Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 629 ..

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister, Mr Stanhope. Chief Minister, in response to a question from Mr Pratt on 19 February, 2003, you referred to the sources on the ABC's AM program who were critical of the efforts of your government in fighting the bushfires as "gutless wonders". Mr Patrick Bennett wrote a letter of 20 February 2003, published on the Canberra Times website, stating that he was aware of five tankers from the Bombala bushfire brigade being put on alert at 9.30 am on 18 January, but never having been called up. Indeed, Mrs Burke referred to a caller on 2CC, who was aware of 11 units from Tallaganda having been turned back on the day. Are these people gutless, faceless wonders-or ordinary people seeking a reasonable explanation of what happened on 18 January?

MR SPEAKER: Order, members!

MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, it certainly is the case that I responded with strong language to an ABC AM story, which essentially contained a number of allegations-at this stage, they have to be regarded as allegations-about the handling by ACT services of the bushfires which beset us in January.

I am always open to acknowledging that I think we all sometimes say and do things which, perhaps on quiet reflection, in those moments when we reflect on ourselves and on the health of our souls, we might have done better. Perhaps my language was a little intemperate, and perhaps there were aspects of it which were to be regretted.

Having said that, I don't resile from my comments. I made them in genuine anger. It was an expression of anger at a range of allegations which I think we all know were a reflection on the professionalism and identity of identifiable members of the Emergency Services Bureau and those who led the response to the fires in Canberra. There can be no other explanation or understanding of the allegations floated on that day and which are being pursued in this place by the Liberal Party than that this is an attempt to suggest that members of the Emergency Services Bureau and the fire services in some way failed in their duty.

Let's not beat about the bush. Let's not pretend that asking questions such as that around: was this brigade turned back? If it was turned back, who turned it back and, in light of the disaster which befell us, on what basis did they turn it back? The suggestion is that identifiable members of the Emergency Services Bureau and our fire service in some way failed in their duty.

We have two inquiries in place in the ACT, to allow us to get to the bottom of these issues. Why aren't you prepared to allow those processes to continue? Why aren't you prepared to allow the McLeod inquiry to run, free of allegations that it is a whitewash; free of a determination to undermine it and to defame its head? I have yesterday's Hansard here. Yesterday, Mr Smyth said that the McLeod inquiry was a whitewash.

Mr Smyth: No, I haven't defamed it-you have twisted it. You are always twisting!

MR STANHOPE: You said it was a whitewash. You suggested that its head, Ron McLeod-the immediate past Commonwealth ombudsman-was prepared to be a party

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .