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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 2803 ..

MRS DUNNE (continuing):

There are some other messages about how we did not heed the warnings of the previous bushfire and we did not heed the warnings of the winter fire season in New South Wales. The opposition is saying don't be like the Bourbons-learn and do not forget. This is the message that has come loud and clear to me from the community. The community, despite what the Chief Minister might say, really does want to know the answers. They want to know why these things were not done. They want to know whether they have been let down collectively over the years.

Questions keep coming up-members here have raised many of them-from people who are volunteers. They have asked me why weren't the messages about fuel management heeded after the Christmas 2001 fires; and was there enough preparation for the 2002-2003 fire season? People say to me, "We weren't prepared,"and they want to know why as a community they were not prepared. The Chief Minister said, "Look, I've never thought about it-never really thought about it."This is someone who is the Chief Minister for the ACT. He has had briefings on this; I have had briefings on this. At the time he was the Minister for Environment. He was one of the ministers with carriage of the bushfire fuel management program and he should have known what was happening. I cannot really believe that he is serious when he said it had never crossed his mind that fire would come to the suburbs of the ACT.

Minister Gallagher said today that there were meetings going on during the week about contingency planning. Why was the community not given the opportunity to undertake that contingency planning? These are the questions that people have to answer. There were farmers and rural lessees who had the opportunity to undertake contingency planning because they knew; they could read the signs. They went out and they spent thousands of dollars of their own money on tankers, firefighting equipment, walkie-talkies and two-way radios. They were prepared and they knew whether they could stay or whether they had to flee.

But the people in the ACT, the townies who do not know very much about fire, were never given the opportunity to make those decisions and to prepare themselves one way or another. I think this is the biggest question crying out for an answer; it is the biggest issue that we have to answer so that in future we don't just learn but we do not forget.

MS TUCKER (4.53): I will not speak for too long on this matter. I think the fact that we have suddenly rushed into this debate this afternoon is, in lots of ways, a good indication of the general response to the fires. I would like to have had time to read the documentation more thoroughly. I was going to adjourn the debate, but clearly everyone wants to have a go today, so I will respond, to a degree.

I would like to respond first to something Mrs Dunne said. I found it quite intriguing that she should have said that she is not going to be critiquing people for the sake of it, or trying to pull people down, and she understands that we need to work together. But Mrs Dunne quite happily put an opinion piece into the Canberra Times, which was basically quite false. There were untrue statements about the Greens' position and Senator Bob Brown's position on hazard reduction burning. Mrs Dunne would not be allowed to do that in here because you are not allowed to lie in the parliament. But she has happily done that in the newspaper and, of course, I now have to deal with that.

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