TWM ACT BUSHFIRES  Jan, 2003

Stanhope admits 'systemic' fire failures
www.theage.com.au  December 20, 2006
There were systemic failures in the ACT government's lack of warnings to Canberrans ahead of the 2003 firestorm which ripped through the western suburbs of the city, Chief Minister Jon Stanhope says.
"There were systemic failures," Mr Stanhope told ABC Radio today.
The ACT Opposition is calling for Mr Stanhope to quit after coroner Maria Doogan yesterday put much of the responsibility for the firestorm at his feet.
Mr Stanhope said he feels enormous regret about the delays caused by the litigation initiated by the ACT government and others against the Coroner, Maria Doogan.
The lawsuit delayed the coronial inquiry by about 12 months, stretching the whole process out to three-and-a-half-years and adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to the estimated $6.5 million bill.
Mrs Doogan was eventually cleared of any perceived bias claims and the inquiry continued.
"I do regret that delay and to the extent to which it added to people's grief, enhanced their anger and caused distress. I am sorry and I do apologise for the extra grief and anger that particular delay caused," Mr Stanhope told ABC Radio.
Mr Stanhope said if he had his time again he would not have lodged the apprehended bias application...
Mr Stanhope said there were systemic failures in the emergency services system, but said they should not happen again... Mr Stanhope said even though he rejected some of the comments made about him in the report, it was a thorough and helpful document... Mr Stanhope said he had no intention of challenging the report.
"I certainly won't, absolutely not."
AAP


Stanhope defiant on calls to quit
The Australian December 20, 2006
ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has refused to resign over his Government's handling of the 2003 Canberra bushfires, describing the Coroner's findings as "inaccurate".
The Coroner was highly critical of Mr Stanhope's actions.
"As Chief Minister, I accept overall political responsibilities for the actions of my Government, but I have no intention at all of resigning," Mr Stanhope said yesterday. Claims that the ACT cabinet was warned of the threat to property in Canberra two days before the 2003 bushfires struck were false, Mr Stanhope said. Coroner Maria Doogan said the ACT Government had been briefed about the bushfires, which had broken containment lines and were headed towards suburban areas of Canberra, but that it had failed to adequately warn residents of the danger.  Mr Stanhope disputed this...
Mr Stanhope said that the ACT Government would prepare a detailed response to the Coroner's criticisms by February. Mrs Doogan slammed the Government's Emergency Services Bureau for inadequately planning for, and fighting, the bushfires which killed four people and destroyed hundreds of homes. The ACT's Liberals leader, Bill Stefaniak, said the findings showed that the Government was ultimately responsible for the blaze... Mr Stanhope should resign, the ACT's Opposition Leader said, adding that "the Government needs to take a long hard look at this". "The buck does stop with the Chief Minister," he said.
 Additional reporting: AAP


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