Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 3 Hansard (15 March) . . Page.. 631..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
Respected and experienced volunteer leaders have said already that across the brigades and units their strength this bushfire season is down variously between 25 and 40 per cent. Minister, how will you maintain the current volunteers and recruit new volunteers and ensure that the goodwill of volunteers is not undermined?
MR CORBELL: I thank Mrs Dunne for the question. In the last budget we announced funding for additional recruitment and training of volunteers, and that was in the order of, if I recall correctly, between 60 and 80 additional RFS volunteers and around 20 to 40 SES volunteers. We have provided the additional money for training and equipment and I have to say that those recruitment efforts have been very successful. We have seen a significant influx of new RFS volunteers; I have certainly seen them in my own experience and I know that other brigades are also seeing significant numbers of new recruits. So we are doing that work on new recruitment.
Volunteering is always a challenging culture to maintain. There are so many pressures now on people's lives and time demands on them that it is difficult to keep people, especially for extended periods of time. But I know that the members of the RFS are overwhelmingly a very dedicated and committed bunch of people, and these are things that I continue to focus on in terms of providing additional opportunities for training and so on.
This only reinforces my point about why we need to do things like spend more money on training and why the restructure is all about that. If you continue to train your volunteers and give them the support, the refreshers, the skills development and the advancement that they deserve you are more likely to keep volunteers. That is what the restructure is all about. It is about spending more money on training, it is about spending more money on risk management and assessment and it is about spending money on the things that matter in keeping volunteers, in keeping a viable and effective emergency service organisation operating. That is the government's whole focus and that is the approach we will continue to adopt.
MRS DUNNE: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. Minister, how will you ensure that the core capabilities of the SES and the RFS are not further compromised through the loss of experienced volunteers? How will you replace those experienced people who resigned on you en masse this morning? And do you think that training will be enough to bring those people back?
MR CORBELL: The resignations this morning are obviously designed to make a political point and to put pressure on the government. There is no doubt about that, and they are entitled to do that. But, as I have said in my answers to previous questions, these matters can be resolved through dialogue and discussion. That is the most appropriate way forward and that is the approach we will endeavour to foster and continue to adopt.
MR SMYTH: My question is to the Chief Minister. Chief Minister, in question time on Tuesday you described this week's Four Corners program on the 2003 bushfire disaster as being an "excellent, objective and rigorous discussion"of the issues.