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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 10 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 3659..


Emergencies (ESA) Amendment Bill 2009

Mr Smyth, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (11:09): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

I have much pleasure in presenting the Emergencies (ESA) Amendment Bill to the Assembly this morning. This bill has one important purpose: it seeks to re-establish a statutory authority for the management of emergency services in the ACT. It is pertinent to consider some brief history that underpins the bill that I present today.

Following the January 2003 bushfire disaster in the ACT, the ACT government established an inquiry to examine the way in which emergency services responded to the bushfire disaster. In August 2003, six years ago, Mr Ron McLeod released his report Inquiry into the operational response to the January 2003 bushfires in the ACT. A major recommendation made by Mr McLeod was that an ACT Emergency Services Authority be established. It is interesting to note that Mr McLeod is an Assistant Commissioner in the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

A major recommendation that was made by Mr McLeod was that an ACT Emergency Services Authority be established because in his expert opinion emergency services should be managed by a single, larger operational body specifically set up outside the framework of the ACT public service. Mr McLeod spent an entire chapter of his report—chapter 6—setting out his analysis of the evolution of the management of emergency services in the ACT and why he was persuaded that a separate authority was now needed to manage our emergency services.

The Stanhope government proceeded to establish an authority and it began operations in mid-2004. Mr McLeod's arguments were very strong in 2003 and they remain valid today. In fact, if the recent history of the management of emergency services in the ACT is anything to go by, Mr McLeod's arguments are even more valid today. The findings made by Mr McLeod were supported by the report of the coroner into the deaths of the four people who died in the January bushfire disaster.

Coroner Maria Doogan presented her report in December 2006. She made a major recommendation that the Emergency Services Agency be transformed into an independent statutory authority reporting directly to the minister. In the recent history of the ACT, two independent expert inquiries have found that emergency services in the ACT should be provided through a statutory authority. Mr McLeod made his recommendation before the ACT government acted to establish the ACT Emergency Services Authority. Coroner Doogan made her recommendation after the ACT government abolished the Emergency Services Authority.

The Stanhope government acted to abolish the authority on the flimsiest of grounds. We can only guess at what the still secret Costello report said about this authority


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