Page 4579 - Week 14 - Thursday, 24 November 2005

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What we have come to see from the Chief Minister, of course, is that representing pro-government lobby interests in the community, closing ranks with those lobbies, will happen at any cost, even if that means hiding the facts at the expense of serving the greater good. Yet here we have the committee’s report highlighting Mr Ellis’ praise of the ACT government’s actions in the wake of the 2003 bushfires. This is a very disappointing and totally useless observation on the part of the recovery conference.

As a result of the inadequate McLeod inquiry, an independent and fully capable coronial inquest was, therefore, much more important to serve the community’s needs, not the government’s interests, and the community’s safety needs in equipping it better for bushfire threats of the future. Again, the recovery conference seems to have skipped conveniently over this reality and not decried the obstacles put in the path of the coronial inquiry by this government.

On the basis of a great deal of information that was presented to the Doogan inquiry, it appeared that it was very likely to reach into the heart of the important issues regarding the fires, such as the essential issue of the government’s failure to warn the community. It was this process, I maintain, that the Chief Minister also interfered with. This interference was deeply concerning and, yet again, contributed to this government’s neglecting to allow the ACT community to find out and understand the truth about strategic and systemic failures leading to the death and disaster that we saw in January 2003.

While finding limited lessons in the COAG report, the ACT will not have its safety improved as a result. The COAG report, like the McLeod inquiry, fell far short of getting to the bottom of these events. Again disappointingly, the bushfire recovery conference does not acknowledge these important failures.

The committee report notes, on page 10, concerns about previous government committee inquiries whose recommendations have been ignored and left to collect dust, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars in the process. I am heartened to see Mr Gentleman’s committee identify the number of times that parliamentary inquiries have been conducted into public works, environmental and bushfire-related inquiries but with little government uptake.

Mr Stanhope: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe that the speaker, in comments that he just made, casts fairly serious aspersions on the Coroners Court and the coroner. The suggestion that has just been made by Mr Pratt is that the Coroners Court has failed and will fail to get to the truth of issues that are currently being agitated before the court. I believe that is a direct insult to the integrity of the coroner and of the Coroners Court.

MR SPEAKER: I accept that.

MR PRATT: Mr Speaker, may I talk to the point of order?

MR SPEAKER: I am not going to have the Coroners Court reflected upon here, halfway through the process. It will not be long before it will be making some decision in relation to that.

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