Page 3970 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

Public Accounts—Standing Committee—Report 20—Review of Auditor-General’s Report No. 5 of 2013: Bushfire Preparedness, dated November 2015, together with a copy of the extracts of the relevant minutes of proceedings.

I move:

That the report be noted.

This is a very important report on a very important subject dear still to the hearts and memories of many in this city who, with vivid memories, know where they were on the day in 2003 when the fires came to town. That fire is part of the Australian ecosystem is something that I think we are all aware of, but fires through the ACT in the main occur every eight years. A significant fire, on average, over the last 100 or so years, occurs every eight years in the ACT. From 2003 to 2015 is 12 years, so we are in many ways overdue for another major event.

This report looks at Auditor-General’s report No 5 into bushfire preparedness. The committee has been able to put together a report with 38 recommendations that cover a large range of issues, from the government releasing documents to the government undertaking additional preparation as to how we counter complacency, not just in the ACT but across the nation, in regard to bushfires. Many of us have heard the expression that there was nothing we could do on the day, and in the face of an overwhelming fire threat, that is true. The question must be: what can you do before that day arrives? Hopefully, this report is greeted in that way.

The committee, as I said, has made 38 recommendations. I will go through a few of them to point out the issues that we have covered. In particular, recommendation 2 says:

The Committee recommends that the ACT Government issue an annual statement of resources for each Strategic Bushfire Management Plan produced prior to the start of each bushfire season.

The point of the audit report was that we seem to have this model, “We’ve got some resources. How can we use them to fight fires?” instead of saying, “What is the fire threat and what resources are needed to make the community safe?” It is important that we get that right. I have used some of the words from the Auditor-General’s report. One of the recommendations was that there must be an explicit list of resources. Including that “explicit list” means that you have to detail what the threat is and what you need to combat that threat. When we asked that question, one of the responses from the then minister, Mr Corbell, was that “explicitly we have a rural fire service”. If you are going to take that attitude, clearly we are not going to prepare the ACT properly for what might come.

Recommendations 3, 4 and 5 look at some work that the government has that was not released, including the advice that said that it could not release the list of privately owned assets. It is important that we know what we have here and what we are protecting, but if that is done behind the veil of secrecy it is hard to reach a reasonable conclusion about how effective the government has been.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video