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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (30 January) . . Page.. 30 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

I have seen the devastation in most areas. Many people have lost their homes. I lived in Rivett for some 14 years. I used to run up Hindmarsh Drive and down Darwinia Terrace. Homes of a number of people there I knew very well were destroyed.

A critique will come later. We have suggested an inquiry. The coronial inquest will be thorough. Questions will be asked and, hopefully, answers given, and we will learn how to do things better in future. But today it is crucially important that we pay tribute to the men and women of our emergency services and to everyone who has assisted in this disaster and who continues to assist. It is not over yet. The Emergency Services Bureau issued a warning at 11.30 today. We are not out of the woods yet, by any stretch of the imagination. We must remain continually vigilant.

Today we need to thank and praise the many people in our community who have done so much, starting with the people who put their lives on the line. I commend them and thank them. They include members of the volunteer bushfire brigades who sit in this Assembly: Mr Corbell and my leader, Brendan Smyth. Thank you for your efforts on behalf of the community.

The crisis management team responded very well when the crisis broke and has led the response to it. John Murray from the Australian Federal Police, Ian Bennett from the ACT Fire Brigade, Peter Lucas-Smith from the Bushfire and Emergency Service, and Mike Castle from the Emergency Services Bureau-what a good job they have done from when these fires broke on 18 January, in responding to them and leading us.

I also commend the Chief Minister for his actions as part of the emergency crisis team and as Chief Minister. He has backed his troops, as any good leader does, and he has been a very strong voice for the ACT in this our time of crisis.

There are a number of lessons we are looking at already. It is disturbing that 25 per cent of homes were not insured and that many people did not have contents insurance. An event like this brings home to people in Canberra that, even though they may not have been affected by the fires, they should ensure that they have an insurance policy and that it is appropriate.

I have been concerned by incidents of arson. A number of people have already been apprehended for arson. It is very sad to see people lighting fires at a time like this. It is absolutely appalling. I was very happy to hear the strong words from Chief Magistrate Cahill about his attitude and the attitude of the court. I commend him for that.

ACT Housing has lost 81 properties. I have seen documents indicating that Housing intends to sell a number of properties. I would hope the minister ensures that potential sales are put on hold if people need public housing as a result of this disaster.

Canberrans have been overwhelming in their support for our emergency services and for one another. I would urge people, if they have not already thanked a firie, a policeman or a member of emergency services, to go up to them and give them a very big thankyou for all they have done on behalf of our community at this time of the greatest crisis in our history.

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