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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 2 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 201..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

from Mr Pratt. He would be out there in the command vehicle, directing people on the ground: "I'm the minister; I know what I'm doing."

That is not the way it works. The way it works is this: what I have announced today removes levels of bureaucracy within the ESA and allows us to focus more resources within the organisation on the sharp end-on response, on training, on capability, on community education, on risk management. That is what I have announced today. Instead of having four chief officers, one for each service, we will have those positions combined into two positions, two deputy commissioners-one responsible for ambulance and associated matters and the other in relation to fire and rescue services, so that would be the fire brigade, the rural fire service, the SES in particular, and a range of other support functions.

This eliminates bureaucracy within the organisation and it allows the commissioner and his staff to focus more resources on the front end. It means we can invest more in training, it means we can invest more in capability, it means we can invest more in risk management-and we can do so in a coordinated way. It makes no sense to me that we have four services, each with their own risk management and risk development, risk assessment areas. Why can't these skills be shared within and across the four emergency services? And this is one way of achieving that.

But perhaps the most important reform and the most important outcome we want to achieve in relation to fire services is to make sure that we have the most appropriate unit and the closest available unit respond to an incident. That is achieved through the unified command arrangements that I and Commissioner Manson have announced today. So, instead of saying that something is the fire brigade's job because it is in X area, or it is the rural fire service's job because it is in Y area, we are saying, "This is the nature of the incident. Which is the closest available unit? Send that unit."The fact that you have unified command means that the person in charge can take that across-service look at what is available and respond the units accordingly.

I know that one of the things that annoy volunteers the most is when they are stood up at a shed, ready to go, and they hear the fire call, the white message, coming over the radio; they know they are the closest unit-and what do they see? They see some other unit being dispatched down the road in front of them, going to the fire instead. That occurs because we take a service-specific approach to how we allocate resources to incidents.

What we are doing through a unified command is allowing an across-service approach to how we manage incidents. So it is the best and most appropriate unit and the closest available unit that gets responded. That is one of the issues we are trying to address through this new unified command arrangement. We are not combining the fire services; we are not saying there will be a single fire service. We continue to have two different fire services, because they have different cultures and different approaches-and those are acknowledged and respected. But we are seeking to ensure that when it comes to the distribution of those resources they are done in the most efficient way and the most sensible way, and I think that is something volunteers and full-time firefighters will support.

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