Boards of Inquiry are not courts and the hearings are not court cases, although there are some similarities. Unlike a court case, there are no pleadings to limit and define the issues, and the rules of evidence are respected but are not binding. The Board and parties have a limited capacity to provide expert and other evidence or to test witnesses. The focus for an Inquiry is on lessons learned from past actions to improve future outcomes, rather than on establishing legal consequences.

The conclusions reached by the Board in this report are based on information available to the Board in the short time frame set for the Inquiry and for those responding to it.

Recommendations, affirmations and future proposals

The Board has made 18 recommendations, taking into account issues raised by the Latrobe Valley community and the feasibility of implementation.

The Board has framed its recommendations broadly, so as not to constrain the best solutions by prescribing deadlines or particular details. A party’s failure to take appropriate notice of the recommendations may result in adverse findings being drawn in the future.

The Board has also made affirmations where the State or GDF Suez has already taken action, or have announced a commitment to undertake action in response to the Hazelwood mine fire. This proactive approach has been a positive feature of the Inquiry.

The Board has included affirmations in the report for several reasons:

  • where an action has been committed to, or is already underway, or has been funded,
    the Board considers that it did not have to make a separate recommendation
  • to record agreed actions and to bring them to the community’s attention
  • to record agreed actions to enable monitoring of them on the same basis as monitoring
    of recommendations.

The Board has not been able, in the time available, to explore all reform options in depth, or test good ideas against a cost/benefit analysis. However, the Board considers that some proposals, that have arisen over the course of this Inquiry, warrant further attention.