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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 632 ..

Mr Stefaniak: I have a point of order, Mr Speaker-in fact, two points of order: standing order 42, again, and-it is a quarter to three-standing order 118, which says that the answer should be concise.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, answers should be concise and compliant with the subject, and I am sure that the Chief Minister knows that and that he will direct his comments through the chair.

MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Mr Speaker, I will do that. In response to Mr Stefaniak's point of order on conciseness, let me say that the Liberal Party here is intent on destroying reputations forever and would seek to deny me five minutes to seek to protect those reputations. That says a lot about its regard for the ACT public service and for those who put their lives on the line for us. You would begrudge me five minutes to put some context to your baseless allegations.

The issues about aircraft are also vague and difficult to respond to. That is the view of the Emergency Services Bureau. For example, I am advised that the Chief Fire Control Officer was aware of the availability for hire of fixed-wing aircraft located in Canberra, but they were not water-bombing aircraft or capable and, because of the visibility problems caused by smoke, could not be used for observation purposes on 18 January. Squirrel helicopters, in any event, had been provided by the Navy for observation purposes on that day.

Once again-I am advised-it is possible that the New South Wales Rural Fire Service made decisions in relation to other aircraft located in that state. If the Rural Fire Service is to be asked to inquire into these matters, more information will be required. Once again, Mr Koperberg will stand by his fax machine waiting this afternoon for the source of all of Mr Cornwell's information on decisions taken in relation to fixed-wing aircraft on the ground. Mr Cornwell, once again, the Assembly will be very pleased to receive a copy of your fax and all the information it contains.

In conclusion, the raising of vague, anecdote-based assertions of this kind does little to advance the public interest or assist the community to understand what occurred through January. I urge those opposite to bring to the attention of the coroner or Mr McLeod the concerns that they believe should be investigated.

As I have said before, there is a significant difference between the pursuit of the truth and the pursuit of scapegoats. I have used the Salem example in relation to this. On one day somebody shouted "Witch!", and 126 members of Salem were named as witches. Twenty-six were prosecuted and nine were hanged for what we know these days was a bad bout of food poisoning.

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, I fully intend to take anything the public bring to me to the attention of the authorities in the appropriate time. In the interest of Mr Stanhope, I seek leave to table the letter of Patrick Bennett, who is not anonymous. He is a real person who has raised interesting questions.

Leave granted.

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