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Opposition Leader discusses Canberra bushfires.

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Subjects: Canberra Bushfires

HADLEY: Federal Opposition Leader Simon Crean has been visiting fire-affected areas in Canberra this morning. He says he’s shocked by the devastation bushfires have caused in the ACT, and he’s on line. Mr Crean, g’day.

CREAN: Hello, Ray. How are you?

HADLEY: Not bad. A pretty ordinary morning for the people of Canberra, after a very ordinary weekend. What’s it look like now?

CREAN: Well, it was really an outrageous weekend. I mean, it was a weekend of devastation for them. It’s a bit like a lull now, because they’re expecting the worst of the weather to come down on the weekend, so there’s a lot of containment

activity. But the devastation is incredible out here - families lives are turned upside down. Four casualties, of course, as you know.

But great community spirit - I mean, that’s the other thing that just keeps coming through all the time. And I’m out visiting a St Vinnie’s food wagon, mobile food wagon, serving the community, the displaced people in the houses who have gone back to look over the properties, but to feed them, to nurture them, to support them. So it’s great to see that sort of activity happening, Ray.

HADLEY: I guess one of the things is that you spend a lot of your time in Canberra. It’d be hard to find someone that either lives there or visits there regularly who hasn’t been affected - you know, their staff, friends, family that actually have lost their home, because 417 houses is a lot of houses.

CREAN: It is, and it’s been like a second home to me, and I’ve got a place up here that I share with some colleagues. But that was the point about Saturday afternoon. When I first heard it on the news just coming back late in the afternoon,



I rang a number of my colleagues to see how they were, many on my staff to see how they were.

One of my former colleagues had lost his house, so I spoke with him that night, and just heard the circumstances in which he was so lucky to get out with his life. It brings it a lot closer to home. But, you see, when you’ve got that sort of personal understanding and can relate to it over the phone, it’s dramatic enough. But to actually come out and see people who you’ve never met before, when you listen to their stories, empathise with them, but see the relief on their faces that they survived. It’s emotion that they’ve lost all of their personal belongings, you know, things that they just can’t replace. It’s the sort of finality of those things, but it’s a lot of mixture of emotions that comes out. And I think it’s terribly important for those of us who are in positions of authority and leadership that we understand that and can identify with the emotions, because it’s terribly important in determining what the policy responses should be.

HADLEY: Well, I think that’s one thing you do share with the Prime Minister. You’re both blokes who get there when things happen and try and help in a tangible way, and for that you should be congratulated. One positive to come out of this terrible tragedy - it’s not just the people of Canberra and the ACT pulling together, it’s the whole of the country.

CREAN: Exactly, and that’s, I think, a good lesson for governments in those circumstances, Ray - that governments should pull together. And that’s why this silly stuff that some in the Prime Minister’s government - not the Prime Minister - but he should take them to task. I mean, this sort of nit-picking and blame-placing at the moment, that’s the last thing these people who have suffered the trauma and the loss want to hear. Of course they’ll want to know what the answers are and what the causes were and analyse that carefully, but for people to embark on this blame-placing is just totally inappropriate at the moment.

HADLEY: That’s perhaps the best word. And I thank you for your time, Mr Crean. All the best.

CREAN: Thanks very much, Ray.

HADLEY: We’ll talk to you through the New Year. Simon Crean, Opposition Leader in Canberra there.