Court challenge to bushfire report

Courtchallenge to bushfire report

27 February 2007

published by

Australia — The coronial report into Canberra’s devastating 2003 bushfires,which sparked tomorrow’s rare motion of no-confidence against Chief Minister JonStanhope, is set to be challenged in the ACT Supreme Court.

The court’s registrar confirmed yesterday an appeal had been lodged, thoughno further details were released.

It is understood prominent Canberra barrister Steven Whybrow has coordinatedthe challenge.

Mr Whybrow represented several of the officials who were involved in fightingthe fires throughout the inquest.

He did not return calls yesterday.

ACT Coroner Maria Doogan’s damning findings, issued two months ago ,lambasted senior emergency services officials for failing to warn residents,despite knowing the fires would burn into the suburbs.

She singled out four officials for criticism, saying Emergency ServicesBureau executive director Mike Castle, chief fire control officer PeterLucas-Smith, planning officer Rick McRae and operations manager Tony Graham”all recognised the potential for fires to impinge on the urban edge sometime during the afternoon or evening of the day” .

She also found Mr Stanhope, the responsible minister on the worst day of thedisaster, and his cabinet knew of the dangers it posed but downplayed the crisison radio.

The firestorm killed four people, injured 435 others, destroyed 487 homes andcaused at least $610million damage.

It is believed a number of the officials are behind the appeal; however,though those contacted by The Canberra Times yesterday did not wish to comment.

The Government funded a Supreme Court bid two years ago to remove Mrs Dooganfrom the inquest, after several senior public servants claimed she had attemptedto suppress evidence.

The court later rejected the bid.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell said last night the Government had no part inthe latest challenge.

“This is an action by an individual or individuals who have beenadversely named in the report.

“But the Government is not involved in funding the action and has norole in approving the action.”

Mr Corbell also confirmed last night he would issue the Government’s responseto each of Mrs Doogan’s 73 recommendations today.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien