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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (13 November) . . Page.. 3577 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

a single arsonist, and a single arsonist in a vehicle, because the fires started in such different places and with time spacing that it would have been highly unlikely to be anything else. Of course, there have been suspicions of a vehicle being used, et cetera. The major danger still lies with people that are not quite right in the top paddock, not with mischievous kids. I cannot imagine what goes through the mind of an arsonist, but it is a strange form of lunacy. There will be an education program and we hope that that education program will contact all members of a family.

Mr Corbell has pointed out that ample education systems have been put in place and, to some extent, I think it demeans the emergency services and the fire service to be asking that we have more, because it is just so easy to ask for that. From what Mr Corbell enunciated, there has been not only a comprehensive program of education, but also the intervention program, which is probably a lot smarter and probably the most appropriate application of resources. With that in mind, I move the following amendment circulated in my name:

Omit paragraph (5), substitute:

"Notes the importance of the Government's current fire safety education programmes in ACT schools and also programmes aimed at arson offenders in the ACT.".

While I am on my feet, I wish to assure the house that the bushfire fuel management plan will be released as a final document later this year. The plan outlines fuel management strategies that will be undertaken by the ACT over the next two years. We are talking about a forward-thinking program that will do something to mitigate the impact of fires.

MS DUNDAS (7.50): Mr Speaker, the Australian bush has adapted to fire after around three million years of regular bushfires. We will probably never eliminate the occurrence of bushfires and many native species would actually suffer if we did. However, bushfires can destroy homes, human lives and crucial infrastructure, so there are compelling reasons to try to minimise their occurrence.

A great deal of money and effort go into creating fire breaks and doing fuel reduction burning to reduce the incidence of uncontrolled fires, but even the best precautions will not prevent a severe conflagration if there has been prolonged drought and there are hot, dry winds and an ignition source.

In considering the substantive motion moved by Mr Pratt and the amendment by Mr Quinlan, it is helpful to consider the source of the ignition of bushfires. To my knowledge, figures on ignition sources have not been published for the ACT. However, such figures have been collected and published in Victoria over a long period. In Victoria, 26 per cent of the bushfires on public land are started by lightning and these fires are responsible for 46 per cent of the total area burned each year.

On average, fires started by lightning burn a much larger area than fires started by people, probably because the fire can start some distance from vehicle access. Camp fires cause 10 per cent of the bushfires on public land and burning off by land owners to control weeds or remove rubbish or crop debris causes around 15 per cent of the fires. In comparison, around 25 per cent of the bushfires are deliberately lit and they burn only 14 per cent of the total area. The deliberately lit category includes farmers lighting fires without permits, children playing with matches and arsonists.

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