Page 3425 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 21 September 2005

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Wednesday, 21 September 2005

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Limitation Amendment Bill 2005

Mr Stefaniak, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (10.31): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, contrary to what many in the community would like to believe, the terrible fire which came from New South Wales and crossed into the ACT in January 2003, engulfing suburban Canberra without warning, remains a live issue. It needs to be repeated again and again that this terrible fire affected, and continues to affect, many hundreds of people. The firefighters say that they cannot understand why 400 people, not four, died in the fire, such was the speed and intensity of the fire when it finally reached Weston Creek.

It affects the people who were injured that day. Over 200 people were treated for various injuries suffered from the fire. Those who were badly burned continue to bear a daily burden of pain and disability. Some were horribly disfigured. It affects the almost 500 households whose homes were burnt to the ground that day: 491 homes were burnt to the ground. The first houses were burning in Eucumbene Drive before a state of emergency was declared.

One Duffy man described how he looked out his window and saw nothing untoward, but on walking out the front door he saw embers falling into his garden from the sky. As the residents of Canberra went about their business that Saturday, with the usual exodus to the coast for the weekend and others going shopping, looking at property or just relaxing at home, no-one had any idea of what was about to happen. In that case, the Duffy resident was at home without any car transport, as his son had borrowed his car to look at a house he was interested in.

This fellow was lucky because he was able to escape in a neighbour’s car. Three elderly people and one mother of three were not so lucky. The people who escaped the flames that devoured their properties mostly did not have time to save a thing. The fire came upon the Weston animal hospital so rapidly that by the time staff became aware of it they had to vacate it without being able to release a single animal from its cage.

Not only was it traumatic for people to have to escape to save their lives, but also some were left with considerable financial losses because the costs of rebuilding escalated to $1,800 a square metre when standard insurance for the period only covered them for $1,000 a square metre. That left almost everyone underinsured. Those who were

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