Page 3653 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 26 August 2009

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Debate (on motion by Ms Gallagher) adjourned to the next sitting.

Emergencies (Bushfire Warnings) Amendment Bill 2009

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

Title read by Clerk.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (10:48): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

I am delighted to present the Emergencies (Bushfire Warnings) Amendment Bill 2009 this morning. This bill is the first in a suite of bills that I intend to present to the Assembly to address how we as a city deal with the ever-present threat of bushfires in the ACT.

Emergencies in Australia are a fact of life. We have major bushfires—as an aside, I would use “bushfire” rather than any other term such as “wildfire”, as this is the recognised Australian term for describing these phenomena; we have cyclones; we have earthquakes; we have floods; we have major accidents. We are well used to a range of emergency situations.

The critical issues that we as a community have to face on a regular basis are: how will we prepare for emergencies? How will we deal with emergencies? And how will we respond after emergencies? For instance, significant bushfires occurred in the ACT in the 1938-39 season, the 1951-52 season, the 1956-57 season, in 1979, in 1985, in 2001 and in 2003.

The purpose of my bill today is to focus on a key issue in the context of how we prepare for and deal with bushfire dangers. Specifically, my bill will provide for a simple and coherent approach to the provision of warnings at times of heightened bushfire danger. Further bills will address the issue of fuel reduction and the issue of preparation, responsibility and accountability.

The sad reality is that the Australian landscape is littered with report after report after report on why a particular bushfire emergency occurred and what should be done next time to prevent the adverse consequences of these situations, that is, to prevent a repeat of a situation that was the repeat of a situation that was the repeat of a situation.

A report into how Australia was prepared for and responded to bushfires was prepared for the federal government in 2004, in the wake of the Canberra bushfires of 2003. This report was prepared by three eminent people. Stuart Ellis was the chair, and he was supported by Professor Peter Kanowski and Professor Bob Whelan. Their report drew together the history of bushfires in Australia for as far back as reasonable records go.

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