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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 2 Hansard (25 February) . . Page.. 394..


Ambulance Service

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, my question is to Mr Humphries as Minister for Emergency Services. Minister, I refer to a media statement issued by your office, dated 24 February this year and entitled "Ambulance crewing and response to be reviewed". In your statement you claimed that recruiting of ambulance officers to cover the fifth crew is taking longer than expected. On 24 September last year you released a media statement in which you claimed the extra full-time ambulance crew to staff the fifth ambulance would operate from 1 October last year, that is, just under seven days after you released the media statement of 24 September. Minister, how do you reconcile these two diametrically opposed statements?

MR HUMPHRIES: Quite simply. One was a prediction of what we were going to be able to do - - -

Mr Corbell: It was a promise.

MR HUMPHRIES: All right; I concede that.

MR SPEAKER: Order! Mr Corbell is entitled to have an answer to the question.

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I concede that it was a promise. Yes, we did promise a fifth crew. The Opposition is chasing a sort of a will-o'-the-wisp. I do not pretend that we did not promise to deliver a fifth crew. In that respect, Mr Speaker, I make no bones about the fact that we have not been able to deliver a full-time fifth crew from 1 October as promised, if you like, Mr Corbell.

However, I have to say to you that it is not because of any lack of money; it is not because of any lack of effort or conviction on the part of the Government that that is the case. The fact is that that has not proved possible. Mr Speaker, I cannot say when people are going to retire unexpectedly from the service, fall sick or become injured and not be able to continue in the service. I do not know when that will be the case. We anticipated being able to start the service from 1 October, and substantially we did. As the figures I have shown indicate, the service did operate substantially from that date.

Mr Whitecross: No, it did not.

MR HUMPHRIES: It did. Mr Speaker, in October just over half of the shifts available were covered by 41/2 or five crews. In November that rose to 77 per cent. In December it fell back to 71 per cent. I do not know why that was. In January it rose to 80 per cent. In February it has been, on my advice, 80 per cent. If you expect Ministers to be able to prevent eventualities like people resigning from frustrating promises, then let me say you are setting yourselves a very high bar to jump over as the alternative government. We made a promise in good faith and we funded that promise.

Mr Berry: It was not a core promise.

MR SPEAKER: Order!


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