Page 528 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 13 February 2013

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those sheds tell me that they cannot back their trucks in and then open their doors. So either the volunteers are lying or somebody else is. There was controversy there at the time. It was never refuted or proven to be wrong and, until the minister can prove it wrong, it will stand.

Then, of course, there was the claim of the wonderful success of Tidbinbilla. Yes, Tidbinbilla shed is pretty good, and it is pretty good because of years of lobbying by and pressure on this government from the opposition. It was many years late and if you recall late last year, when it was close to being opened, there were complaints it was incomplete. And some basic things, even down to a barbecue space and perhaps a bit of air conditioning in at least one room so that it could be cool for training, had been cut. Again, there was pressure from the opposition. In a very tight budget they had to cancel so many other little projects to make sure that Tidbinbilla was complete when the minister opened it so that it would not be an embarrassment. And that is the truth, and I think we all know it.

There are, I believe, significant gaps in education and research in Australia in regard to the bushfire threat. And I think it is very sad that the federal government is now cutting the funding to the federal Bushfire CRC. There will be a disaster resilient CRC which could continue some bushfire research, but it is not the same thing. In the summer edition, the current issue, of Fire Australia, the magazine for those interested in these things, there is a great article by Richard Thornton, who is the Bushfire CRC deputy CEO and research director, about the 100 fire notes that the CRC has produced. The fire notes are briefings, information packs on issues. But the interesting thing is that Richard goes on to say:

During this time, more than 100 research fellows and other researchers were funded for periods of three years or more, greatly boosting the capability for research in Australia and New Zealand.

Although much of this output is captured in Fire Notes, this ongoing capacity is brittle and reliant on further funding to maintain the momentum.

That momentum has just been stopped. It has been stopped by a government that has fallen into complacency and is saying, “We have not had some major fires for a little while. Therefore we do not have to fund it.” 2009 is only four years ago, when they had the disastrous fires in Victoria. But any cutting of funds to the Bushfire CRC is short-sighted and, indeed, the funding should be expanded. I have said many times there should be a bushfire institute in this country, a bushfire institute of Australia, where research is coordinated and is taken seriously.

The other side of that, of course, is commemoration and education through perhaps a museum. There is a great push for—and I was very pleased to help announce during the campaign that we would put $100,000 for a feasibility study into—an ACT Rural Fire Service museum. And I think that needs to happen. We will lose the artefacts, we will lose the knowledge, we will lose the memory, we will lose the stories. When you do that, you repeat the mistakes. I think in this country there is also room for a national museum. Indeed, one of the things we do not have is a national memorial, a national monument to bushfires and those who have suffered. That would be invaluable. (Time expired.)

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