Page 4578 - Week 14 - Thursday, 24 November 2005

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That the report be noted.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (11.07): Last week I sought to extend the debate on the tabling of this report as I noticed that there were issues of importance surrounding the government’s management of bushfires and, more importantly, managing the research and analysis into what failed in the past.

The previously issued COAG national inquiry on bushfire mitigation and management continued the trend of governments with their heads in the sands. I do not necessarily agree with the statements made in this recovery conference about COAG and the need to ensure that the five Rs are covered. It talked about research, information and analysis, risk modification, readiness, response and recovery. It talked about how wonderful it was that these five Rs had been pursued. I take issue that the research and analysis aspects of any inquiry into the January 2003 fire disasters have been properly pursued. I maintain that they have not. As I said the other day, I want to concentrate on those aspects in relation to the January 2003 fires.

The COAG bushfire report, which this recovery conference report refers to, was simply another useful but ultimately disappointing report. Like the McLeod inquiry, it was simply a wasted opportunity; it again failed to get to the heart of useful matters such as government failure, departmental failures, systemic failures and strategic and operational shortfalls.

The McLeod report, too, failed to answer many of the questions. The recovery conference refers to this inquiry as well. In support of the McLeod report, I would say it has proven to be very useful in highlighting the mistakes that were made by various parties involved in the bushfires but did not answer all outstanding questions that the community had regarding bushfires. It ran well over time and cost too much as well.

I question the worthiness of the bushfire recovery conference when it blissfully skates over the very serious issues of failure to analyse what went wrong. The bushfire recovery conference says of the McLeod inquiry:

Mr Ellis praised the ACT government’s demonstrated leadership following the 2003 bushfires and commended consideration of bushfire response and recovery programs concurrently.

I wonder, however, whether Mr Ellis, or anyone else for that matter, would praise this Chief Minister in his attempt to dismiss the Doogan inquiry because of his belief of perceived bias. Research and analysis into the January 2003 fires has been incomplete, slow and painful, to say the least. The facts speak for themselves.

The terms of reference of the McLeod inquiry did not properly address the fundamental issues of strategic preventative measures and the very vexed issue of why the government and its agencies failed to warn the community about the approaching disaster. It is, therefore, disappointing that this very important conference did not address these yawning gaps in the research and analysis aspects of recovery.

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