Page 189 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 8 December 2004

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ways—not just those who had previously lost homes but others who had had various impacts on their lives. Those people are looking for some closure. The exercise being undertaken by the Attorney-General and the ACT government is going to extend that whole process for a considerable period. As Mrs Burke just pointed out, we are already looking at a couple of years, and it looks very much like continuing for quite a deal longer.

Without any exaggeration, even in the very short time I have been in this Assembly, I have had calls from constituents who have asked me to take up this issue. I believe that people do differentiate some of the circumstances surrounding the fires and the progress of the coronial inquiry, which has now been severely delayed, as an immediate response or as an immediate expense to the ACT taxpayer, due to the Attorney-General’s actions.

In the Canberra Times editorial of 27 October, it said:

… it is for the ACT Government to explain why it is trying to prevent the facts coming out, some proper explanation of what occurred, of people having some capacity to draw their own conclusions and, perhaps, why yet further delay serves any public interest.

It goes on to say:

… just whose heart is being protected by the expenditure of some extra two or three million dollars probably—and why?

We do not know what all this is going to cost. The attorney yesterday kindly agreed to provide additional information but alluded to the fact that it was probably at least $5 million or $6 six million dollars already. I think it is reasonable, at this point, to assume that there is not going to be much change out of as much as $10 million by the time this whole exercise runs its course.

I think that, in respect of where those funds could go in Canberra, if that $10 million were sent into those areas of need and priority, we could end up with another 100 police; we could have four new operating theatres in our hospital system for less than the $10 million; we could have an upgrade of equipment, surgical implants and prosthetics—all the things we promised to do as part of our election program. That $10 million will disappear into legal costs and those legal costs will deliver little benefit to the territory’s future.

I will address later on today, if I have the opportunity, the issues of capital and recurrent expenditure, because I have examined those matters in some detail. They were adequately addressed in our analysis and have not been adequately rejected at any point along the way. We would welcome that discussion at another time. Despite the debate that has occurred, I believe the community has divided issues over the management of the fires and may be willing to give the benefit of the doubt in certain situations.

I think the intervention in relation to the inquiry has raised more questions than it has answered. In fairness, I think members on all sides have worked to try to help victims. In my case, prior to my election, within two hours of being advised of what was happening—I was in Sydney—I instructed an appeal to be launched, which raised over a quarter of a million dollars from one sector of industry. I know others across both sides

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