Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 8 December 2004) . . Page.. 185 ..
they are still very, very useful; they are independent; they are required to search for the truth; and, in this case, the Doogan inquiry was always going to have a better fist of getting to the bottom of the weaknesses and the lessons to be learnt in the wake of January 2003 than McLeod or any other inquiry ever did.
Let’s have a look at the role that the coronial inquest procedure played after the December 2001 fires. That inquest was long; it was slow—it could have been faster—and, while the report recommendations were far too long in coming out, they were at least far reaching and more useful than any other inquiry at that time.
If we look at the ESB inquiry into the wake of the lessons coming out of December 2001, some of those lessons were useful—some of those recommendations were useful—but the report was not exhaustive, whereas the coronial inquest at that time was a far better and more capable vehicle of identifying and applying the lessons to be learnt.
Surely, on the basis on that experience, it was always going to be necessary that the coronial inquest be mobilised and supported in the wake of January 2003—a properly resourced and a properly supported coronial inquest—and that was what was going to be needed if the community and this representative government were ever going to get to the bottom of the reasons why the greatest emergency seen by Canberra in modern times had occurred. That was a given, I would have thought, Mr Speaker.
Let’s have a look at the Chief Minister’s failure to take note of the Auditor-General’s report into failures of the Emergency Services Bureau in the period leading up to 2002. I’m saying that this demonstrates—
Mr Quinlan: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: are we debating the referral of the appeal or are we debating what the Chief Minister did leading up to the bushfires?
MR SPEAKER: I think the motion goes to the issue of the confidence in the coronial process so it’s open for members to refer to the coronial process and the matters which came before it, I would expect.
Mr Quinlan: I submit that Mr Pratt is not going to that at all. He is inventing failure by the Chief Minister or the government in relation to emergency services.
MR PRATT: On the point of order, Mr Speaker—
MR SPEAKER: I think they are debatable issues and it’s open to government to counter those arguments. I have been keeping a pretty close eye on this debate and I intend to keep doing so. I don’t think you’ve got a point of order this time.
MR PRATT: Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is important to identify this pattern of behaviour on the part of the attorney. The Auditor-General’s inquiry in 2002, released in 2003, dug quite deeply into the workings of the Emergency Services Bureau and indeed it did even more so than what the McLeod inquiry did later. We know that some officers in JACS and ESB objected to the findings of Mr Benton—the Auditor-General’s findings—into the Emergency Services Bureau, particularly comments about the dysfunctional nature of the ESB at it was then identified.