Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 09 Hansard (Wednesday, 12 August 2015) . . Page.. 2755 ..
Emergency Service workers who give their time, and it is about getting it right for all of those.
We simply say: let us have a stat authority back; let us move to the court model which seems to have worked quite well, where you have a court administrator. So you would have an emergency services administrator. That would free up the service chiefs to do what they do best in their specialised field and that would give everybody confidence in a more streamlined administration framework in which to operate. This is a reasonable motion and I look forward to the support of the Assembly.
MS BURCH (Brindabella—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for Disability, Minister for Racing and Gaming and Minister for the Arts) (4.31): I thank Mr Smyth for bringing this motion to the Assembly. He has brought it here before where it was defeated, and I suspect and forecast that it will be defeated again today. But the opportunity is for me to speak of my high regard for the men and women working in emergency services. It is disappointing that Mr Smyth continues to go out into the public arena and downgrade and dismiss and talk down the men and women who fight fire and provide services in our community.
Mr Smyth’s motion raises concerns and refers to concerns put in a letter to me by the United Firefighters Union relating to the proposed changes to the ESA’s executive structure. It has been clear since the creation of the ESA in 2004 that the government has been making incremental and sound reform to the agency. The government has significantly increased funding to the ESA, including over $15 million over four years in this budget alone. The ESA is on a reform through the strategic reform agenda. It is the next phase of reforming our emergency services. As has been stated by the previous minister, this government holds the strong view that there is significant underlying benefit gained in keeping and maintaining the ESA as part of the JACS directorate.
There has been increased expenditure and investment in front-line services and the infrastructure, and this government has absolutely demonstrated a firm commitment to supporting our ESA. Unfortunately those opposite and Mr Smyth continue to publically criticise and attack the ESA in an attempt, I fear, just to smear me and the government. Each and every time he does it, though, he needs to remember that men and women that he is out there talking down are the very men and women that come out and provide support when we need it most.
When I move around and visit stations, the resounding message I have heard is that the men and women within our services are tired of being the political football of Mr Smyth. Indeed, at one of the stations I visited it was freely offered to me that while Mr Smyth purports to be a supporter of the ESA, they are very tired of him using them as his political football to gain some sort of skin off my back. That is disappointing indeed.
Mr Smyth referred to the UFU letter, and I will read a response to the UFU from the commissioner himself. I acknowledge the commissioner in the gallery today. He has come here, quite rightly, because this is a serious matter. He has a serious reform