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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 26 August 2009) . . Page.. 3658 ..

We need to educate the Australian public. I have said a number of times and I will say it here again: people say the only things certain in life are death and taxes. In Australia, the only things certain in life are death, taxes and bushfires.

What we have to do is make sure that our services are equipped appropriately, that they are set up appropriately and that they are staffed appropriately to do the job should the day come. But what we need to do is at least give them a chance to make their efforts effective on the day by making sure that we have proper command systems in place, that we have done the fuel reduction that should be done, that we actually, as a community and as individuals, take responsibility for our own properties and that every year, before the start of the season on 1 October, we actually do clear our properties; we remove the vegetation; we remove the things that might burn that are close to the properties; we take responsibility; we look at whether or not, if you are on a property that has a pump, the pump works; we look at sources of water should the power go down. There is a community responsibility.

What happened in Victoria is very similar to what happened in Canberra. The services on the day were overwhelmed. There were something like 550 fires on the day in Victoria. Only five or so got away. But those five are the five that did the damage. For 99 per cent of fires that we have to fight, we have to have appropriate mechanisms in place to combat them.

It is the dangerous fires that people like Tim Flannery are now calling the mega fires that should be of most concern. He says that climate change is causing the nature of fires to change. In fact, when speaking recently to American firefighters, they said they are probably getting fewer fires per year, they arrive over a much longer period in that year but have much greater intensity and are doing much greater damage. But we have to get prepared.

There are other things that we need to do to try to minimise the impact on the day. Should a fire occur or should the threat of a bad fire day be there, we have to tell the community what is coming so that they can prepare, make decisions and actually implement the program—that is, prepare, stay and defend or leave early. And we do this debate a disservice particularly by calling it fight or flee.

Again, I would be delighted if the ACT could provide a lead to this country, particularly after what we have learnt since 2003, to set up national systems of warning so that wherever you go you hear the same warnings, because local indexes do change. Western Australians have a different index to the one that we use in the ACT. But what we need is a consistent set of warnings so that whether I am in Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Western Australia or, indeed, at home in the ACT, if I hear a warning I understand what its implication is.

We can do it for cyclones; we can do it for the UV index; we should be able to do it for bushfires. I commend the bill to the house.

Debate (on motion by Mr Corbell) adjourned to the next sitting.

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