Page 3400 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 18 September 2013
In addition to the SBMP, a series of important emergency plans have been developed or updated since 2003. From a whole of government perspective, the ACT emergency plan describes the responsibilities, authorities and mechanisms to prevent or, if they occur, manage emergencies and their consequences consistent with the Emergencies Act.
The community communication and information plan is an approved subplan of the ACT emergency plan and outlines how the government will communicate with the public when there is a threat of or an actual emergency in the territory. It details the processes for all communications staff across government to come together to work as one with emergency services media teams to ensure a single point of truth for the dissemination of all public information during a major incident. We saw this plan activated during the heightened fire conditions last summer, and I think we demonstrated the worth of those arrangements at that time.
As part of the ESA’s continued efforts to improve governance arrangements in fighting bushfires between operational services such as the ACT RFS and ACT Fire & Rescue, a Concept of operations document for bush and grass fires in the ACT commissioner’s guidelines has been created. Concept of operations is a capstone document that establishes, at the strategic level, the principles for managing bush and grass fires occurring on any fire danger rated day from low through to catastrophic. In addition to Concept of operations, we recognised the need to ensure that the territory is sufficiently prepared to manage bush and grass fires under the worst possible conditions. In recognition that the factors, such as fuel state and climate variables, that drive these worst possible outcomes vary from year to year, the fire services will jointly advise the commissioner prior to each fire season on the key risk factors and the most likely worst-case scenario for the coming season.
All this demonstrates that the government has undertaken an extensive and ongoing reform agenda to strengthen the capability and the government’s framework for managing bushfires in the ACT. The audit report is an important contribution to this ongoing effort. We need to continually see improvement, enhancement and refinement of our bushfire operational planning and response capabilities. The audit report is a significant assistance in that regard, but it is also a strong endorsement of the governance and planning arrangements that are in place and the fact that, as a government and as a community, we have clearly and comprehensively learned the lessons of the 2003 disaster.
The government will not be supporting this motion today, for the reasons that I have outlined in my comments.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo—Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Housing, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs and Minister for Ageing) (5.18): Mr Smyth’s motion, of course, comes at a time when the ACT is facing a potentially very hazardous bushfire season. Members may have seen the report in the Canberra Times published on 3 September in which the Emergency Services Commissioner, Dominic Lane, outlined that there is potential for a very high fire danger this season with above average rainfall over the