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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 10 Hansard (18 October) . . Page.. 3186..

MR PRATT (continuing):

fire watchtowers had been unstaffed for three hours at least on 4 October, a day declared as a total fire ban. Outrageously, the minister has stated that it was quite normal, and he clearly accepted in his response to the questions that the fire towers were unstaffed before midday. In the most disgraceful act of ministerial irresponsibility he then also distanced himself from the issue by stating that this inability to staff the towers was kind of okay because the commissioner for emergency services and the duty officer said so.

Best practice requires that on the night a declaration is made the following day—

Mr Corbell: Well, what about operational independence, Steve? Don't you believe in operational independence?

MR SPEAKER: Order, Mr Corbell!

MR PRATT: is going to be a day of total fire ban, all arrangements are planned, including preparing crews to staff the watchtowers—

Mr Corbell: Do you not believe in operational independence, Steve?

MR SPEAKER: Order, Mr Corbell!

MR PRATT: at the start of the following day. The Volunteer Brigades Association and other veteran firefighters are adamant that this is the standard—that on the night before a total fire ban you have your preparations made and your people in place, and that includes people manning fire towers, that includes the incident management and control group and that includes making sure that the communications centre is properly manned by everybody.

The government, as was the case with the bushfire season 2002-03, failed to be ready. They failed to organise contracts through the winter for the management of fire watchtowers. Incredibly, the minister said today it was acceptable that such contracts and other critical preparations were still not ready before the bushfire season commenced. The Stanhope government have not learned the bitter lessons from the McLeod and Doogan inquiries into the 2003 fire disaster, when they were criticised for their lack of readiness.

Nothing has changed. The Stanhope government continue to play Russian roulette with the people of Canberra. The government stand condemned for that. We discussed this issue this week—that last year on the fourth day of the 2006-07 bushfire season 25 per cent of frontline vehicles were unserviceable. In the previous year, preventative planning had not been commenced on time and there were fuel fire loads too excessive along the urban edge, which then of course contributed to the nasty little fire at Yarralumla. Has this government ever learned the lessons coming out of 2003? I think not. They need to lift their game.

Railway Historical Society

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (5.58): Just last week I had the privilege of visiting the ACT division of the Railway Historical Society at their museum in

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