Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 14 February 2018) . . Page.. 132 ..
I am here to tell you that the workers of the ACT Ambulance Service and the people of Canberra are not that stupid. They know that ambulance officers are regularly expected to work overtime after a 10-hour day shift or a 14-hour night shift. Those officers are constantly receiving a message from head office asking them to work longer because the service is short on crews. This is not a sustainable practice and it will take the minister a long time to sort this mess out.
It is indicative of the Barr Labor government and this minister that we would then shift the goalposts. The slogan at the next election should be “lowering the bar” or “if at first you don’t succeed, shift the goalposts”. How can the minister seriously have overseen a system that is short staffed over 40 per cent of the time? There are lives at risk.
I would like to acknowledge the very generous and professional nature of our emergency services workers—very similar to our police service, very similar to many of our people who work in the prison. I had to call an ambulance in recent years when my child pulled a blanket on his head and was grey and nearly died, and I know the hard work that these workers put in each and every day to keep people in Canberra alive. They are the very best people we have. They are dedicated, kind and caring people. They are like so many in our community services roles. They put their bodies and their minds on the line for others. They are likely to give in service of others even when they have very little left to give themselves.
But this government and this minister take advantage of their good natures and their good hearts and push them to continually do more and more. It is not only poor personnel management that will lead to long-term effects on workforce and workloads; it is also unjust and exploitative.
This minister has no idea what is happening under his nose or, I suspect, he would not have allowed it to happen. He is very happy to take the good side of the job—photo ops with these hardworking people—but the interest seems to be more one way. It is not about the emergency services or the community they serve. Getting ministers to act around here can be like cranking up an old antique car. First you have got to put in the crank shaft, give it a whirl and tell the minister there is a problem.
The only reason I know about these problems is that workers have talked to me. It is not a complicated business. I make myself available. I sit down and talk to people and I listen to them. I did not know this was a problem a year ago. I have just been available to people. I believe getting an appointment with the minister can be quite difficult for people in these services.
It is like when I alerted him to the fact that the firies needed portaloos. “No, nothing to see here, nothing, nothing.” A few months later: “Oh, wait, actually there is a problem,” and lo and behold we have tried to fix it. The minister owes the community an explanation. He owes the selfless men and women of the Ambulance Service an explanation.