Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 537 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
Liberal Party would come on board and agree with us because, surely, the health of Canberrans is more important than their partisan politics.
MR PRATT: My question is to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. Minister, one of the essential lessons from the recent fire tragedy in Canberra is that the effective and early provision of information to residents would almost certainly increase their preparedness should an emergency situation confront them. Can you advise what information was provided to residents in "at risk"suburbs such as Chapman, Holder and Duffy, amongst others, prior to 18 January?
Mr Stanhope: Does the question cover the seven years of Liberal government?
MR SPEAKER: Order, Mr Stanhope!
MR WOOD: I am not sure what sort of information you are talking about here-whether it is information on the day as to the crisis emerging or whether it is information over many years, including your term in government. I will try to cover both.
I will give just one example. I went out to Bruce-I was not the emergency services minister at the time-with all the emergency services people to run a big publicity campaign about taking care of backyards which back onto nature parks. We had detailed management plans for controlling fire hazards. That sort of thing is fairly common in the fire season and I recall doing it on other occasions as environment minister. We alert people of the need to keep fences and backyards clear of debris. So I think routine advice-and I use the words "routine advice"-to Canberra residents has been a persistent part of the early summer season over many years. It happens all the time, and if you are not aware of that you have not been paying attention.
As to anything on the day, you were not listening to the radio which was running the siren signal over quite a long period and listing a whole range of suburbs where residents needed to take particular care. The fire threat certainly grew and developed very quickly, but those alarms were out there.
I also remember, because I was emergency services minister then, that from the time the fires in the nature park were caused, as we expect, by lightning, it was on the news every night. I think the Chief Minister himself did a pretty good job in a spectacular way of reminding people that "Hey, there is a fire out here."The helicopters never stopped flying over Canberra. There was no shortage of publicity about the fire that was at that stage not too far away and about measures that we being taken to restrict and fight that fire. This was the whole focus for the period just before the fire storm.
MR PRATT: Mr Speaker, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Minister, can you confirm whether any residents in Canberra received a visit from anyone in the Emergency Services Bureau in the period 8 to 18 January to receive any advice relating to the potential for a fire disaster, given that the fire had then broken containment lines.
Mr Hargreaves: They were fighting the thing.