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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 10 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 3041..

Emergency Services Agency—management

MR MULCAHY: My question is to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. Minister, the headquarters communications and operational management capability in the Emergency Services Agency has been split for approximately 18 months between Curtin and Fairbairn. On 4 October, the first day of total fire ban for this season, it was necessary for significant elements of the RFS headquarters operational and communications staff to relocate from Fairbairn to the ESA communications centre at Curtin. Minister, why was it not possible to manage the total fire ban with RFS headquarters staff located at Fairbairn?

MR CORBELL: I thank Mr Mulcahy for the question. This was a very deliberate decision on the part of the ESA, and the reason for it was to ensure that the RFS duty officer was talking face to face with the fire brigade and Comcen officers to ensure that we respond the best available unit in the event of a fire in the ACT. The reason we have done this is that one of the complaints I have heard time and again from volunteers in the Rural Fire Service is that they make their time available, they stand up at their sheds or wait in their vehicles on a high fire danger day, they hear a fire called in over the radio, they know it is near their shed, and they know they can respond quickly, but in the past what we have seen is other units responded further away because the call goes to the fire brigade rather than to the rural fire service.

The whole point of bringing the RFS duty officer and some other personnel into the Comcen and into Curtin is to short-circuit that process, to deal with that issue and to ensure that RFS units, where available and the most appropriate units, are despatched. That is what we are doing, because I want to make sure that we are using our fire services most effectively, most responsibly. I want to see volunteers, where they are available, being deployed to the nearest fire if it is close to their location. We have volunteers who put in a lot of time and a lot of effort into training, but they need to be given the practical experience of responding to fires as and when they occur. If they are the closest available unit and the most appropriate unit they should be responded, and that is the purpose of this change in procedure.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Mulcahy, do you have a supplementary question?

MR MULCAHY: Yes. I thank the minister for the answer but I have a supplementary question. Why have you allowed crucial elements of the Emergency Services Agency's headquarters staff to remain separated for so long, and how much has been expended to maintain both facilities?

MR CORBELL: I have answered that question previously in answers to questions on notice provided to Mr Pratt. I draw Mr Mulcahy's attention to those.

Schools—capital expenditure

MS PORTER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question, through you, is to the minister for education. Can the minister please inform the Assembly of the capital upgrades that are being undertaken in ACT public schools?

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