Page 523 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 13 February 2013
What we need to do is to be ever vigilant. Listening to the voices of experience of people like Phil Cheney and Val Jeffery is critically important. We believe there are some improvements that can be made, notwithstanding that some improvements have been made over the last few years. As I say, Mr Smyth will touch on that.
I will simply close by again commending our brave volunteers and staff. We thank them for their work. We in the opposition will always support their efforts. We will certainly hold the government to account in making sure the government is properly allocating resources and properly managing projects to ensure that all Canberrans can have confidence that everything possible is being done to keep them safe from bushfire disasters.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations and Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development) (5.15): I commend Dr Bourke on bringing forward this motion today on bushfire readiness and the very dedicated, ongoing, consistent and just plain hard work of all of our ESA staff and volunteers in the work they do in preparing for and responding to the threat of fire in our community.
There is no doubt that since 2003 as a community, as a government, we have come a long way. It is frequently the question asked by the media as each summer rolls around: have we learnt the lessons? Are we better prepared? Where do we stand today compared to 2003? I think this summer we were able to very clearly and comprehensively answer that question.
As I indicated during question time, the question was answered in what we did as an Emergency Services Agency, as Rural Fire Service volunteers, as Fire and Rescue personnel, as a community. What did we do when lightning again started fires in the Namadgi national park? Perhaps I can answer that by saying what we did not do. We did not let them burn unattended. We did not let them grow. We did not think that it would be all right. We acted and we acted decisively and comprehensively in response.
Crews were immediately dispatched. Aerial appliances were immediately deployed. Remote area firefighting teams were immediately put into place. Bulldozers that were on standby were immediately sent. Those fires were wrapped up and they were contained within 24 to 48 hours. It was an outstanding effort by our emergency services personnel, particularly by the Rural Fire Service volunteers, supported by the paid members of the Parks Brigade, supported by other ESA services and their staff. And the fires were wrapped up. So when the hot, windy weather came in three or four days time, the threat was not there. That, more than anything, says a lot about what we have learned from 2003. It is not the full story, but it is a great example of what we are now doing.
I would like to outline today some of the key measures the government has put in place and continues to deploy to make sure that our city is as prepared as possible for fire danger. It is the case that we cannot fireproof our landscape. We cannot prevent