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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 9 Hansard (17 November) . . Page.. 2545 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Experience gained from the 1997-98 bushfire season showed that declarations of numerous fire bans during the peak summer period can have a significant impact on major community activities. Such disruptions did cause some level of community upset and potential financial loss to community organisations. However, the actual risk associated with some community activities during total fire bans varies as the daily weather conditions vary. Factors that should be taken into account in assessing the risk associated with such activities include the nature and location of the activity, the actual weather conditions and the time of day. For example, carols by candlelight at 8.30 pm in Commonwealth Park may well justify exemption because of the time of the activity and the condition of the irrigated grass, but carols by candlelight in a non-irrigated paddock would constitute an unacceptable risk due to the location and the combustibility of non-irrigated grass.

At present the Bushfire Act 1936 does not provide for the Chief Fire Control Officer to attempt to meet community expectations by exercising a discretionary power to grant such an exemption. Mr Speaker, whilst there is a risk associated with reconciling community expectations with public safety precautions, the Territory is fortunate to have ready access to local fire weather forecasting and has a well-developed electronic and print media for the dissemination of information.

The Bill is intended to provide a means to resolve competing issues so that we can strike a balance between low-risk community activities and public safety and the protection of life, property and the environment from the impact of fire. It is appropriate that this power be exercised not by the Minister but by the Chief Fire Control Officer, who is in a position to exercise technical judgment and to impose appropriate conditions for an exemption from a total fire ban. Due to the unpredictable nature of the distribution of potential embers from fireworks, they will not be considered for exemption during total fire bans.

Mr Speaker, in order to ensure that this legislation is in place before the beginning of the bushfire season, it is my intention to bring it on for debate in the Assembly next sitting week. I commend the Bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Hargreaves) adjourned.

Scrutiny Report No. 11 of 1998

MR OSBORNE: Mr Speaker, I present Scrutiny Report No. 11 of 1998 of the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety performing the duties of a scrutiny of Bills and subordinate legislation committee. I ask for leave to make a brief statement on the report.

Leave granted.

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