Firestorm Hero Villified

Flames Consume ACT Labor

Bushfire fear permeates the ACT once again and all due to political intransigence along with having the arrogance to ignore Coroner Doogan’s main recommendation.

ACT Labor politicians are being held accountable for inadequacies and failures to heed the advice of renown Coroner, Maria Doogan and other experts, now have the temerity to attack one of the many on-fire-ground heroes of the 2003 holocaust.

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 2 Hansard (8 March) . . Page.. 379..
Bushfires—coronial inquest

MR SMYTH: My question is to the minister for emergency services. Minister, Coroner Doogan has recommended that the emergency services bureau should be a statutory authority. You ignored her findings, instead restructuring the ESA. On ABC radio this morning, Val Jeffrey,(pictured) a volunteer with over 50 years of valuable experience of bushfire management said regarding the restructure, “This is a recipe for another 2003 or worse.”Minister, why haven’t we learnt the lessons from the 2003 bushfire that the ESA should be a statutory authority?

MR CORBELL: (pictured) Mr Jeffrey is a very excellent firefighter. He is not, though, a man with experience or significant understanding of the needs and demands of managing a large public sector organisation. I will respect Mr Jeffrey’s views on firefighting and his experience in that regard. I ask that he respects the views of those professionals we engage to manage our emergency services.

MR SMYTH: I ask a supplementary question. Minister, why have you ignored the recommendations of both Coroner Doogan and Mr McLeod on the matter of the ESA being a statutory authority?

The arrogance of Corbell to assume he is in a position whilst under parliamentary privilege, to publicly denigrate Mr Jeffrey, is being treated here with the same contempt his insinuations deserve.

Mr Val Jeffrey, is as respected in the ACT and Tharwa society as a citizen gets. A man that has been a stalwart of management, human resource control, campaigner for his community, businessman, father and all round Australian Icon, now has to suffer slights from the likes of this contemptuous little upstart of the council chambers of the ACT shire.

To add insult to injury, this pratt Corbell, was actually being questioned on bushfire protection and services to the ACT and Val Jeffrey, not only being recommended by Coroner Doogan to be part of the rebuild of Corbell’s government’s failed emergency response organisation, has to be considered amongst the 5 most competent people in the ACT to be part of the necessary restructuring management team.

As for being able to understand the needs and demands of managing a large public sector organisation; I’ll bet Mr Jeffrey has a bloody better idea as how to do it properly as opposed to the deadly results of the incompetence we have seen in the past in the ACT.

Tharwa, under Val Jeffrey’s management achieved during January 2003, everything that the Corbell fiasco of an emergency response management team, could only lament over; as they surveyed the charred remains of Canberran suburbs.

As the bushfires steadily grew in intensity, Val Jeffery, the captain of the Southern District Volunteer Bushfire Brigade, became concerned his small rural hamlet of Tharwa would lie in the path of the blaze, so he took it upon himself to prepare his community for a possible onslaught.

“I’m sure that Tharwa village and Cupacumbalong would have been destroyed completely if we hadn’t done the backburn the night before and hadn’t done the preparation,” said Jeffery.

When the fire eventually did sweep over Tharwa on Saturday, January 18, not a single home was lost. Jeffery is convinced that much of the damage inflicted on Canberra’s suburbs may have been avoided if the city had been similarly prepared.

Indeed, many Canberra residents who lost everything in the firestorm believe that ACT authorities failed to give them enough warning about the true extent of the fire.

ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope concedes that in hindsight, the bush capital could have been better prepared: “We went for over 50 years without a single loss of a single piece of property and I think during that period we did perhaps become complacent, we forgot the fury of bushfires, we forgot the fury of nature and the extent to which we as the bush capital were exposed to bushfires. That was a savage lesson for us to learn or to re-learn.”

Even after they knew they were in deep doo doo that star of the council chamber, Jon Stanhope, said, “If there is blame to apportion, it is mine.” Or words to the same effect. Very soon thereafter deflected blame’s acceptance and spent 2 million dollars of tax payers money seeing he and his council stayed free of this blame and for all we know, the meter is still ticking.

The fear is, that the ACT Supreme Court is again struggling with the continuance of the attempt to politically assassinate Coroner Doogan’s exemplary inquiry and definitive findings in a manner that will satisfy everything; but the truth. We shall see.

The last time the public respected the skills of the upper management professionals such as Simon Corbell & co, a disaster of historical proportions, swept the ACT.

The reason Val Jeffrey and people like him are so concerned they are again speaking out, is, once more they see the very same dangers that confronted the ACT in December 2002, manifested itself in 2003 and in 2008, the officially published coronial truth is still fighting those that wish it to be rewritten.

Brumbyy (with2Y’s)

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