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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 05 Hansard (Friday, 14 May 2004) . . Page.. 1956 ..

Bushfires—coronial inquiry

MR PRATT: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister, Mr Stanhope. Yesterday, Commander Mandy Newton gave evidence in the Coroners Court. She was asked about a note in her notebook saying “12.30 pm Chief Minister Tim Keady” for 18 January 2003. Unlike senior officials in the ACT government and ministers like you, AFP officers keep copious notes. This is a guard against the collective amnesia that seems to have struck the ACT government at all levels in the Coroners Court.

When asked about the note, Commander Newton said, “From my recollection, I think that meant at 12.30 pm the Chief Minister and Tim Keady were going to be at (the) ESB”. In his second appearance at the Coroners Court, Mr Keady agreed that he would not have called you about a trivial matter and, while having no specific recollection of the call, he testified that he probably passed on important information about the bushfires. The most credible explanation of these facts is that you agreed to meet with Mr Keady at 12.30 at the ESB in your previously forgotten conversation that is the subject of collective amnesia, and the 12.40 pm phone call from Mr Keady was probably asking when you would be arriving at the ESB.

What did you say to Mr Keady—

Mr Quinlan: Well, you answer the question then. You know it all—you answer it.

MR PRATT: No, the Chief Minister can answer this. What did you say to Mr Keady and what did he tell you in the phone call at 12.40 pm on 18 January? Do you stand by your numerous statements in this place that you drove out to the ESB of your own volition?

MR STANHOPE: I thank Mr Pratt for the question. Actually, I do everything of my own volition, Mr Pratt. Everything I do is of my own volition. So the answer to your question is yes, I drove to the Emergency Services Bureau of my own volition. I do everything of my own volition.

One thing that I can say—and I have answered this question previously and I stand by the answer that I have given—is that I drove to the Emergency Services Bureau on Saturday, 18 January. I did receive a call from Mr Tim Keady at 12.40. I do remember the call. I remember Mr Keady suggesting to me that it would be appropriate—I cannot remember the exact words but I remember very much the tone and nature of the conversation which essentially was that it would be appropriate—if I were to attend the Emergency Services Bureau, that there were important issues that would benefit from my presence. I have said that. That is my very clear recollection of that telephone conservation. I understand from evidence given by Mr Keady in the inquest that that essentially matches his recollection.

As to notes in Commander Newton’s notebook of the day, I can give no explanation and I am not even going to essentially suggest what the inclusion of the words “Chief Minister Tim Keady 12.30” reflect. I was not at the Emergency Services Bureau that morning. I was not privy to any conversations that may have concerned references to me

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