Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 2774 ..
MS GALLAGHER: I was actually on leave on 17 and 18 January. I was in Jervis Bay, and I am not sure who was acting in my position at that time. I can say that, certainly, the Department of Education, Youth and Family Services ran community recovery. I understand that there was a meeting of the committee that the department convenes on the Saturday morning at which they talked through the possibility of having to open up evacuation centres throughout that day.
That is my understanding of the involvement of Education, Youth and Family Services: there was a meeting on the morning of 18 January to talk about the possibility of opening schools for evacuation centres.
MRS DUNNE: Could I ask that the minister actually clarify that and get back to me about what actually happened and when? The main supplementary question is: why did your department act like this when most of the other departments did not seem to be prepared for the onset of the bushfires? Did you or the acting minister pass on some warning to them?
MS GALLAGHER: I am certainly happy to get back to you. I think we were asked this question in estimates and Barbara Baikie answered it. She spoke about the convening of the meeting. We can provide you with the specifics, I guess, which I think will just be what Barbara Baikie said. Anyway, we will get that for you.
The Department of Education, Youth and Family Services has a particular role. There had been meetings throughout the week across government about contingency planning. The department had a specific role, which was recovery, and that covers evacuation. Its staff were carrying out what was required of them under the community recovery subplan, which was to chair the meetings and coordinate community agencies, if needed, to help the work of the evacuation centres.
My understanding is-and I was away that week so I was not involved in any of the meetings-that this was a whole-of-government approach, but that Education had a specific job to do, which it did.
Bushfires-use of airport tankers
MR CORNWELL: My question, through you, Mr Speaker, is to the Chief Minister, Mr Stanhope. Chief Minister, during estimates you clarified with the Estimates Committee that AirServices Australia had written to you on 24 January 2003 stating that tankers based at Canberra airport were offered on 18 January but were not utilised. Your clarification also stated that the letter had been referred by Mr Keady to Mr McLeod "for consideration in the course of his inquiry. Mr McLeod has acknowledged receipt of the AirServices letter."
Chief Minister, I can find no reference to the tankers or the AirServices letter in this report, which I would remind you is entitled Inquiry into the operational response to the January 2003 bushfires. Will you explain to the people of Canberra why these tankers were offered and not used?
MR STANHOPE: I referred, as Mr Cornwell has indicated, the letter from AirServices actually to the head of my department, the department of justice. As