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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 2538..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

its wages, a certain amount to deliver government services. We believe it is reasonable for the government to be recompensed or to have revenue relevant to the cost of a service.

MR SPEAKER: Order! The Chief Minister's time has expired.

Bushfires—provision of Australian contingent

MR GENTLEMAN: Mr Speaker, my question is to the minister for emergency services. Can the minister advise if the ACT has been requested to provide assistance to the United States to help fight large wildfires in that country and, if so, what is the nature of that assistance?

MR CORBELL: It is important, I think, that the Assembly is aware that, as of tomorrow, four representatives of the ACT government, from the rural fire service and from the Department of the Territory and Municipal Services, will be travelling to or will already be in the United States to help provide assistance with the very serious wildfire situation that that country is currently facing.

On 8 August Australia received its first official request from the USA for assistance in battling their growing bushfire crisis. The United States has experienced extremely dry and windy conditions, with extensive lightning storms in the western states having caused no fewer than 1,000 new bushfires. The US is on its highest level of response. Due to the ongoing nature of the crisis, their available resources are depleting rapidly, especially aircraft managers and fire line supervisors. It is worth highlighting that the conditions currently being experienced in the United States are not dissimilar to the conditions we experienced here in the ACT during January 2003. Because of this, we have some experience that will be of help to the United States during their own particular period.

The request from the US early this month came as a result of the operating plan defined by the wildfire arrangement between the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture of the United States and the Australian and New Zealand participating agencies. The request was for 45 firefighting specialists. Members will probably already be aware that the ACT has committed two personnel—Mr Scott Cashmere from the ACT RFS, for aerial resource management duties, and Mr Neil Cooper from territory and municipal services, for field liaison duties. Both men left Australia on Thursday, 10 August.

The operational component of the Australian and New Zealand team were deployed to two separate fires in the north-west of the United States. These two fires are at the Tripod complex near Wenatchee in Washington State and the Mt Hood fire complex near Redmond in Oregon State. Mr Cooper was sent to the Tripod complex near Wenatchee upon arrival and began his firefighting duties on Tuesday, 15 August. Mr Cashmere undertook orientation and training before being deployed to the Mt Hood fire complex in Oregon on Wednesday, 16 August. Both men, I am pleased to advise members, are doing well. They are due to return to Australia on 14 September, depending on debriefing and connecting travel arrangements.

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