Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 192 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
I respect and accept that there are some areas of what happened leading up to 18 January and on 18 January and the days following that do need to be assessed by the government. An assessment needs to be made of capabilities. I am assuming that an automatic review is being carried out by the Emergency Services Bureau. Also, there have been discussions about what the police are doing. I understand it is normal for such reviews to take place after these kind of things occur. But four inquiries should not be conducted with such haste and there should be time for consultation with stakeholders.
It is unfortunate that the government has chosen to withhold information and manipulate the timing of announcements to keep control of the review processes and shut out the input of the Assembly. I believe that this Assembly, which collectively represents the people of Canberra, has the right to be given information and provide input into the government's proposed land use inquiry, the response of Emergency Services, and other inquiries relating to the fire.
This morning we learnt from reading the Canberra Times that the government plans to carry out a study on bushfire affected areas. When I approached the Chief Minister to ask how the Assembly could be involved, I learnt that the government has no plan to consult the Assembly about the terms of reference for these inquiries. I learnt that the Chief Minister has no plans to even make a separate statement in this Assembly about the scope of these inquiries. The media releases that I assume informed the Canberra Times about these inquiries are still not publicly available on the ACT government ministerial website. We have unfortunately stepped into policy by press release.
When I raise potential problems with the review into non-urban fire affected areas, I am told to be rest assured that the government has thought of everything. I am told that if I trust the government, everything will be fine. Unfortunately, the history of politics across the globe demonstrates that it is not enough to rely on trust when we are talking about how governments operate. The community needs to be assured that the questions that they want answered are asked, so that we can get the answers we need to help us move forward.
The inclusion of the Inquiries Act, as proposed by Mr Smyth today, would give the government a substantial amount of influence over the content of the report of the inquiry. The motion gives the Assembly an opportunity to consider the terms of reference for the inquiry. I appreciate that the inquiry proposed by Mr Smyth would be expensive. But I assume so too will be the other reviews proposed by the government. Taking people offline in government departments to specifically look at the future of ACT forests, the actions of the Emergency Services Bureau, and stepping up the time frame on the spatial plan, will all involve some form of cost. The terms of reference proposed are quite comprehensive and the government could roll its reviews regarding Emergency Services into the review that we are debating today.