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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3851 ..

Mrs Dunne: On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I would seek your guidance because I think what the Chief Minister said just then was that he believed that Mr Cheney lied to the coroner. The Chief Minister said that Mr Cheney didn't tell ESB.

MR SPEAKER: That couldn't be.

Mrs Dunne: The inference is there.

MR SPEAKER: Even if it was, the Chief Minister is entitled to answer the question and respond to the issues in the way that he wishes.

MR STANHOPE: I won't go on much further, Mr Speaker. I think these issues are rather delicate. It is rather difficult. I have to say that, at one level, I am surprised that the opposition are asking me questions about evidence that is being delivered to the coronial inquest. I am not quite sure about the sub judice rule and all that.

I have some issue around the fact that the opposition are asking me questions on evidence that is being delivered to the inquest. I don't know what the sub judice rule says about that. I feel some difficulty about it. Of course that has got nothing to do with the difficulty or the awkwardness I feel about what grubby politics this is. But I guess that is par for the course, and we expect it. It is grubby politics.

I am aware, just through the Canberra Times-I haven't read the transcript-of the evidence that Mr Cheney gave. I must say it was evidence that I think came as a surprise to the ACT government. Mr Cheney, these days described as an acknowledged Australian expert on bushfire behaviour, has apparently advised the coroner that he knew, five days before the fire, that it would behave in precisely the way that it did, but he never told anybody. I guess Mr Cheney has to live with that.

As I say, I'm not aware that he told anybody within this government of his concerns or his fears. I'm not aware of what discussions he had with the Emergency Services Bureau, but he had no discussions with me; he didn't write to me; I'm not aware that he wrote to any member of the government. We now know he didn't actually brief the media on the position.

I assume, as a resident of CSIRO on Black Mountain, that he would have at least doorknocked the CSIRO. I think perhaps the most exposed Commonwealth instrumentality, building or workplace in the ACT is the Black Mountain CSIRO facility. I'm sure Mr Cheney would have posted notices all over the CSIRO saying, "The fire is coming on January 18. This is the most exposed workplace in Canberra; pack up your valuables, move your files out, because I can tell you now this place is going to burn down on January 18."So one assumes he told his workmates, his colleagues and his neighbours-and I guess that is on the public record somewhere.

I'm assuming the ACT government's counsel at the inquiry will get to this issue in cross-examination; I don't know. But I just assumed those things.

MR SPEAKER: Order, Chief Minister! I quote from Odgers' Australian Senate Practice, page 229:

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