Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 10 Hansard (18 October) . . Page.. 3141..
MR CORBELL: I think Mr Pratt just marks in his diary that around 1 October every year he is going to issue a media statement saying that we are not prepared for the bushfire season. It does not matter about the facts: "It does not matter whether or not it is true, but I know it is marked in the diary, 1 October, time for the press release on Stanhope government not prepared for bushfire season."It shows how those opposite like to play politics on this very important issue.
Mr Pratt's claims are not true for these reasons. I answered the question yesterday about the location of staff at the Curtin headquarters in relation to incident management capability during our first total fire ban day. I answered that question in full yesterday. I reiterate: the purpose of those changes was to ensure that we see rural fire service brigades deployed as appropriate. I indicated yesterday, and I reiterate, that the reason for that is that I do not want to see a situation where rural fire service brigades are stood up but are not being deployed to a fire which is closest to their location. That is why we are doing that work.
In relation to the towers: the towers were staffed; they were staffed from approximately midday until late in the afternoon on that high fire danger day, and that was clearly the most important part of the day, the most dangerous part of the day. It is worth noting that the conditions that were envisaged on that total fire ban day did not eventuate, in terms of temperature in particular. But the point should be made that the towers were staffed, and in addition to that the towers did provide us with an effective level of coverage. I should also note that the provisions available to the duty officer do allow the duty officer in the ESA to staff the towers at their discretion and to staff them based on what they believe is need at the time. There is no fixed rule that says that regardless of conditions, regardless of circumstances, if it is a high fire danger day the towers are staffed for this period of time. There are stand-up arrangements but there is still provision open to the duty officer in any event, and it is worth pointing that out to Mr Pratt also.
Emergency services—fire towers
MRS DUNNE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Emergency Services. On 4 October, which was the first day of total fire ban on the fourth day of the fire season, the ACT's fire towers did not have staff in them until after midday, and this was only achieved, according to my intelligence, by depriving the Parks brigade standby fire trucks of their regular crews. Two days later, on 6 October, you said that this was normal procedure and that fire towers in the ACT were only manned for four to five hours a day on total fire ban days. Minister, why are ACT fire towers not staffed all daylight hours on days of total fire ban?
MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, I did not say that it is normal for towers to be staffed only for four or five hours a day during a total fire ban. I made the point, I think, that the staffing of towers on that particular occasion reflected the views of the relevant duty officer and the commissioner as to the appropriate level of coverage required for that day. It is worth highlighting too that there was no short staffing of the Parks brigade capability as a result of the decision to ask TAMS staff to staff those towers during that time. It is normal practice, and it has been for many years, that the contractors who are used for our fire towers are not normally formally engaged in