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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17131

Mr TUCKEY (Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government) (12:56 PM) —I thank the House for giving me five minutes to respond to those questions. I might start with the member for Corio, who is leaving the chamber—no, he is not; I think he is going to stay. Page 3,827 of the Hansard of the Queensland parliament records that on 22 October 2002 Premier Beattie gave an answer to the House on the matter of the national firefighting strategy. In other words, a colleague independent of the debate in here told the House what the arrangements were for this much vaunted strategy. He said:

Queensland has been participating in a project to develop a national aerial firefighting strategy. The project commenced as a result of the concerns arising from the New South Wales bushfires in late 2001 and early 2002. The Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. John Anderson, wrote to the New South Wales Premier offering assistance—

which happened to be $50,000—

to coordinate the development of a joint proposal amongst the states and territories on cost-effective options for improving Australia's aerial firefighting capacity.

That was an invitation for the responsible state governments, under their land management responsibilities, to start to—

Mr Gavan O'Connor —I seek to ask a question of the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins)—Minister, will you allow a question?

Mr TUCKEY —Yes, go on, ask a question and waste more time.

Mr Martin Ferguson —You would not answer him anyhow. Hit him with an iron bar, you old fogy.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! Members should realise that they are not immune from the standing orders whilst in the Main Committee. To assist the chair and for very strong reasons, the honourable member for Batman will rise and withdraw his statement.

Mr Martin Ferguson —I withdraw the reference to the minister as an old fogy.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for Corio has an intervention, which I take it the minister is allowing.

Mr Gavan O'Connor —Minister, could you confirm for this House that on 2 April 2002 you said that the government was developing a national firefighting strategy.

Mr TUCKEY —I am quite happy to say that we are participating in a process. What I am also prepared to point out is that all the hoo-ha that the member for Corio has raised over a period of time relates to a report that was best described, as I have just indicated, by Premier Beattie, a very successful Labor leader who actually is in government. What I am saying is that this related to firefighting suppression. The strategy that we are trying to establish with the relevant authorities, of which the Commonwealth government is not one, is a process whereby we look at both prevention and suppression. We gave the money to the states to do what they have been doing in Canada for 30 years where, due to the very high costs, the various provinces who own aerial firefighting assets have arrangements whereby those assets are moved around like chess pieces to address fire wherever it is.

If everybody thinks—and the member for Corio clearly does—that this is the be-all and end-all in aerial firefighting assets, let me remind them that on the day Canberra burned these assets were all sitting on the ground because they could not operate in the conditions. Canberra burned because there were no preventive measures in the surrounding forest and because the energy released from the fires and all the ground cover was equal to an atom bomb dropped on Japan. The fact is that the question was asked. Last year the Commonwealth voluntarily provided $8.5 million to assist in the import and operation of the Elvis helicopters. (Time expired)