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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 161 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

A range of issues are being raised about who said what, when they said it, whether advice was offered, and whether support was offered and whether it was received or rejected. A range of absolutely scurrilous allegations are being aired, notably by our national broadcaster, some of which are simply wrong. It behoves us to get to the bottom of it so that we know the facts and have confidence in our Emergency Services Bureau and our community being protected as well as is humanly possible, acknowledging that nature is often greater than us mere mortals. Despite our determination to project ourselves as greater than nature, we are not. Nature teaches us that lesson painfully and regularly.

But I am aware of the deep concern that all issues be investigated, that the inquiry be broad ranging, and that it not be constrained. What I am seeking today, with great respect to the Coroners Court, is clarification of the nature of the inquest and how it will be conducted. I have an opportunity, under sections 18 and 19 of the Coroners Act to make certain directions to the coroner about the nature of the inquiry. If I cannot clarify this afternoon through the Chief Coroner exactly what the ambit is of the inquiry. I will issue a direction. I will do it in the next hour. I will issue a written direction, under sections 18 and 19 of the Coroners Act.

School census

MR CORNWELL: My question is directed to the minister of education. On 28 January I wrote to you in response to concerns by Duffy Primary P&C that due to the bushfires and the dispersal of students-I think 42 or 44 pupils-the February census could result in fewer resources being made available to this school and other in-area schools such as Chapman, Rivett, Weston, which is the Stromlo settlement school, and Stromlo High. Can you advise what is happening in relation to this concern, please?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Mr Cornwell for the question. Yes, I remember the letter, Mr Cornwell. The census for ACT schools is still to occur. The advice I have had is that it will take into consideration the number of students who may not be attending those schools due to the bushfire and that decisions on the census will be made in that light. If there is a need for another census later, then we will look at that. But we will be sensitive to the fact that some children are now located at other schools but may wish to return to their former schools. That will impact on some of the decisions made.

For the information of members, approximately 140 students were resident in homes that were destroyed by the bushfires, with estimates of non-government school students bringing the total to approximately 200 students. The main primary schools, as you alluded to, are Duffy, where there are 35 students; Chapman, 15; Arawang, 10; Curtin, 5; Rivett, 5; Taylor, 5; Wanniassa, 5. The high schools are Stromlo, 30; Alfred Deakin, 10; Kambah, 5; Melrose, 5. The colleges are Canberra, 20, and Narrabundah, 5. There are about 10 other primary and high schools with fewer than five students enrolled.

When I have more information, Mr Cornwell, I will be happy to pass it on.

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