Page 184 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 8 December 2004

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Mr Speaker, on the day of the fires, the Chief Minister said, “Blame me.” Unfortunately, since then he’s done nothing but seek to avoid blame and instead blame those who are seeking answers. It is only just that a coronial inquest should ask hard questions. The government does not like these hard questions being asked.

I put it to the Assembly that these questions need to be asked. It is inappropriate to be seeking to shut this down; it is a government that hates scrutiny; they’ll shut down debate; they’ll shut down inquests when they don’t like them. This is inappropriate. A good coronial inquest seeks the truth, and this is a government that can’t handle the truth.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (4.08): Mr Speaker, I rise to support the motion and I want to touch on a couple of points. Firstly, it’s important the ACT community learn the lessons, apply those lessons and strive never to repeat the failings of the ACT’s emergency management system, which developed over some years and culminated in the worst emergency this community has seen. The coroner’s inquest is a vital part of that process. The Chief Minister has been no champion of that process and, in my view, has deliberately moved to exercise control over its very, very important work.

I intend to show the Assembly here today why the Chief Minister, as Chief Minister and attorney, is hindering the inquiry, this coronial inquiry. In the greater community interest, that is, its safety, I will appeal to members of this place to vote for and direct the attorney to cease interfering in this inquiry’s urgent and vital work and support its ongoing process.

Mr Speaker, I will argue here today and demonstrate to members that the attorney’s actions against the coroner’s inquiry represent a strong pattern of unacceptable behaviour seen over almost three years in respect of poor governance of the ACT’s emergency management system. I argue that the attorney has consistently failed to inquire into and fix, in good order and in good time, the ACT’s emergency management system. He and his ministers know that and they have been frightened of this and other inquiries exposing these weaknesses. They are adverse to scrutiny.

What we know about the attorney is that political power is always more important than rectifying weaknesses in governance. What we have come to see from the attorney is that representing pro-government lobby interests in the community, closing ranks with those lobbies, will happen at any cost, even if that means hiding the facts at the expense of serving the greater good. The ACT community will eventually awake to the fact that it has been let down by the government, and in particular the Chief Minister and attorney, over these failures and is already stirring restlessly over the attempts to nullify the Doogan inquiry for the spurious and pathetic reasons that have been advanced.

Let’s have a look at this pattern of behaviour by the Chief Minister in failures to fix, to inquire and to be open about the emergency system and its failures, the pattern of behaviour which is repeated in this unacceptable interference in the coronial inquest and which therefore requires the attorney to cease that interference.

Mr Speaker, coronial inquiries are part of this community’s best means of getting to the bottom of emergencies such as this. They may not have the powers of other inquiries but

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