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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 8 Hansard (30 August) . . Page.. 2394..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

And he quotes from the Hansard where Mr Corbell said:

... and the invitation was made for further discussion on the details of that in the coming weeks. The response, regrettably, of the volunteers in this regard was not to come back with further comment, not to seek further meetings, but to hold the rally they did today.

That is their decision. They are entitled to approach it in that manner. But the offer was made at the time for further discussion.

In his letter, Mr Barling went on to say:

... that the volunteers were offered an opportunity for further discussions, that they refused an invitation to have further discussions on the restructure and that they chose to have a rally as an alternative to further discussions. The transcript implies that the volunteers were unreasonable and uncooperative over the issue of the restructure.

The truth of the matter is that no invitation for further discussion regarding the restructure of the ESA was ever given to me personally—

that is, Pat Barling—

as President of the VBA, or to other delegates present for further discussion; in fact the door of consultation was slammed in our faces.

Bushfire volunteers pride themselves on their commitment to the ACT community and to have the Minister imply that they are unreasonable and uncooperative, from a future historical view of the issue, adversely affects their reputation.

The minister states previously in the Hansard of the same day:

"My door has always been open to volunteers. I have never refused a meeting. I have always sat down and talked to them. I have met with the VBA on numerous occasions."

For the Minister to claim that the VBA refused "to come back with further comments, not to seek further meetings"is offensive as the Minister knows full well that no invitation was made to the VBA. Again, he implies that the VBA are confrontationist and unwilling to discuss issues on the restructure, and that from a future historical view of this issue adversely affects the VBA's reputation.

The Minister knows full well the countless hours that I, as President of the VBA, have put in unpaid hours, in attending meetings with himself, the CEO of JaCS and the ESA Commissioner and Acting Commissioners to resolve issues relating to RFS & SES volunteers. He knows that I prefer to work with the various levels of management/bureaucracy and I have always tried to avoid "media events". For the Minister to imply that I would refuse to have a meeting on the restructure issue and would rather hold a 'media event' does my reputation a great disservice. I have never contacted the media, except in the case of official media releases as President of the VBA. The only exceptions to this have been when the media has, in fact, contacted me in response to statements and actions of the Minister, the Government, JaCS and the Commissioner.

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