Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 317..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
Speaking from Education's point of view, bushfire education, as we have seen in that article in the Canberra Times today, is a broader community responsibility than just a requirement of the education system. We do as much as we can within the education system to teach our young people about safe behaviour around fires. But I guess there is a broader responsibility there.
Also, there is the issue of whether specific bushfire education programs might encourage behaviour that we might not want to see our students engage in. We need to look at those issues to make sure we are not giving some young people ideas that we do not want them to have. I will look at the questions specifically and certainly answer what I can.
Bushfires-grants to victims
MR CORNWELL: My question is to the Treasurer, Mr Quinlan. Treasurer, regarding government grants to victims of the bushfires, would you please explain the differing amounts available and the reasons for those differences with respect to people with and without household insurance? Does this difference also cover contents insurance or is that a separate item?
MR QUINLAN: I will probably get a little help from my friends here. I think the major question swings on the position in which any government finds itself with an array of victims of fires, or of any natural disaster, and the differential coverage that they might have. It then becomes purely a judgment as to whether you offer standard assistance to everybody or you offer assistance more on a needs basis.
You are probably aware that the ALP's policies are generally pervaded by needs basis and focusing assistance in any form where it is most needed. At the same time, however, the decision to provide assistance-I assume you are referring to the $5,000 and $10,000 grants-is based on the assumption that nearly everybody's contents would be well underinsured, no matter how assiduous they were. Just go around and tick off the contents in your own home-and now is probably a good time to do that, I might hint to you-and then look at your policy and see how they compare.
However, we have offered a differential. We have offered $10,000 for those people who have no insurance on their contents-it is a contents-related grant-and $5,000 for those who do. That is an arbitrary trade-off between total equity on the basis that everybody gets the same versus total equity on the basis that everybody should be as well off after the event. They are the two extremes: whether we just set up a mechanical system with which we offer everybody the same amount, or one that says, "Let's make sure that we use the resources that are available to us"-and they are not unlimited, as you are probably aware-"to their best extent". To those people who have insurance, it is because they were prudent, yes, but their needs won't be as great as those who do not.
That is one of the reasons why I stood here earlier stressing some of the criteria that have been set for the appeal. Because we have set up a mechanical system-and it is, of its nature and of necessity, a rather mechanical system-there will be a discretionary process administered by people who spend their daily lives associated with assisting people to smooth out the differences. It will never be perfect, but we have taken our best shot at it.