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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 2 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 336 ..

MS TUCKER (12.03): I also join with members here today to thank the firefighters who did such a very important job when there were fires in the ACT and in New South Wales. As everyone has stated quite clearly here today, their work is appreciated by the people in the community and by this Assembly, as we represent the community of Canberra.

As members have already said, fortunately lives of people in the ACT were not lost. Of course, there was loss of life of wildlife. In New South Wales and in the parks there was devastation that had a huge impact on wildlife. That is to be regretted.

I heard Mr Cornwell raise the issue of how we accommodate living in a natural environment. Obviously there are questions about where you draw the line in reducing risk. I do not want to go into that debate today. But it is one he has touched on, and I just want to acknowledge that of course it is a legitimate discussion. But we do have to respect the fact that we live in an environment which has an integrity of its own and we do take certain risks. We can never remove all risks. But we can have a fine and serious debate about at what point we think the risk is too great and about balancing ecological integrity and safety for people.

So many of the firefighters were volunteers. I support the statement that was made here today about the importance of their work. Many people working as volunteers in our community are not as visible perhaps as the volunteer firefighters in the fire season and when disasters occur. People volunteer in so many important areas in our community, caring for other people. They are not so visible but their work is equally important. I acknowledge that fact and thank volunteers generally.

I am very appreciative of the fact that Mr Quinlan has raised this debate today. I am glad that we are going to have a tribute to the firefighters in the city today to say thank you, because I think it is quite fitting to do that, and the community as a whole are very grateful.

MR SMYTH (12.06): Members, we are joined by one of the volunteers. John Belmont from the Salvation Army is with us. John cooks a very mean bacon and egg breakfast if you ever spend a long night out in the field. John, on his own, spent something like 18 hours out there on Christmas Day cooking breakfast for the volunteers and the others there. John, thanks for the good work the Salvos do. It is tremendous that you are here today and that you will be with us across the road at 12.30.

Men and women, young and old, were there on the day. It is very heartening to see more and more women joining the volunteer brigades and holding their own. They do as well as the men. They have stamina. It is a great indication of a society that has reached a certain level of maturity when we see out on the fire ground women involved and in positions of command. It is very important.

We seem to talk a lot about the Christmas Day event. That was a big event, but many of the faces you would have seen on the fire grounds had been out for days before. There were several fires at the Melrose pines, for instance, and there was a forestry crew whose faces were probably seen at the Melrose pines on the Sunday. They were out again on the Monday night, they were out on Christmas Day and they were still out on Boxing Day. That is the story of all the brigades.

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