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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 177 ..

MR SMYTH: The Chief Minister's review will not apply the rules of evidence, it will not provide legal protection to witnesses, and it will not have the power to call witnesses. As we heard, courtesy of Mrs Cross's question at question time, the Chief Minister clearly acknowledges that. Most importantly, its recommendations will not be binding on the government.

Perhaps the real question is: why will the government not extend to their review the rules of evidence, legal protection to witnesses and the power to call witnesses? Mr Stanhope is reported to have said it would be a foolhardy government that ignored the review's recommendations. That is scant comfort when we have such a foolhardy government.

There are rumours all over town that X happened or that Y did not happen, and so on. We have all heard them. These rumours were aired again publicly this morning on the ABC. These rumours are unfair and besmirch the reputation of our emergency services. They damage men and women in the fire services who are already suffering. Many carry burdens. We have all spoken to them and heard them say, "Maybe we could have done more. Maybe we should have done this, and possibly that might have happened."

It is up to us to ensure that the men and women of our emergency services know officially, independently, that they did the right thing. As long as rumours persist and are not destroyed through a judicial inquiry, the opportunity for doubts will still exists. The best and fairest way of putting rumours to rest is to have a full independent inquiry, with the protection that that entails.

I am still concerned that some issues will fall through the cracks. Mr Stanhope's assurances that everything that can be looked at will be looked at do not ensure that that will not occur. Comprehensive terms of reference, rather than the four points the Chief Minister has put forward, will give people confidence that we have addressed all of the options that need to be addressed so that we minimise the possibility of such a day ever happening again.

This motion is about getting the best outcome for all involved. It is about getting the best outcome for the families of those who lost their lives. It is about getting the best outcome for those who lost everything, for those who fought so long and hard, and for those who have given so much and continue to give. We must have this inquiry, and we should pass this motion.

MR PRATT (3.53): Mr Speaker, the bravery and incredible stamina of our emergency services personnel and the diligence and courage of the Emergency Service Bureau in holding their nerve to continue to coordinate emergency efforts at the height of the firestorm are beyond question. The disaster of 18 January demonstrated phenomenally a number of positive stories.

However, a number of questions arise. On full reflection, a number of issues must be investigated. The issues are many, ranging from personal experience and observation to comments from key people and the media. While I would stress the necessity to take many of the views at face value, they are all worthy of investigative follow-up. And investigate them the community must.

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