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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 12 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 3692..


MR CORBELL (continuing):

I believe that the proposition that has been put forward by ESA is a reasonable one because, as I have indicated to members, they will have the bank account. They will be the signatories to the bank account. They will be the ones depositing and withdrawing the money, and no-one else will have access to that bank account. That would seem to me to satisfy their concerns. But the government also has legitimate concerns, and they are entitled to be acknowledged as well. Those are the issues that need to be addressed.

It is not appropriate to revisit the legislation proposed by Mr Pratt. The absurd claim we hear from those opposite is that this somehow impacts on our operational response. What a load of nonsense! Is Mr Pratt seriously suggesting that volunteers will not hop on trucks and go to the fire if there is a fire call this afternoon? Of course they will, because that is what they are committed to doing. Is Mr Smyth seriously suggesting that incident control will be compromised because of a dispute about what bank account volunteers' donations go into? What absolute nonsense!

That is the sort of pathetic grandstanding we get from those opposite all the time. This has become a difficult issue because the compromise position put by the government has not resulted in agreement. But that is all right. We will sit down and keep working on it until we get agreement. That sort of grandstanding is not going to be agreed to by the government and we do not support revisiting this issue. The issue needs to be addressed in a way in which the government's legitimate responsibilities in terms of appropriate financial management are also recognised, along with the volunteers' need to have recognised their access to, and control of, funds raised by them.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra—Leader of the Opposition) (3.15): This particular standing order has been used on a number of occasions. Not very often, but on occasions, the Assembly simply gets it wrong and circumstances dictate that a matter must come back before the Assembly to be redecided. That has happened on occasions in the past, so that is an argument in favour of the motion to suspend standing orders.

This is a very difficult situation—it is a crucial situation. As Mr Smyth has said, we are facing a dreadful bushfire season. We have heard in this place that the heath country is going to be a real problem, and no-one quite knows how to handle that. We need every single volunteer and every person we have available. We need to ensure that people are, in fact, recruited. This matter has been in the Assembly a couple of times. A letter dated 20 November from Mr Barling, stating that the issue has caused a great deal of anger, distrust and angst to volunteers, has not helped retention issues and has also most likely damaged the recruitment of potential volunteers, demands action now.

The action is quite simple. I understand that all these accounts in the past have been audited. I ask the minister to point out when they have actually failed, when this actually has been a problem.

Mr Smyth: Who is he accusing of corruption?

MR STEFANIAK: I do not think that he is accusing anyone of corruption. It just seems that he is hell-bent on this going this way. Previously the system has worked very well. No-one has pointed out that the way it was done has failed. The volunteers, quite obviously, are very, very upset by this.


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