Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 2764 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
In order to answer every single one of the issues that might be pursued in relation to the fire would, of course, take a time frame of something of the order that the coronial inquest will take. At this stage, with great respect to the Coroner's Court-and I don't know what her final time frame is-I imagine it is probably reasonable to expect that we will have the coroner's report made available to us around about Christmas next year.
I don't know, but I am prepared to suggest that it probably won't be available then, on the basis of the time frame that the Coroner's Court has established for hearings. I believe that they have indicated there will be 80 days of public hearings in relation to that coronial inquest. We will be lucky if we have the coroner's report into the bushfires available to us before the commencement of the bushfire season next year.
I think it was vitally important that the government respond in the way that it did-that we commission the McLeod inquiry, with the terms of reference that we did; that we give it the time frame that we did. It has now reported, and the government has accepted the recommendations. We are introducing a second appropriation bill to deal urgently with the issues that have been raised so that we can learn the lessons that we require to learn.
In relation to the two points that Mr Smyth raised in this question-the deployment of units and the declaration of the state of emergency-Mr McLeod does, in fact, give a day-by-day account or assessment of the advance of the fire for the period from the lightning strike to the 18th. It is totally unreasonable to expect that he do more than that. If one were to take account of the communications travelling in and out of the Emergency Services Bureau, particularly on the day of the fire and in the week of the fire-
Mr Smyth: Haven't you done the work? That's what the volunteers want to know.
MR STANHOPE: If Mr Smyth had any limited, basic, simple understanding of the complexities of those issues, he would understand what could be done.
Mr Smyth: I was there.
MR STANHOPE: Mr Smyth was there; he knows everything. He was there on the day. These are issues that will be dealt with, undoubtedly, in the detailed forensic analysis that the Coroner's Court will undertake.
The other issue that Mr Smyth raises-and he is wrong again-is that Mr McLeod doesn't address the issue of the declaration of the state of emergency. In fact, he does. Mr McLeod goes to the issue of the state of emergency. I have to admit my part in decision making on the day of the fire was in relation to the declaration of the state of emergency.
On one reading of Mr McLeod's analysis around the state of emergency, there is some implied criticism of some of the confusion that the declaration of the state of emergency created. In fact, on one reading of Mr McLeod, there is a suggestion that the declaration of the state of emergency may, in retrospect, have been a mistake. This