Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2012 Week 2 Hansard (23 February) . . Page.. 740..
an emergency with a high level of complexity or sensitivity but short of the need to appoint an emergency controller.
This issue is of course resolved if an emergency is of such a magnitude that the appointment of an emergency controller becomes appropriate, with the act clearly providing appropriate authority to the emergency controller, who may direct the commissioner or the head of an entity to undertake response or recovery operations.
Commissioner's guidelines may be prepared under the act to make provision for the operation of the emergency services. However, they do not necessarily provide for effective and timely decision making by the commissioner relating to the joint operations of services during specific emergency situations that consider the range of circumstances that may arise requiring immediate direction to be provided.
This bill addresses that gap and provides the necessary authority to the commissioner to give directions to the chief officers of the emergency services. The bill clearly establishes that this authority will only apply to emergencies as defined in the act as "an actual or imminent event that requires a significant and coordinated response"where the scale and complexity of the emergency is or is likely to be significant and may exceed the traditional scope of one or more of our emergency services.
Further, this authority recognises the powers of the chief officers that already exist under the act and does not conflict with the existing powers. Importantly, the authority does not allow the commissioner to require the chief officer to undertake an operation in a particular way, which is equivalent to the power of direction given to the emergency controller if one was appointed.
The bill does not conflict with or reduce the specific powers associated with the appointment of an emergency controller under the Emergencies Act 2004 and it is also important to note that this bill only applies to the chief officers of the emergency services and that it does not apply to the Chief Police Officer of the ACT.
In order to illustrate how this authority may be exercised, I will ask the members to consider some examples. Under the act, the responsibilities for different hazards are clearly established across the emergency services and largely there is no overlap in these responsibilities for these different hazards. Inevitably, however, there will be significant emergencies in the ACT where a single emergency service may require additional support in responding to an emergency. Under this bill, the commissioner may direct the chief officer of another service to provide additional resources to the lead agency to ensure that the optimum capability of the territory is made available to the emergency response.
Likewise, if an incident occurred that required the provision of supporting agencies or services to support response to an incident—for example, support for the provision of public information—the commissioner may direct a chief officer to establish arrangements for the provision of this support.
Finally, circumstances may arise where there is a need to ensure a coordinated and singular response to an emergency in which more than one service is involved; for