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MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Training) (11.15): Mr Speaker, let me make just a few points. As my colleague Mr Humphries said, it would have been very difficult for him to take action on 31 March, because the New South Wales Government was very much in limbo. Indeed, I recall being at the Housing Ministers conference in the week of 10 and 11 April. The New South Wales Government was sworn in the week before, which would have made it early April, and that was why that particular New South Wales Minister could not go. So, I think Mr Humphries has very effectively answered that point, which seems to be one of the main points of Mr Berry's motion.
Further to that, there have been a number of meetings. I understand that there was a further meeting on 19 April, and that a senior officer of the ACT Department of the Environment, Land and Planning attended a regional forum of the New South Wales regional bushfire controllers to further consolidate liaison arrangements. Also, Mr Speaker, I am aware that meetings of all the relevant ACT agencies have been held, together with the Bureau of Meteorology, to determine appropriate points of contact with the New South Wales agencies. As a result, arrangements have been made between New South Wales and ACT authorities to ensure that there is cooperation and consultation for future burns.
Mr Humphries made mention of the fact that he did write, at an appropriate time, to his counterpart in New South Wales, the Hon. Pam Allan, MP, the new Minister for the Environment. I have a letter here, Mr Speaker, which I think I should read out and table. It is dated 27 April, and it says:
I am writing to you to seek your assistance in resolving a major air pollution problem which is experienced by the ACT. You will appreciate this creates discomfort for ACT residents and in some cases exacerbates existing health problems.
The topography of the ACT, combined with meteorological conditions, such as the incidence of low wind velocities during the autumn and winter months, make the region particularly prone to temperature inversion layers which trap pollutants under a “blanket” which prevents their dispersion into the upper atmosphere.
The time for these temperature inversions in the ACT often coincides with the controlled burning period in NSW. The smoke which is produced by these activities frequently drifts into the ACT region and results in a thick layer of brown haze that may remain in place for some days, depending on the prevailing wind direction and velocities at the time.
There have now been two significant occurrences in the past month of smoke haze caused by controlled burning by shires surrounding the ACT. The first incident occurred on Friday 31 March 1995, when copious amounts of smoke drifted into the ACT and a thick layer of