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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 15 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 4730..


MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

replaced by SES as per normal practice. I am advised that the team opted to purchase the chaps independently.

It is unfortunate that what I understand is a small number of volunteers have chosen to air their concerns in the media, rather than communicate with management of the SES or the ESA. As with all operations, this one will be reviewed and, where operations can be improved, they will be. It is vitally important that volunteers and other staff communicate their concerns to management so that they can be addressed. I know that the management of the four services, as well as of the ESA, are diligent when it comes to the safety of volunteers and staff and I have every confidence that anything that needs to be rectified will be as the debriefing from the storm cleanup continues.

I would like to pass on my congratulations to all who worked to clean up this city following the storm. It was a magnificent effort, one of which we should be proud.

Members: Hear, hear!

Emergency Services Authority-volunteers

MR PRATT: My question is to the minister for emergency services, Mr Hargreaves. On 29 November a notifiable instrument came into effect that effectively gags ESA volunteers, including ESA and RFS volunteers. You said here a few moments ago that this guidance is essential. We agree that guidance is essential.

Is it not the fact that this notifiable instrument allows volunteers to be disciplined, suspended or terminated, for almost any reason? The scope of this instrument appears to be so broad in fact that a volunteer could even be terminated without external appeal rights, simply because they complained about something like a lack of essential equipment.

Minister, despite what you said a few minutes ago, why has your government brought in such discriminatory legislation that could prevent volunteers notifying their superiors about genuine problems, for fear of reprisals?

MR HARGREAVES: There are two points. One is that I have just answered all the question. I suspect that Mr Pratt's mind must have been in Bhutan or Nepal or somewhere because it certainly was not with us just a couple of minutes ago. I find quite amusing the speed with which Mr Pratt is able to make a complete fool of himself. I am staggered by the speed.

These guidelines, in fact, provide protection for volunteers against unfair dismissal. That is what they do. They provide guidelines. This crowd opposite espouse their blessed leader, John Howard, and his draconian IR laws, which have absolutely no protections whatsoever. These guidelines set the parameters around which chief officers have to operate in the event of an incident or issue concerning the behaviour of one of the volunteers. They afford volunteers protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, as I understand it. They allow them to make a logical or structured-that is a better word-complaint to the Ombudsman.


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