Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1195 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
the general community did not experience the personal injury or property damage that interstate bushfires generated.
We must ensure that legislation in the ACT is amended to reflect the fact that punitive action will be taken in the event of a deliberately lit fire, regardless of whether the offender meant the fire to spread or not. That is how important the issue is and indicates how much this bill needs to be supported.
MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism, Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming and Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Corrections) (11.04): I rise briefly to respond to some of the comments of Ms Dundas, who rightly pointed out that punitive action and penalties are not the only solution. Let me advise the Assembly that part of the crime prevention and education strategy is to educate offenders-it is particularly aimed at young people-in the impacts of fires. I assure the Assembly that the government is working on more than one front in addressing the problem of bushfires.
At the reception for the volunteers I said that as part of our process of addressing this problem we would enter an educative phase. That is in relation to potential offenders, but it is also in relation to early detection of fires, harm minimisation and early reporting. In response to what Ms Dundas said, let me assure the Assembly that the government will be taking positive as well as punitive action in relation to this problem.
MR HARGREAVES (11.06): I think this chamber fully supports the stiffening of penalties for people who light bushfires. We only have to travel along the Tuggeranong Parkway to see the devastating effect of bushfires. There is a big difference between someone being a goose and chucking a cigarette out the window of a car and somebody deliberately lighting fires. There is a fine line between someone who has a mental condition-I do not like using that phrase, but I will-which manifests itself in pyromania and someone who mischievously lights a fire out of revenge or a desire to be a bit spectacular. We need to stiffen up the penalties. I think it is a top idea.
For what I consider to be an absolute crime we are now creating a full-on offence. In the past, you could get done for being a fool, putting people in danger or destroying property. But the lighting of fires is starting to become a bit of a habit. We saw half our pine forests go up in flames over Christmas.
With all of the graphic TV pictures of bushfires close to homes, what happened less than a month later? There were three fires over one weekend. One of them was controlled burning by ACT Forests on the Friday. On the Sunday there was another controlled fire by ACT Forests. But the fire on the Saturday was a deliberately lit bushfire. It seems to be the same people, in which case an offence has to be created to keep them in check. Alternatively, there is some copycat stuff going on and we need to be a bit tougher about that.
When we spoke about bushfires just after Christmas, for the benefit of the house I outlined some history. I neglected at that time to give credit to the person who put all the information on the ACT Volunteer Brigades Association website, Pat Barling. I would like to have the record show that we appreciate his work. He drew from John Gale's Canberra: History of and legends relating to the Federal Capital Territory of the