Page 520 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 13 February 2013

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A range of evacuation centres are identified across Canberra and can be available whenever needed, with the support of the recovery community partners, including Red Cross, St Vincent de Paul and St John Ambulance.

In closing, on behalf of the government, I commend members of the Legislative Assembly and the ACT community, ESA personnel from Fire and Rescue, firefighters, the RFS, the SES, community fire units, mapping volunteers, staff, ambulance officers, support staff, and staff of the TAMS fire management unit for their tireless efforts in protecting the ACT and its citizens from the threat of bushfire.

MR SESELJA (Brindabella) (5.04): I rise firstly to support in particular the final part of Dr Bourke’s comments in relation to our hardworking Emergency Services Agency’s staff and volunteers. The opposition joins in commending the hard work that they do, the often dangerous work that they do, and we thank them for that. We thank them for putting their lives on the line to protect our community. So the opposition wholeheartedly endorses that sentiment.

There were a couple of elements of Dr Bourke’s speech which I would like to touch on before I get into some other issues. He did mention some apparent successes, including the emergency alert system. I think it would be remiss of us not to comment on just how poorly that was initially rolled out with, of course, the Mitchell chemical fire in recent times. The emergency alert system simply was not up to the task. It is like so many other things from ACT Labor. Money is spent on certain things and they point to certain things happening, but when it comes to the management, when it comes to actually rolling it out and making it work in practice, we see failures. We have certainly seen that when it comes to the emergency alert system.

Dr Bourke also referred to the tragic 2003 bushfires which, of course, we all remember so vividly. I think Dr Bourke does attempt to rewrite history a little bit when it comes to that. I do not want to labour the point in relation to the 2003 bushfires. But given Dr Bourke has raised it, I think we do have to put on the record the fact that the community was let down by the government and by the leadership of this government, including Mr Corbell as a member of that cabinet. There was a collective failure of that cabinet to do all they could to warn Canberrans of what was coming when they knew it was coming two days before. I think that will always be a stain on this government, that they did not act when, clearly, they had the information at that point on that Thursday before the bushfires to act.

There is one other thing that I think is worth raising in relation to the 2003 bushfires. I think it has been touched on by the likes of Ric Hingee in recent times. Having failed in various ways but also having faced what was an extraordinarily difficult circumstance—I do not think anyone denies that we faced an amazing fire storm in its ferocity—notwithstanding the failures to heed warning and in other areas, the response of the government at that time where it claimed it would support changes, where it claimed it would do everything has not been honoured. My colleague Mr Smyth I am sure will highlight some of the areas where they have not honoured that commitment to adopt those recommendations.

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