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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 March 2010) . . Page.. 1328 ..


to be. That is what this place is about, and we do that in a number of ways. Sometimes it is in policy statements from ministers; sometimes it is in legislation from this place. That is why I bring this legislation to this place—that is, so it is quite clear to the community and quite clear to the ministers what we believe their duty to be.

Mr Speaker, when my previous bushfire warnings bill was debated on 16 September 2009, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Mr Corbell, set out his government’s opposition to my bill. But, interestingly, Mr Corbell said in the course of his comments:

Canberra citizens are entitled to effective warning systems.

He said that on 16 September 2009, and let me say it again:

Canberra citizens are entitled to effective warning systems.

I simply emphasise that statement in the context of the overall debate on this important matter. In my comments today, I do not propose to make any further response to this statement from the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, and I do anticipate a very rigorous debate about the claimed responsibility of the ACT government in the context of preparing for emergencies in this place. As a person who has a longstanding interest in this area of policy, I will continue to contribute to that debate.

I also think that it is important that we do actually work out when warnings are given, what warnings should be given, what information should be included and how the warnings should be made. Each of these is a critical question in the context of considering warnings for bushfires. Probably the key issue with respect to my bill, however, relates to when warnings shall be issued. There is no point in having a national warning system and there is no point in having the technology to put out warnings if they are not used effectively and efficiently to the benefit of the community.

My bill will mandate that when a certain point is reached, according to the forest fire danger index, a warning shall be issued—no ifs, no buts, a warning shall be issued. Proposed section 85C requires the minister to follow certain actions depending on the level of the index. If the forest fire danger index reaches 25, a warning shall be issued. Beyond an index of 25, my bill requires an appropriate warning to be issued according to the nature of the bushfire emergency—again, no ifs, no buts, a warning is issued automatically. If the forest fire danger index is at any point above 25, a warning will be prepared according to the conditions and then issued. The principal purpose of my bill, therefore, is to overcome a problem that has been identified time and time again—that is, the actual issuing and the timing of the warnings.

Since I introduced my first bushfire warnings bill last year, we have seen the adoption of a nationally consistent approach to the matter of bushfire warnings. This was largely achieved through the auspices of the Australian Emergency Management Committee. It was a most significant day for Australia when all Australian jurisdictions agreed on a national system for emergency warnings. We in the opposition welcomed it; we applauded it.


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