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Emergency Ambulance Service

MR KAINE: I direct a question to Mr Humphries as the Minister for Emergency Services. Minister, can you explain to the Assembly why a Gordon resident, dialling the 000 emergency number, was unable to reach the Ambulance Service for some considerable time after his first call?

MR HUMPHRIES: Thank you, Mr Kaine. I think this is a fairly important issue which was originally raised by Mr Whitecross earlier today. Mr Speaker, by way of background, I inform members that telephone calls for emergency ambulance responses can normally be made in one of two ways. Obviously, one can dial 000 in order to get an emergency response. That call is answered by a Telecom operator and then redirected to the appropriate emergency operator, in this case the Ambulance Service. Alternatively, a person can dial 207 9900, which is a direct emergency telephone number answered by an ambulance call taker within the communications centre at North Curtin.

A call made to the 000 number is answered by the Telecom operator. If the first operator is not able to answer the call within four rings, the call transfers to a second operator. If the second operator is unable to answer the call, it is placed in a queue for a short period, and if it remains unanswered it is transferred to the AFP communications centre. Members should be aware that the 000 call is a community service operated by Telecom. The ACT Government has little control over that service.

I am advised that the supervisor in the Telecom 000 service in the ACT has advised us that there are no records of a 000 call being received by the 000 service in relation to this particular emergency. I understand that the date of that emergency was 7 May, although it was not indicated in Mr Whitecross's press release. On the basis that it was 7 May - I do not have any indication from Mr Whitecross, so I assume that that was the date - there was no record of a call being made to that number at that time.

On Sunday, 7 May, a call was received by the Ambulance Service on a non-000 line at 5.54 am, from Mr Gration of Gordon, requesting an emergency ambulance response to his pregnant wife. The Ambulance Service immediately responded to the request and arrived at the scene at 6.02 am - eight minutes after the initial call and within the response time which is the standard to which the service aims. That is a laudable response time. I think the service is to be congratulated on that response. No further information is presently available which would indicate the exact circumstances of this particular matter. My officers have been trying to call Mr Gration or Mrs Gration to find out exactly what the background to this matter was.

I was advised by the deputy commissioner of the Australian Federal Police this afternoon that the AFP have exhaustively checked their tapes and can categorically assure me, and have done so, that there was no call received by any police officer in the ACT in relation to this matter. That is a matter of some concern, given the comments made by Mr Whitecross in his press release in which he has a go at me - which is fair enough because I am paid to take that. But he ends by saying:

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