Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 Sept 2009) . . Page.. 4012 ..
Clause 85N looks at bushfire recommendations. This is a clause that will involve reporting over a 20-year period. Advice to me from those who know about these things is that often what happened in the 80s is still relevant today, yet the problem in this country is that we have very sound reports but they are put on a shelf and forgotten. So this clause says, in relation to the ACT, that there should be a list of all the bushfire recommendations made over the last 20 years—which have been complied with and which have not been complied with, or which have been overturned.
Clause 85O looks at research and development. It says that we need to be looking at what is occurring around us that is appropriate to the ACT, and it should be reported upon.
Clause 85P is particularly important. It goes to public education. It says that the government must report on how they have told people how they should prepare for or respond to bushfires for themselves, provide information about the territory’s preparation for the upcoming season, and how they have increased public awareness about bushfire warnings under part 5.3A and the fire danger index. It is very important that people understand this. Many people still do not know. In fact, I would say that just about everyone probably does not know about or understand the fire danger index.
The process is that such a report would be tabled, it would go to a committee and hopefully a committee could hold a public hearing if time permitted, but I do understand the constraints. The committee would then report and the minister would give a final report responding to any recommendations or commentary from the committee.
It is quite clear that this country forgets, or this country simply accepts, that bushfires are a part of our lifestyle and therefore there is nothing that we can do. There is so much that we can do. There is so much that we should do. But the first thing that we have to do is stop forgetting that bushfires occur. We had a bushfire in this territory on Christmas Eve 2001. Thirteen months later, we had an even more serious event, and that is how they occur. They can occur the next year or there might be a gap of 30 years. No-one can know and no-one can predict, and that is why we should not forget.
In summary, my bill proposes a comprehensive approach to reporting on the territory’s preparation for the coming bushfire season. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, there are two issues that we face. First, how well prepared are we to deal with bushfires? Second, how well have we learned the lessons from previous bushfires? In proposing a formal process of reporting on our preparedness and what we have learned, I believe that we can overcome the grip of complacency that is such a feature of human responses to emergencies, and which has been identified so graphically in the Ellis report of 2004, so that we can ensure that we are as well prepared as possible as we move into each bushfire season.
I commend the bill to the Assembly.