Page 3204 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 24 August 2005
been making all along is that there was a failure of government to warn the community, based on a failure to understand what was coming—the level of the threat.
The point is: the comments that he made that the opposition believe there has been some filthy conspiracy, I think, are an exaggeration. We have never said that. We have been concerned about games being played in making sure that various inquiries have been impeded. That has been the concern. Our concern has been, fundamentally: why did the government fail to warn the ACT community, with the fire intelligence that must have been available from 16 January onwards, to ensure that steps could have been taken to minimise the disaster that was going to be hitting those frontline suburbs a couple of days later? Therefore, our concern has always been that the McLeod inquiry, which was established, was never going to be able to get to the bottom of all of those types of concerns. We needed to see those lessons brought out and applied so that future risk could be minimised.
So it is against that background that the opposition has been so concerned about, for example: why did the government fail to understand the macro factors which were there to be assessed in 2002, after the December 2001 fires, the lessons coming out of that; the frightening speed with which that fire ripped through the forest; and then the very strong drought indicators available in 2002? If you put all that together, they must have assessed that the ACT faced a very strong fire risk in the coming bushfire season December 2002-January 2003. And that was always our concern.
It was against that concern that we were not happy with the way the McLeod inquiry went. Certainly the McLeod inquiry did bring out some very good points. I must say that the government has moved quickly on a number of those recommendations and we certainly have a better situation now with the emergency services than we did prior to January 2003. But of course the community relied on the Doogan inquiry to go further and further. Why did the failure to warn occur? We needed to get right to the bottom of where all those emergency management systems failed, and that was what Doogan was at least going to be getting closer to doing than what McLeod had previously been able to do. So the community was depending on Doogan.
It was against the background of the delay with Doogan and now another further stretching out of that inquiry, with a third bushfire season approaching after January 2003, that we have been extremely concerned. Really, those are the issues and the principles that do underpin the concerns that the opposition has had and why we have taken certain actions in this place as a consequence.
Do not forget that this is not just about the victims of the fire. Our concern is not just about the victims of the fire; our concern is also about learning the lessons so that we can minimise the risk for the community in the future. That is where we are going with the concerns that we have been expressing.
Kokoda track walk
MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (6.19): Members may recall that a little while ago I mentioned two very courageous guys undertaking the Kokoda track walk, Ken Salo and David Dredge. In fact, that walk commenced on Sunday 21, August. They walked for a swift 6.5 hours on that day. The walk now is into its fourth day, on the itinerary I have