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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 3 Hansard (9 March) . . Page.. 887..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

a range of emotions in relation to the disaster and the fact that they were impacted so personally and so significantly by the fire. One of the emotions of people who faced that disaster and suffered the very significant and serious consequences of it is, of course, anger. That is to be expected. I am aware, particularly at a time such as the coronial inquest, that significant numbers of people who were so directly affected would be suffering a range of emotions. They would be feeling real frustration. They would be angry at those aspects of that disaster that impacted so significantly on them to cause them the loss that they have suffered and the grief that is commensurate with that loss. Through that loss and that grief, it is natural that there will be many Canberrans who feel anger as a result, as a consequence.

As we all know-we have spoken about this over the last few sitting weeks-the coronial inquest has commenced. The Coroner's Court is investigating all aspects of the fire, the disaster that befell Canberra on 18 January last year. At this stage, four of what I understand to be a list of 60 or 70 witnesses have given evidence-four of a total of 60 or 70. It seems to me that it is very important that we allow the Coroner's Court, the coronial process, to proceed. It is important that we hear all of the evidence and that we listen to all of the witnesses before we jump and rush to the judgment that the Liberal Party are rushing to, and to some extent that we avoid the temptation, that the Liberal Party have been unable to avoid, of playing very shallow politics with the deeply distressing issues that we face and the range of emotions that some people are suffering.

Mr Smyth: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Standing order 118 (b) does not allow the Chief Minister to debate the subject. Mr Pratt's question was not about the Liberal Party. It was about the feelings of the residents that were expressed at the meeting at Duffy on the weekend, and he should address himself to the content of the question.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Smyth, Mr Pratt's question contained some quite serious charges against the government and I think the Chief Minister is entitled to challenge those charges. The question was quite blunt and deserves an adequate response.

Mr Smyth: On the point of order, Mr Speaker: Mr Pratt did not ask about the Liberal Party. He asked about what the Chief Minister did and the attitude of the Duffy residents. The Chief Minister should confine his answer to those points.

MR SPEAKER: I do not want to get involved in the politics of this, but it was the Liberal Party that asked the question.

MR STANHOPE: I will conclude on that. We know that the Liberal Party are seeking to utilise the circumstances of the coronial inquest, and the evidence that has been given, for cheap and, at times, nasty personal politics, with attacks on me and members of the government. They are not prepared to listen to the totality of the evidence. It seems that Mr Pratt is not prepared to give any credence to the evidence given by the last of the witnesses to complete his evidence, the then ACT fire commissioner Ian Bennett, who in his evidence, as reported in the Canberra Times-I have not read the transcript or the quantum of the evidence-stated clearly and categorically as the ACT fire commissioner that the ACT fire commissioner had no foreboding, had no warning, had no understanding, had not been advised that the disaster would befall Canberra. He had no expectation that the fire would reach Canberra on Saturday, 18 January. You conveniently overlook this, but the ACT fire commissioner, in his evidence to the


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