Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 538 ..
MR WOOD: That is exactly right, Mr Hargreaves-they were fighting the darn thing and they were full on. I went over to emergency services every morning and heard the briefings and they were all out doing their very best to fight that fire. That is where they were. I do not think that any citizen of Canberra was uninformed about the fire. Nor do I think-and this is my opinion; it is an opinion-that anybody could have anticipated the impending holocaust. Who could have imagined the conditions that arose?
I remember-and I am still not absolutely clear on the dew points and things like that-that we were getting briefings from the weather people. Mr Smyth nods-he knows of this issue. We were getting advice about just how tinder dry it was. There was not a drop of moisture anywhere in that area. There was wind and dry conditions caused by the drought. But who could imagine what was going to happen? Some of these questions are matters for the two inquiries that are taking place.
Bushfires-availability of aircraft
MR CORNWELL: My question is to the Chief Minister. It relates to the 18 January bushfires. Can you advise the Assembly what aircraft were available for firefighting duties on that day? Are you aware, Chief Minister, that significant firefighting capacity in the form of fixed-wing aircraft sat on the ground on the crucial days of 17 and 18 January? Can you confirm that two M-18 Dromader aircraft remained on the ground, but without loading equipment, at Wagga Wagga and Goulburn and that two M-18 Domaders, fully equipped, were on the ground at Camden?
Can you also confirm that two Air Tractor 802 fire-bombing aircraft, the largest capacity fire-bombing aircraft currently on contract in Australia, were sent to Victoria from Scone that week because the New South Wales Rural Fire Service saw no use for them? When the whole focus, as Mr Wood said, was on the fire, can you advise whether ACT emergency services had any discussions with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service as to why these aircraft, with the capacity to stop the fires before they reached the ACT, were not utilised?
MR STANHOPE: A very good question. I cannot confirm any of those things, Mr Cornwell. I would be interested to know if you can from where you gathered your information. It does surprise me that the New South Wales Rural Fire Service would have left a whole raft of fire-fighting aircraft on the ground when, in an arrangement consulted on with the ACT Emergency Services Bureau, it had agreed that it would accept full responsibility for fighting and containing the MacIntyres Hut fire-a fire, Mr Cornwell, which you know was burning in New South Wales across the ACT border. The fire that caused the devastation that befell the ACT, particularly citizens of Weston Creek and Tuggeranong, on the 18th was a fire which came from MacIntyres Hut.
It is a serious suggestion you make that the New South Wales Rural Fire Service was so uninterested in the obligation and responsibility it had accepted in consultation with the ACT to contain the MacIntyres Hut fire that it left aircraft scattered all around the place-aircraft that were under its control and direction and aircraft that it could have used to put out the MacIntyres Hut fire, the fire which in the event was the fire that crashed into Duffy.