Page 186 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 8 December 2004

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It was disappointing at that time that the attorney pooh-poohed the Benton report, and that, I am putting to you, Mr Speaker, is a demonstration of the behaviour of the attorney if he doesn’t get his own way when it comes to looking at these things. Well, that’s not his first duty. His first duty is to identify what’s gone wrong in terms of governance, in terms of safety management and in terms of the good safety and order of the community and sort it out.

We know that the McLeod report was a reasonable report, an adequate report, but it was not deep enough and therefore we had to rely on the Doogan inquiry to much more properly get to the bottom of what had gone wrong in January 2003 and in the years leading up to January 2003. We now know the McLeod report didn’t cover all the ground and, as the inquiry unfolds, we see that more ground is being uncovered.

Mr Speaker, I put it to you that the Chief Minister has been a bit of a serial performer in collapsing or pooh-poohing inquiries or independent performers who haven’t been able to provide perhaps the line that he would have preferred. Mr Speaker, I put it to you that this Attorney-General is too willing to reject and ridicule the Auditor-General’s report into the ESB failings in 2001-2002. The Auditor-General is too willing to ridicule the likes of Chaney and other experienced rural settlers and other experts about the advice and the evidence that they have brought forward in the wake of January 2003.

Ms MacDonald: Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a point of order. As a point of clarification, I think Mr Pratt just referred to the Auditor-General. Was he actually speaking about the Attorney-General?

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (4.18): Thanks for that time being wasted. If she had been listening, Ms MacDonald would have understood that I was talking about the Auditor-General’s report of 2003. He is therefore not willing to improve the ACT’s preparedness of 2002 in the worse drought year following. The attorney was too willing to—I seek a short extension. (Extension of time not granted.)

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (4.18): Hopefully I can get mine out without being gagged. We have seen a precedent set in this place today which is very sad. In a letter to the Canberra Times on 3 October 2004, Heather Ponting of Greenway asked us all not to be victims to the 2003 bushfires. She ends her letter by saying, “Victims do not have any rights of appeal within the ACT legal system.” I rise this afternoon because my whole focus is geared around how this is all affecting the community.

Contrary to what Ms McDonald said, there are many letters and articles that appear—and people on radio—from people who are concerned about the stoppage that is happening here. In an article by Lucy Gibson on 31 October, a former resident spoke out publicly for the first time. He said:

… the stalling of the $6 million coronial inquiry firmed resolve among the bushfire-affected residents.

“This business with the inquiry being derailed is the last straw for many people.

“Jon Stanhope seems more concerned about a handful of senior bureaucrats than for the 500 odd families whose homes and lives have been destroyed.”

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