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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3850..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

for it. I am sorry about the distress caused to residents by, for instance, the removal of valued trees and the significant change that has been made to some local, neighbourhood or community amenity as a result of actions which we are taking on the basis of advice to protect our community. I am sorry about it, but I do not and will not apologise for the hard decisions that we are taking on the basis of the best advice available to us. We will do what we feel we must.

In relation to the concerns about the environmental damage that cows may do, I know that mother nature is a wonderful thing but I travel every two or three weeks to Tidbinbilla, Namadgi and other pristine iconic parts of our environment and that fire did more damage in one day than 10 years of cattle grazing would do. I do not ever want to see that repeated and I am determined to protect the environment as well as the community. That fire has devastated the environment of the territory. I will die-it will be 50 years or thereabouts, I hope-before seeing Namadgi National Park as it was on 17 January. That is something that causes me enormous pain. I am determined to protect the environment as well as the people of Canberra. Yes, grazing of Cooleman Ridge will do some damage to work that has been done, but I will tell you now that the damage that those cattle may do would be nowhere near as great as the next fire.

Bushfires-proposed interview of fire expert

MR CORNWELL: My question is also to the Chief Minister, Mr Stanhope. The CSIRO fire expert, Phil Cheney, is reported as saying he told the Emergency Services Bureau he was about to give an interview and he would say, if asked, that the fires were likely to reach Canberra. That interview, which was scheduled for Monday, 13 January, five days before the firestorm you spoke of earlier, never went ahead. Did anybody from the government influence that interview not proceeding?

MR STANHOPE: Once again, Mr Cornwell, not as far as I know. As I say, I wasn't the minister for emergency services and perhaps I wasn't as intimately involved with issues such as this. I have to say to you, Mr Cornwell: I didn't know that Phil Cheney existed until a few weeks ago; I didn't know there was any such individual. I didn't even know there was such a person.

The short answer to your question is no. I have to say, in relation to the advice and that particular evidence, I guess-and I think Mr Cheney indicated this in the context of the report I read in the Canberra Times-in hindsight, of course, he has some regrets about the fact that these concerns that he allegedly had five days before the fire when he predicted the outcomes weren't actually provided to anybody else. He had an interview; the interview was cancelled; so he thought, "Oh, well, too bad; I won't tell anybody that I think Canberra is about to burn down."

He didn't tell me. I don't believe he told the Minister for Urban Services. I don't believe he told the Emergency Services Bureau; he didn't tell any media; he didn't put out a press release. I'm not sure that he wrote to anybody. I think it is information that he kept to himself. I hope-and I think this will probably be pursued through the inquiry-he did advise those people-


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