The last attack on findings and report ACT Coroner Maria Doogan furnished on the 2003 Bushfire “The Canberra Firestorm” inferno that destroyed much of the Snowy Mountains, has been vidicated with one clause only remoevd. Suburbs of Canberra with loss of human life, was nothing short of a holocaust perpetuated by massive fuel loads on the ground coupled to much incompetent management and fire control.
The hero’s were the wonderful volunteer fire fighters on the ground, subjected to much inefficient control, and thank God some dismissed obvious bad decisions handed out, and went on to save towns, livestock, homes and such from their sheer experience of bushfires that these “pamphlet professors” totally lack from books written by inexperienced so called experts.
There has been a concentrated effort to shut up Coroner Doogan by the ACT government and those she exposed for their contribution to the bloody mess and bureaucratic bungling that existed then and to worry us further these people are still holding down jobs of management in the life support system of the ACT Public Service.
Further, Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope is the main man in this drive to cover-up Maria Doogan’s report findings, and as expected, has implemented what he feels is warranted not the recommendations as presented. He has been holding off until this judgement was handed down, but business as usual we can expect.
Stanhope on the day of the fires entering Canberra, took it upon himself to become there and then “Minster For Emergency Services” which in it’s self shows a lack of confidence in his party people on the front bench. His qualifications and ability for this pending important portfolio was revealed by the destruction of the ACT that pursued.
Not happy at the findings in evidence that they were culpable of being well out of their depth, and having unlimited taxpayer money to take Coroner Doogan to the Supreme Court (TWICE) with a massive legal team of dollar leaches champing bit to frenzy feed at the peoples money tin.
We mentions these Public Servants who could not accept the umpires decision that you may form your opinion of from the data available:
PETER LUCAS-SMITH First Plaintiff – Chief Fire Control Officer for the ACT
MIKE CASTLE Second Plaintiff – Executive Director of the ACT Emergency Services Bureau
RICHARD McRAE Third Plaintiff – Manager of the Risk Management Unit
TONY GRAHAM Fourth Plaintiff – Operations Manager
Below is the actual proceedings that were instigated by one Peter Lucas Smith, Chief Fire Control Officer for the ACT, who, along with the other three, were mortally wounded by Corner Doogan as a major players in the fiasco of the 2003 bushfire from evidence presented to her at the Coronial Inquiry.
PETER LUCAS-SMITH & ORS v CORONER’S COURT OF THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY & ORS
COURTS AND TRIBUNALS – “The Canberra firestorm” – bush fire coronial inquest – the issue for consideration by the inquest – ’cause and origin of a fire that has destroyed or damaged property’ – adverse comments made by coroner against persons responsible for controlling and suppressing rural fires – application to have adverse comments made quashed – coroners obligation to afford procedural fairness – natural justice – attribution of blame – jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to quash adverse comments or order fresh inquiry – exclusion of consideration of the actions of the NSW authorities
CORONERS ACT 1997 (ACT) – ability of the Coroner to make adverse comments – s18 jurisdiction of the Coroner – whether the attribution of blame exceeds the authority of the Coroner – compliance with the legislation – form of notice under s 55 ‘notice of intended adverse comments’ – limitation of s 93 – ability of parties to respond to s 55 notice – the Coroner’s discretion to make comment on matters ‘connected with’ the fire – whether the comments made by the Coroner were open on the evidence
HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 2004 (ACT) – s 12(b) – right to vindicate reputation
JURISDICTION – jurisdiction of Coroner – whether the Coroner incorrectly define her jurisdiction – the Australian constitution – s 122- power to make laws having an extraterritorial effect – scope of inquiry – issue at inquest – inquiry need not be confined by ACT border – sufficient connection to the ACT – limited by relevance
EVIDENCE – appointment of consultant expert by the Coroner – witness testimony – ostensible bias – preference of the evidence of one particular witness not evidence of bias – whether a fair minded lay observer would reasonably apprehend bias
From the 68 page Judgement this section mentions from Coroners Doogan’s Coronial Report her findings of Mr Graham from facts presented;
Comment n.3: (Vol. II, p 31)
Although Mr Graham might have believed he had sufficient training in the concepts and practices of incident management, he did not, in my view, have the experience in and knowledge of fire behaviour and fire-suppression tactics that were needed to satisfy the requirements of the position of Operations Officer from the start of the fires. Mr Graham did not accept this, but it is a fact. Mr Graham took the position of Manager Operations with the Emergency Services Bureau in mid-1997. Before that, he worked in the ACT Department of Urban Services, being involved with management systems and the Department of Defence, in staff development. Before having these positions, Mr Graham had a career history that saw him predominantly in the Royal Australian Navy, for 21 years, most of which was spent in the field of catering. During his time in the Navy his firefighting experience had been limited to the occasional grass fire near a naval shore establishment. Mr Graham had some limited experience as a volunteer firefighter and had received a little bushfire training; he had acted as an incident controller on two or three occasions. He had never actually fought a fire by holding a hose or using a rake- hoe, and he had no training in fire behaviour. Combined, these factors made him inexperienced and unqualified and unsuitable for the position he held as Operations Officer of the service management team from 8 January 2003 onwards.
Comment n.4: (Vol II, p 31)
This approach differs from the one adopted by Mr Graham, who did not appear to recognise the urgency of the situation and the need for a maximum and sustained response involving appropriate personnel and heavy machinery. Mr Graham did not understand the significance of the typical five- to seven- day summer weather pattern referred to by many other witnesses, and he was incorrect when he asserted in his statement that night-time operations are usually conducted once strategies have changed from direct to indirect attack.
To read this Judgement in full, go to ACT Courts Website and download it at
The bottom line of the Judgment handed down by Judge C. J Higgins, in the Supreme Court of the ACT, on 8th April 2009 was as follows
The comments made by the Coroner were, no doubt, expressed somewhat harshly. However, the loss and suffering caused by the fires was a circumstance that would excite scrutiny. It is true that the comments, understandably, they being “adverse”, do not fully acknowledge the good the plaintiffs did. They did their best. It was not, in the Coroner’s view “the best”. She was entitled so to conclude. It may also be acknowledged that even the worst case scenario was exceeded in the firestorm that struck on 18 January 2003.
Nevertheless, it was the Coroner’s duty to examine the cause and origins of the firestorm and the circumstances surrounding it and, within those limits make recommendations and comment, honestly and without fear or favour. That she did.
The plaintiffs’ applications, save as relates to comment n.25, are dismissed.
Taxpayers of the ACT, herald the legal teams that accepted payments, of which we may never, ever, ever, know the amount, to conduct this public servant backside preservation that resulted in the removal of one clause, and substantiated Coroner Doogan’s findings and report…
Counsel for the First, Second, Third and Fourth Plaintiffs:
Mr J L Glisson QC with Mr P A Walker and Mr S M Whybrow
Solicitor for the First, Second, Third and Fourth Plaintiffs:
Rachel Bird & Co
Counsel for the First and Third Defendant:
Mr R Brett QC with Mr E Woodward
Solicitor for the First Defendant: ACT Government Solicitor
Solicitor for the Third Defendant: Director of Public Prosecutions for the ACT
Counsel for the Second Defendant: Mr B Walker SC with Mr C Erskine
Solicitor for the Second Defendant:
Meyer Vandenberg Lawyers agent for NSW Department of the Environment and Conservation
Counsel for the Intervener:Dr Mellissa Perry QC
Solicitor for the Intervener: ACT Government Solicitor