Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 518 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
necessary to ensure an effective operational response prior to the next bushfire season. That is an issue we have to address. Judicial inquiries, by their very nature, are detailed, and they are complex, because they deal with complex matters. But we need immediate answers to the operational aspects to allow us, as a community, to respond in time for the next bushfire season.
An Inquiries Act inquiry would necessarily involve a range of specific explicit and implicit requirements, including public hearings, legal processes, engagement of counsel assisting, legal representation and cross-examination. This is a very detailed process, a process which will be undertaken by the coroner.
There is also the practical difficulty of two judicial inquiries running in parallel and whether or not they have the capacity to coordinate their activities. They are likely to cover many of the same issues. They are likely to call the same witnesses on the same matters. Again, why have two inquiries, particularly when the opposition have not made the argument as to what it is that the coroner will not look at or does not have the capacity to look at.
There is the associated and very real difficulty of a range of essential emergency services personnel having to give evidence to, and being tied up in, two judicial inquiries whilst also having to undertake their emergency services responsibilities. There is-and we cannot understate it-significant emotional wear and tear on the people involved in these processes. If you are to undertake two judicial inquiries, you need a good argument. You need to say that the first judicial inquiry is weak or flawed in some way or will not cover particular aspects. The opposition have not made that argument.
As I have already outlined, if this motion is successful today, it will be difficult to conduct concurrent coronial and Inquiries Act processes. It is almost inevitable that they will come into direct conflict. It has been suggested by some that the Inquiries Act inquiry would merely borrow information from the coroner. This would not occur. It is unlikely in the extreme.
The opposition's poorly coordinated and poorly thought out approach contrasts with the government's logical approach to addressing this very complex issue. The government's approach is one which will proceed with a focused independent administrative inquiry to provide timely advice on the lessons learned and any needed improvements in the planning for, and response to, bushfire emergencies. The inquiry will be conducted in a way which complements, but does not conflict with or seek to duplicate, the work of the coroner.
That is the argument people on the other side of the chamber have to address. How are they going to prevent duplication of the work of the coroner? They have failed to do it. Equally, they have failed to outline what terms of reference open to the coroner exclude matters to be looked at by the coroner and need a separate judicial process.
Further, the government's announced approach will proceed in a complementary manner with other expert work already under way, such as the investigation into non-urban land use which the Chief Minister has outlined, along with examinations occurring in relation to the urban/rural interface. The government's approach is one that makes the best use of