Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Sittings . . . . Search

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 11 Hansard (15 November) . . Page.. 3511..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

This is made clear even in the commissioner's guidelines on donations made under the Emergencies Act, which are supported by the volunteers. The existing commissioner's guidelines say quite clearly that donations to the emergency services, including brigades of the rural fire service and units of the state emergency service, are and must be taken to be donations to assist the functions of the ESA. I think that is a very important point, Mr Speaker. The existing guidelines, which the volunteer brigades association and others have indicated they are happy with, make it clear that donations to a brigade are donations to the relevant service and a donation, in effect, to the ESA.

The government recognises that volunteer brigades and units have a long and proud history in their communities and that they fulfil very valuable roles not only in assisting with emergencies but also in contributing to community spirit and cohesion. There is absolutely no intention to change or interfere with that. It is, however, important that we maintain appropriate arrangements for the governance of money that is donated to those brigades or units for their role as providers of emergency services, and the governance arrangements are those that are set out in the Financial Management Act.

Under the Financial Management Act, money can be classified into two categories: it is either public money that needs to be deposited into consolidated revenue or it is trust money donated for a specific purpose. The public, when giving to ESA volunteers, certainly do not intend that their donations go into consolidated revenue, nor has that at any stage been the government's intention. The appropriate way to handle donations is therefore for them to be managed in trusts. This gives the members of the public confidence that moneys they have donated will be used for the intended purpose-for that brigade or unit, by that brigade or unit, with the decisions being made by that brigade or unit.

This money is, and will continue to be, available for use by the specific unit or brigade that the money was donated to. It does not, and never will, go into consolidated revenue. But I have some important responsibilities as minister, and one of those is to ensure compliance with legislation. The legal advice that the government has received is clear: the Financial Management Act applies. The Financial Management Act should apply. There should not be circumstances where moneys given to government entities are not subject to the Financial Management Act. That is the issue that Mr Pratt needs to address in trying to convince this Assembly that his bill should be supported today.

This entity is legally recognised as part of a government agency and is given protections under the law because it is part of a government agency. For example, volunteers are protected through our OH&S arrangements. Volunteer brigades and units are protected in terms of legal action and are given representation, effectively, as territory employees. Volunteers are recognised as territory employees for a range of reasons in a range of circumstances. The government provides direct resources to brigades and units. Those assets are owned by the ACT government. These units and brigades, whilst volunteer in terms of their membership, are clearly an extension of the emergency services agency. They are part of the government. Other elements of government legislation also apply. For example, the Public Sector Management Act

Next page . . . . Previous page. . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Sittings . . . . Search