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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 195 ..

MRS DUNNE (continuing):

It is very obvious, Mr Speaker, that this motion of the Leader of the Opposition is going to fail today. I issue a challenge to the Chief Minister. When he stops quibbling over the terms of reference, I challenge him to sit down and have a good, hard look at what is being proposed. What is being proposed is an inquiry into the cause and conduct of the fire and whether or not things went wrong. No-one is making judgements. The opposition is simply suggesting-and this Chief Minister will not take it on-that people should be given protections under the Inquiries Act. My challenge to the Chief Minister is that he make the d review an inquiry under the Inquiries Act. Whether the government does will be an interesting test of whether it is able to face up to its responsibilities. I commend, with a sense of desolation, this motion to the House.

MRS BURKE (4.59): Mr Speaker, where are the members of the government right now? I am extremely concerned at their lack of presence in this House when we are discussing such an important matter. What are they afraid of? There almost seems to be an arrogant complacence about the investigation and consideration of every avenue in regard to the worst disaster the ACT has seen and hopefully never ever sees again.

I commend members who have spoken up in support of Mr Smyth's motion to have an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 1991. There are three main points to remember, and they are worth making again. Under the Inquiries Act 1991 such an inquiry would provide protection of witnesses; rules of evidence would apply; and there would be coercive powers of inquiry.

Much has been said about certain aspects of the government's inquiry. I am extremely concerned that without the inquiry that Mr Smyth proposes we will never receive the frank and fearless advice that we should all be yearning for or details of the train of events that occurred before and on the day of the fire. I thoroughly support Mr Smyth-

At 5.00 pm, in accordance with standing order 34, the debate was interrupted. The motion for the adjournment of the Assembly having been put and negatived, the debate was resumed.

MRS BURKE: As I was saying, I thoroughly support Mr Smyth's motion that we indeed do have a full, frank and fearless investigation into the events of that terrible day.

MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (5.01), in reply: Mr Speaker, it is disappointing the think that this motion will go down. This is a government that came to power on the call for honesty, openness and clearer process. I think that the problem with the response of the government to the motion is that they have not said why they would not elevate the inquiry that they propose, which really is just a review, to proper inquiry status under the Inquiries Act. They have put no argument against the proposition that the inquirer, Mr Macleod, should have the powers as outlined by the Inquiries Act. So I throw down the challenge. If it is simply my terms of reference that upset the government, fine, get rid of them. I would be happy with an outcome that elevated the terms of reference that the Chief Minister has put forward to an inquiry under the Inquiries Act. I fear that what we have is the outsourcing of the standard review that ESB, the Emergency Services Bureau, would have done anyway.

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