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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 607 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

It concerns me that the government might fully expend the remainder of the advance on other items that are actually clearly foreseen-we have had the debate on the multi-unit fire safety upgrades. There are also concerns about the rest of the Treasurer's Advance being expended in this financial year, which was part of those debates.

It is important that the government is aware of that and that, if further issues arise-and we know that further amounts of expenditure will be needed to meet the cost of the bushfires to this community-Treasurer's Advance should be expended in the year that it is drawn down on. I think it would have been most appropriate to stick to planned expenditure under the budget and minimise the impact on the budget bottom line by drawing non-recoverable expenditure from the Treasurer's Advance. I note that $250,000 is allocated under this bill for the non-urban strategic development study. I find it odd that such a large sum of money is required, considering that a spatial plan for Canberra is already well under way and that there is a pool of money sitting in PALM working on that.

But of greater concern is the fact that the community appear to be a bit confused as to which inquiry or review they should approach to give the evidence that they have. The large overlap between the coronial inquiry and other government inquiries has confused people. The community have now also been confused about the status of the spatial plan since the non-urban strategic study was announced, and it would be helpful if we had a greater explanation of how these different processes will interact.

I also endorse the comments of the Public Accounts Committee relating to the cost of the McLeod inquiry. It does seem odd that Mr McLeod was not consulted on the likely scope of his inquiry before an estimate was made of the likely cost of the exercise. I hope that the size of the allocation does not limit Mr McLeod's ability to conduct a full and effective investigation in the time that he has.

I will conclude by touching on the longer term impacts of the fires. I am told that the impact of a natural disaster such as the one we have experienced is usually reflected in at least three budgets following the event. In terms of capital losses, I have no doubt that this will be true. But I hope that the government keeps in mind that the psychological impact of the fires may go on much longer for some people and that spending on publicly funded counselling and other support services may need to be higher for more than just three years.

Our community mental health resources were already overstretched before these fires, and we will need to see a significant budget funding increase for these services that lasts well beyond the initial response phase that is covered by the supplementary appropriation bill, if our community is able to heal from the events of January 18.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (11.11): Mr Speaker, as I have not had an opportunity previously, I would like to outline in a little more detail the requirements that have driven the government to undertake this appropriation and also the specific issues relating to my portfolio responsibilities of health, planning and transport.

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