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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 6 Hansard (22 June) . . Page.. 2357..


Mr Wood: How did he respond in 1999?

MR CORBELL: I think that was when Mr Smyth was minister for emergency services. Mr Deputy Speaker, I think no more needs to be said on that matter.

What's really important in this legislation is that, whilst there has been a very strong emphasis on fire emergency, it's equally important that members consider it in the context of emergencies overall. Ms Dundas, I think, has alluded to that point. Other members have chosen, I think, to focus too heavily on fire issues. Whilst there certainly is considerable reform in relation to organisational structure and control as it relates to fire response, it equally is a very important reform in the context of the management of emergencies in the territory overall.

Who is to say that the next emergency that we face may not be a flood? Or it may be a windstorm event. It could be any variety of events, which means that we have to have the effective governance arrangements in place to respond to it. And that is what this bill delivers; it is not just a bill that responds to the lessons particularly arising out of the two bushfire emergencies but responds to ensure we have effective governance and operational response in place for all emergencies.

Mr Smyth also made the point that he thinks a consultation process has been great but it is taking too long. Well, that's a bit like having a cake and trying to eat it too because really the issue is: if you want to get it right, you have to take the time to talk to people. And that is exactly what has occurred in this case. What we are talking about is the most fundamental reform of governance arrangements for emergency services in the ACT since self-government. It has been achieved in a way which, despite our jousting this evening, has reached a high level of consensus amongst everyone involved and has brought on board all the different emergency services, volunteers and paid officers. It has brought on board the community. It has brought on board all members of this place.

That is a significant achievement, but it is only an achievement that could have occurred with the time to do it, and that is exactly what the government and the minister have done. They have supported the commissioner and his staff in doing the work to get the agreement, to get this piece of legislation, on the table. This is a significant reform, one that I think will be long standing and one which will stand the ACT in good stead as we seek to learn the lessons of the past and prepare ourselves for the inevitable emergency which will occur in the future.

MR STEFANIAK (6.21): Mr Deputy Speaker, I actually congratulate everyone involved in finally getting this bill before the Assembly. I note with some amusement, I suppose, some of the comments made by Mr Corbell.

The government has had a considerable amount of time, and I seem to recall that this bill is not all that dissimilar to and indeed follows the same thrust as a bill which Mr Pratt introduced into this Assembly in September 2003. So I do not quite accept what Mr Corbell says there. I think that, if Mr Pratt, with his limited resources, could do that, then certainly the government has taken some time. But we are used to that with this government.


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