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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (8 June) . . Page.. 1987..

Rates Amendment Bill 2006

Debate resumed.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (6.12): Mr Speaker, the need for the Stanhope government to table the Rates Amendment Bill is, I believe, a result of the very poor financial management and waste which are so characteristic of this Labor government. Ratepayers will now get an impost of $20 million extra when more prudent financial management on the part of this government and the Emergency Services Authority would have achieved the same objective.

The government expended $46 million on the Emergency Services Authority in 2002-03 and $75 million in 2005-06. In 2006-07 it will be spending $77.242 million. That is an extraordinary leap forward. Proper and effective delivery of those funds has been very questionable and is still the subject of ongoing investigations by the opposition. By the way, I note that no fewer than four FOI applications on the part of the opposition zeroing in on questions surrounding financial and project management issues are continuing to bounce around, and one wonders why.

Many serious questions have been raised over the last three years, since the McLeod inquiry brought down its recommendations and set the path for this government to follow, which this government has never properly or honestly answered in relation to the expenditure of the ESA, its performance and its priorities. I will list a couple of those. I think it is very important to understand them against the question of the need or otherwise to impose this $20 million levy.

I refer, firstly, to the appropriation of something like $23.6 million for the acquisition of new communications programs in 2003-04 arising out of the McLeod recommendations. It is very difficult to work out where that funding has gone and it is very difficult for us to be clear in our minds on whether the programs on which that money has been spent are running effectively.

I am talking about programs in project terms. For example, the trunk radio network is still not clear and the feedback from the men and women of our emergency services at the front line is that there are still difficulties with the trunk radio network. There were originally going to be 15 towers established for the trunk radio network. That was probably scaled down to something like nine or 10, but it is still not clear whether those towers were ever properly erected and are now functioning fully.

The old VHF, or very high frequency, communications system which was in place prior to the 2003-04 communications programs is still being used three years later. That VHF system was supposed to have been replaced by the trunk radio network. There are questions as to where the money for the primary radio networks has gone and why these systems clearly are still not working. There is still the question of the digital data communication system which has been picked up by ATI with the FireLink project.

I remind you, Mr Speaker, that some years ago when the government was seeking to introduce a digital data communication system it decided on a single source tender. It decided in the tendering process to take on only one player, FireLink, and then decided

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