Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 3 Hansard (9 March) . . Page.. 895..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
discussion of a state of emergency at the briefing on 16 January 2003 was prompted by considerations of power supply, when a state of emergency has never been declared prompted by power losses in Australia's history?
MR STANHOPE: I have given, to the best of my ability and honestly, my understanding of the discussion of the cabinet briefing and have made it very clear, in my answers, that that was my best memory. I also indicated that, if asked to bet on it, I am not sure I would. But in the sequence of discussion at the cabinet meeting there was a discussion of the potential threat to electricity infrastructure and supply as a result of the fire. There was discussion of a declaration of a state of emergency-at least, the mechanics that apply to a declaration of a state of emergency. It was about the legislative requirements and the mechanics in the legislation in relation to a state of emergency.
I recall absolutely no suggestion at the cabinet meeting that a state of emergency was likely, inevitable, possible or would be called for. As I have indicated before, cabinet was not advised at the briefing in any way that raised any alarm, anxiety or even the possibility that Canberra was at threat from the fire. I have provided those answers to the Assembly before, and they remain the case. I cannot give any explanation as to why people in South Australia do or do not declare states of emergency. I do not even know if they have the capacity over there. I know nothing about the legislation of South Australia.
MR STEFANIAK: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Chief Minister, why do you expect the community to believe that discussion of a state of emergency at the cabinet briefing was prompted by a potential threat to the electricity supply, when no-one from Actew briefed the cabinet and there is no mention of the electricity supply in the minutes?
MR STANHOPE: The issue of electricity supply was discussed at the cabinet meeting, Mr Stefaniak. I hope you are not calling me a liar. I hope you are not suggesting I am making this up. The issue of a potential threat to the electricity infrastructure and electricity supply was discussed at the cabinet meeting, and it is reflected in officers' records of the meeting.
MRS DUNNE: My question is to the Chief Minister. On 19 January 2003 and in the weeks following the bushfire, the government kept saying, "Nobody told us; nobody knew."After the McLeod report, the government said, "Well, yes, there was some mention at the cabinet meeting of the 16 January, but that was only in passing that the bushfires might come to town."On 17 February this year Mr Quinlan's words were, "We didn't think it would be worse than the Christmas Eve fires of 2001."Last week the story in this place was, "We were planning for a black out."Chief Minister, which story is correct?
MR STANHOPE: That is a nonsensical question. There is no way I can answer that range of assertions and nonsense. I refer to one sentence in the transcript of the fire commissioner's evidence. I picked this out at random. I now read it for the first time in light of this absolutely puerile, absurd attempt to rerun the coronial inquest in this place. We have talked about this before, but this really is ridiculous; it is appalling. I can refer