Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 3129 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
I do not come to the Assembly with any professed knowledge about fires or bushfires. Others in this place - Mr Smyth - are more expert than I am. But I will say that I understand that there is an inherent danger in fireworks. My advice is that it is dangerous to exempt them and we should not do so. I draw members' attention to the fact that, in the ACT in recent years, a number of fires have been caused by fireworks. Indeed, only last summer, a house in Conder was burnt down, with damage estimated at $150,000, because, it is believed, some form of firework device may have lodged in the roof and the fire found its way into the roof space and eventually involved the whole roof space. There is some suggestion that the firework that burnt down those particular premises was not a shop-bought firework but, in fact, was a commercial or professional firework. Maybe it was not lit or let off by a professional. I do not know.
Mr Speaker, the other danger with creating an exemption for fireworks is the public pressure that would be placed on fire authorities to provide exemptions in the event that there was a major public event that proposed to use fireworks. Supposing that Sky Fire was due to take place and a total fire ban was declared for that day and that night. Can you imagine the public pressure that would be placed on people like the Chief Fire Control Officer and the Fire Commissioner to provide an exemption for that event. That would be very considerable pressure, and it would be based on public entertainment issues rather than on public safety. I think that that would be unfortunate. So, Mr Speaker, I urge members not to accept the amendments.
MR KAINE (6.06): Mr Speaker, I would just like to comment on the matters raised by the Minister. I think that those matters are quite unrelated to the reason why I have moved these amendments. As I said, there is no amount of regulation or legislation that is going to stop somebody in a suburban street setting off a firework, from whatever source it was acquired; and, under those circumstances, it is unsupervised and could well cause property damage.
That is not what these amendments are about. They are about fireworks professionals who seek to mount a professional fireworks display. Under the legislation as put forward by the Minister, they would be absolutely prohibited from doing so, no matter how professional they are, no matter where the location is and no matter what the circumstances are. My argument on this is that they should be in no different position from anybody else. They should be entitled to seek a permit. If the circumstances are such that it is undesirable to issue a permit, then they will not get one; but they should not be totally denied the opportunity to seek such a permit.
The Minister refers to the pressure that might be put on the authorising officer. I am afraid that that is part of the job. If a public official has the discretion, which can be exercised, to issue or not issue a permit, there are going to be many occasions when he would be pressured to issue a permit when he may not wish to do so, and very often it will not have anything to do with a fireworks display. So I do not think it is valid to say that, because the public official might be pressured, we should not allow people to seek a permit. It does no more than that. It allows a person to seek a permit. That permit can be declined or it can be approved. I think that the matters put forward by the Minister in opposition to the proposition are not terribly relevant at all.