Page 2699 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 16 August 2005

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October? What stood in his way in September and October? What clarified his thought last September and October, in the lead-up to an ACT election, that led him to join an appeal and put the weight of the Attorney-General—the first law officer and the person responsible for the court system—behind it? Last September and October, what was in this man’s mind?

We got an indication this morning when we talked about retrospectivity. Mr Solly asked about a third inquiry. Solly said it is what the opposition wanted and it is what Bill Redpath and the Law Society suggested might have been more appropriate. What does the Chief Minister say: well, that is what they do in retrospect because of perhaps some of the hurdles and the road blocks that we have struck and the rocky road that the coronial inquest has travelled over the past three years. Again this is the Shane Warne of political spin at work. In case he had forgotten, on 30 January 2003, long after his appeal, I moved a motion setting out the terms of reference for a broad-ranging inquiry. It had 18 separate aspects for inquiry. It specified a staged reporting process to account for the then coming fire season as well as allowing examination of longer-term issues. Again these are the shifting sands from the Attorney-General, the man who should be dedicating himself to getting to the bottom of the matter, not standing in its way.

When it comes to the bushfire disaster of January 2003, two issues still weigh heavily on the public’s mind. The first is why were the fires not more aggressively tackled in their first few days and, secondly, why were sufficient warnings not given to the people of Weston Creek and Kambah when it was so obvious that the fires would reach the city? As long as these questions have been asked, the government, particularly the Chief Minister, Mr Stanhope, has sought to avoid their being answered and that is why we censure him today. He opposed our motion to establish an inquiry under the Inquiries Act. Instead, he established the laughably inadequate McLeod review, the report of which just sits gathering dust. He has a copy of it there on the table. Point to where the McLeod review talks about why the fires were not put out on the first night. Point to where it talks about the warning that could and should have been given.

Mr Stanhope: Page 62.

MR SMYTH: I will check page 62. What about page 132, where it says that at 8 o’clock on the morning of 18 January 2003 all fire units were allocated roles. The Chief Minister, missing in action, still has not told us where he was. He was still not answering his phone calls. He cannot tell us where he was. It is our view that he undertook this appeal in an attempt to derail the coronial inquiry because it was getting uncomfortably close to the truth, or at least to derail it or to damage the messenger. Of course, the action to disqualify the coroner was a dismal failure. I will not read all of the paragraphs. I will simply read paragraph 106. This action was on the basis of apprehended bias. In paragraph 106 the full bench of the Supreme Court says:

However, we are unable to see how the first respondent’s comments could provide any ground for an apprehension of bias.

In paragraphs 84, 127, 130, 132 and 187—the list just goes on—the court finds nothing of what the Attorney-General put forward, yet he hides behind the legal advice. He says he got legal advice that there was an apprehended bias. Well, he should table his legal advice. We do not believe him. We do not believe the advice says what he said. He

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