Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 1 Hansard (14 February) . . Page.. 59..
Emergency service volunteers
Discussion of matter of public importance
MR SPEAKER: I have received letters from Mrs Burke, Ms Porter and Mr Smyth proposing that matters of public importance be submitted to the Assembly. In accordance with standing order 79, I have determined that the matter proposed by Ms Porter be submitted to the Assembly, namely:
The importance of ACT Emergency Service volunteers, as highlighted in the Productivity Commission's Report of Government Services 2006.
MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (4.03): At the beginning of this sitting period for 2006, I would hate to disappoint members in this place, particularly those who sit opposite. I am sure they would expect me to maintain my interest in and passion for the contribution made by our thousands of volunteers. In fact, I am now even more equipped than previously, being the recipient of Mr Quinlan's generous gift, at the end of last year, of my virtual volunteer doll. Mr Quinlan insisted I keep its price tag to remind us of two things, I believe: the financial value of the voluntary contribution and the cost of running a substantial work force.
As we are well aware, volunteers play an ever-increasing role in the community and are involved with an ever-increasing number of people from all walks of life and from all age groups. However, I specifically focus on the importance of the ACT emergency service volunteers today, as highlighted in the Productivity Commission's report on government services 2006. The Productivity Commission's report says:
Although volunteers make a valuable contribution, they should not be counted as an entirely free resource ... Governments incur costs in supporting volunteers to deliver emergency services ... by providing funds and support through infrastructure, training, uniforms, personal protective equipment, operational equipment and support for other operating costs.
The 2006 report compares government services delivered across the country. It reveals that the ACT's emergency services lead when it comes to a range of emergency management indicators such as recruitment of volunteers, response times and customer satisfaction.
The ACT is leading the country in recruitment of volunteers, with a large increase in the number of volunteers in emergency services since 2002-03. The ACT has volunteers in the fire services through the Fire Brigade, the Rural Fire Service and our State Emergency Service. Since 2002-03 we have seen a significant overall increase in these volunteers, from 830 to 1,266, the highest rise in the country, bucking the national trend which has seen an overall decrease. Appreciating this trend, ESA set a very ambitious target for 2005-2006. ESA is working hard to meet this target. We are fortunate to have one of the highest participation rates in the country, with over 40 per cent of the population volunteering annually.
However, volunteering for emergency services is not something one should do lightly. Emergency service volunteers put their lives on the line when performing their voluntary tasks. There are not many volunteer positions where one is required to do this. Only