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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 2 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 236..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

He said that this is not a single fire service, and that is interesting because in his speech he actually said what we have now got is integrated command and control, and that means a single command and control system, which means a single fire service. What we will end up with is one individual running the fire service, the Rural Fire Service and the state emergency service, and that means in effect, Mr Speaker, as well you know, a single fire service. It might not be called that; it has been achieved by different means.

There is a huge amount of angst, particularly amongst those volunteers that were briefed last night, at the lack of consultation. They see that their reward for the fine service that they put in place in 2003 is to have their services, both the SES and the RFS, downgraded. And that is what has happened here. This government, in its thankyou to the emergency services, to the SES and RFS people who went out and did the job when they were required, and are still doing the job, particularly in all the storms we have had recently and in some of the bushfires they have fought in the ACT, in New South Wales and in Victoria, is not allowing them to be represented individually, stand-alone, at the level that they have had at least since 2003; it is actually going to downgrade them and somebody else will represent them. According to the government, somebody else can do that better. But how somebody who is not a specialist in the Rural Fire Service and state emergency services can represent those organisations better is beyond me.

Public housing

MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella-Minister for the Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Housing and Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (5.21): Mr Speaker, I was not able to make a speech in the matter of public importance, but I think it is important that I put a few issues on the record.

As the Minister for Housing I am highly aware of the housing affordability pressures faced by many in our community, particularly low-income earners in the territory. There is no doubt that the most affordable housing is public housing, where tenants will never pay more than 25 per cent of their household income as rent, and this is considerably below the rents paid in the private sector, even with the commonwealth rent assistance. People are said to be in housing stress if they pay 30 per cent of their income in rent.

In addition to the Stanhope government's focus on affordable housing issues, the continued provision of public and community housing plays a vital role in relieving housing stress. This year the budget for Housing ACT was $104.6 million-that is $104.6 million spent by this government on the most affordable housing in the ACT.

In the ACT, public and community housing are the main providers of low-cost accommodation. Unlike other cities, where churches or other organisations, even private landlords, provide an alternative low-cost accommodation option, in the ACT there are few options apart from social housing.

In addition to our recurrent expenditure the ACT government provides an asset worth $3 billion for affordable housing, and Housing ACT remains the biggest landlord in

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