Page 4288 - Week 13 - Thursday, 17 November 2005

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We understand the two-year cycle for putting together, analysing, researching, testing and, if necessary, reviewing a plan.

However, under the new changes that are proposed, if the authority does not decide within 40 days to accept or reject a plan, that plan is deemed to be accepted. Also, the bill only specifies that the authority may approve a draft plan; it does not say that it must approve a draft plan. I have a major difficulty with that and the opposition in general is not particularly happy with that. This is totally flawed by this “may” approve rather than “must” approve, and may allow a plan to be accepted if it has not been analysed in time. It is flawed because, if the authority does not even get a chance to examine the draft, it is not even officially rejected. What happens if the plan is grossly inadequate yet the land-holder is presumably not advised of this and is not required to draw up a new plan for another two years? So a plan that has not had time to be processed by government and its agencies is allowed to be approved and then allowed to sit around for two more years, regardless of its inadequacies. I think that is a fundamental failure in the system.

The opposition is concerned that there is also nothing to force the authority to even pick up the plan and examine it in the first place. It is only at the authority’s discretion whether they can get to all bushfire operational plans, analyse them all and then deem them appropriate. We believe there should be a more concrete benchmark that puts an obligation on government to grab hold of these damn things, review them and approve them or send them back for resubmission.

This has the potential to allow some serious problems to arise during a bushfire emergency that could otherwise be picked up sooner if the authority was required within the 40-day period to advise a land-holder or land manager in writing that their draft plan had been approved or rejected. We believe the authority must grab every BOP by the scruff of the neck and either approve it or reject it, and do so within a time frame that allows renewal, if necessary.

An amendment that appears to be lacking in this bill or the original act is one that gives the commissioner of the Emergency Services Authority the direct power to order land managers or landowners to reduce fuel loads if they have not done so in accordance with acceptable fuel load requirements either during an emergency or prior to one occurring if deemed necessary. This will obviously have to be addressed at a later date, as I have some serious concerns about the Emergency Services Commissioner’s powers in that area.

The opposition supports the bill generally, but will be recommending a number of amendments, which I will circulate now and move at the detail stage. I would hope that the government and the Greens will support these amendments in order to strengthen this Emergencies Amendment Bill, as these amendments seek to enhance the bill, and the act, to allow for more effective management of emergencies. While I support the government’s bill, I would also commend the amendments to further strengthen the bill.

MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Urban Services and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (11.44), in reply: I thank members for their support and their comments. I express my disappointment and outrage that Mr Pratt would come down here and put some amendments before this Assembly without discussing them with my office. My office

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