ACT government releases official bushfire inquest response

ACT government releases official bushfire inquest response

27 February 2007

published by

Australia — The ACT government hasreleased its official response to Coroner Maria Doogan’s report into the 2003Canberra bushfire, just a day before chief minister Jon Stanhope faces a noconfidence motion in the legislative assembly over his handling of the disaster.

AttorneyGeneral Simon Corbell said the government acknowleged the loss of lives – fourpeople were killed in the fire – and the “individual, family and communitysense of grief” arising from the bushfires.

“Thegovernment also acknowledges the social, economic and general environment coststhat may last for decades,” he said.

Theattorney-general said the government accepted most of the 73 recommendations,after giving the report careful consideration.

“Ihave written to Coroner Doogan to inform her that the government agrees with61of the 73 recommendations she put forward in her report,” he said.

“Fifty-oneof the Coroner’s recommendations have either been implemented or partiallyimplemented since 2003.”

MrCorbell said some of the recommendations that had already been acted upon were:

  • Arrangements to give the ACT community adequate warning about any possible or likely threats, any time of the day or night.
  • The ACT All Hazards Warning System
  • Improved radio communications for emergency services personnel, including across the border, with the introduction of the Trunked Radio Network (TRN)
  • Community education on how to prepare for bushfires.

Theattorney-general said the ACT government accepted Coroner Doogan’s views aboutbureaucracy.

“Thereshouldn’t be layers of bureaucracy between the ESA and the minister through theDepartment of Justice and Community Safety,” he said.

“But(the government) disagrees with her recommendation for emergency services tooperate again as a statutory authority.”

Mr Corbell said the ESA maintainedoperational autonomy and had a “direct line” to the minister at anytime.

“Operationalautonomy for the ESA is a fundamental agreement between the government and thedepartment and is enshrined in legislation. As such the ESA does not have to bea stand-alone organisation to maintain operational autonomy,” he said.

TheACT government has also rejected the Coroner’s recommendation for a separateCourts Administration Authority.

Mr Corbell said it would createunnecessary administrative duplication.

“Andhave significant resource implications that should not be imposed on ACTtaxpayers,” he said.

The attorney-general also said the ACTgovernment had allocated more than $100 million over the past three years to therecovery effort.

Chief minister Jon Stanhope has notreleased a statement to the media on the government’s official response.

He is due to face a no confidence motionin the legislative assembly tomorrow, brought by the Liberals who say he oughtto be held responsible for the lack of warning given to residents before thefirestorm struck Canberra in January 2003.

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