Page 4007 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 16 Sept 2009

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Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The Assembly met at 10 am.

(Quorum formed.)

MR SPEAKER (Mr Rattenbury) took the chair and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Emergencies (Bushfire Reporting) Amendment Bill 2009

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

Title read by Clerk.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (10.02): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, I have much pleasure in presenting the Emergencies (Bushfire Reporting) Amendment Bill 2009. Again, I am indebted to the parliamentary counsel staff for their expertise in drafting this bill. I am continually amazed by the way in which the staff in the counsel’s office can take our concepts and ideas and turn them into very carefully worded legislation

The Victorian bushfire disaster that occurred in February this year has again reminded Australians that bushfires are very dangerous. Moreover, as recent evidence to the royal commission into those bushfires has shown, the same issues are being raised after that bushfire disaster as have been raised after earlier bushfire experiences. The clear evidence gained from our experience over many years is that we humans simply do not learn from bushfire disasters.

Australia has a long history of bushfires, and we will continue to experience them. The issue for us, as communities in Australia, is twofold. First, we must enhance our preparedness to deal with bushfires; second, we must not forget the lessons from previous bushfires. I will deal with each of these matters as I outline the reasons why I have prepared this bill.

In setting out the basis for this bill, it is particularly relevant to draw on some of the conclusions that were made in the recent interim report from the Victorian bushfires royal commission. This interim report makes two sets of comments about the preparation for emergencies—which, of course, includes bushfires. The first set relates to Victoria’s emergency management arrangements. The commission noted that these arrangements “are founded on the key components of prevention, response and recover”.

With respect to prevention, the arrangements stress two principles: the elimination or reduction of the incidence or severity of emergencies, and the mitigation of their effects. If we apply these principles to bushfires, we know that it is impossible to

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