nowhere in the evidence of any one of us is there a suggestion that cabinet was briefed in the terms concluded by the coroner. That is interesting, isn't it? Five sets of sworn evidence—my sworn evidence, Rob Tonkin's sworn evidence, Tim Keady's sworn evidence and Peter Lucas-Smith's sworn evidence do not support the conclusions which the coroner arrived at.


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