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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 8 Hansard (30 August) . . Page.. 2396..


MS PORTER (continuing):

reputation had been adversely affected. I believe that this is sensible. I think it is sensible that no further action be taken; it is the most appropriate course of action.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo-Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (11.13): Obviously, I am not privy to the deliberations of the committee in this regard and I really have no comment to offer in relation to the committee's decision: it is a matter for the committee. But it is clear that there is no agreement within the committee, and their recommendation is the most appropriate course in the circumstances that there is no agreement.

I want to put a couple of matters to rest. The first of these concerns any insinuation by those opposite that I misled this Assembly. Mr Smyth, rather cleverly in the John Howard sense of the word, tried to suggest that I had misled the Assembly, by reading from Mr Barling's correspondence. I do not resile from my comments. I believe that my comments made at the time were accurate. I am still of that view.

The volunteer brigades association took a particular course of action, and it was entirely within their prerogative to do so. They chose to take quite an overt form of political action; they are entitled to do that. But they chose also to enter into a very political dispute with the government. That becomes a matter of political debate; in a political debate, these matters become robust and people are entitled to assert their views. That was the environment we were in. It is a case of both parties having strong views. Well, that is the nature of political discussion. I do not resile from the comments I made. I believe that the comments I made at the time were accurate; I stand by those comments.

But in many respects I think this debate has progressed a bit from the point that Mr Smyth presents it being at. Clearly there continues to be a need for steps to be taken by all parties to build confidence and to build trust. Those are steps that I take very seriously. Since the resolution of the dispute, I have undertaken to meet every six weeks with representatives of the volunteer brigades association, the captains group and the fire controllers group from the RFS and the senior leadership group from the SES, along with the commissioner and the chief executive of my department, to discuss any issues of concern between the respective volunteer representatives, me and my senior management team.

That process is starting to bear some fruit. At those meetings we regularly discuss a very broad range of issues. The commissioner gives a detailed report on the implementation of the business plan for each of the volunteer services. Volunteers are welcome and encouraged to ask questions on any issues of concern—any points of clarification, any requests for further information. That is provided. Every six weeks I do that. I have done that twice so far. There is another meeting coming up in another two to three weeks. That is my commitment to maintaining a dialogue and building trust and confidence amongst all parties. I think that is the sensible way forward. I know that these meetings are welcomed by volunteer representatives.

Rebuilding relationships after what was quite a difficult dispute will always take time, but it is certainly getting there. I am very pleased with progress to date. The government always stands ready to have the discussion—to sit down and have the


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