Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 February 2018) . . Page.. 471 ..
My uncle spent a long career working as an ambulance officer. I know the stress that shiftwork puts on these workers as well as their families. He ended up with a broken marriage. I understand sleep deprivation pretty well, as the mother of five children and as the wife of an army officer. I understand the importance of looking after shiftworkers, as a former union organiser. In this field in particular, often lifesaving work, we need a workforce that is rested, that has had appropriate breaks, that is alert and that is being properly looked after. Otherwise eventually there will be outcomes which are less than what we want.
That is why I am asking for answers, and I am asking for these answers by the last sitting in March. I think the minister knows the answers; I think he just does not want to tell them. The people of Canberra must be given an explanation. There are still too many questions that remain unanswered, and the minister knows these answers. If he does not, he is incompetent. If he does and will not say them, he is hiding the truth to protect himself.
The Barr government and Minister Gentleman need to come clean: no more spin, no more trying to turn this into something that they like to talk about. They need to fess up: tell us exactly what has happened that made the ambulance service in 2016-17 so poorly staffed. Why did 36,000 hours of overtime need to be worked? And why, even with that enormous effort from staff, were 41.5 per cent of shifts below minimum crewing levels? When were those shifts? Why were those shifts below crewing levels? What were the decisions made based on?
The ambulance service is a vital government service. It is not some fringe government program. The ambulance service is there for members of our community at the time of their greatest need. It is one of the most fundamental areas of government. If the system is not working properly, it is something that should be taken extraordinarily seriously.
MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella—Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Minister for Planning and Land Management and Minister for Urban Renewal) (11.25): I am happy to speak today to highlight the excellent services the Canberra community receives from the ACT Ambulance Service. But I must admit to some surprise at addressing this issue in the Assembly so soon after last week’s thorough discussion on how we are supporting and resourcing the ACT Ambulance Service, or ACTAS, in the face of increased demand.
Mrs Jones’s second attempt at politicising this issue gives me another opportunity to inform the Assembly and the community that for the past six years we have enjoyed the best response times in the country for ambulance service. And it gives me another opportunity to remind the Assembly of the government’s commitment to ensuring that Canberra continues to be one of the safest communities in the world to live, while we are also supporting the welfare of our dedicated ambulance workforce. I take this opportunity to once again recognise and thank all the ACTAS staff for their professionalism and their continued efforts to care for and protect the Canberra community.