Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2490 ..
MR WHITECROSS (continuing):
Madam Deputy Speaker, the fact is that Emergency Services are on about reducing the level of service that they are going to get out of the fire and ambulance services. We have already seen this Government take the decision to defer the emergency services centre at Gungahlin, leaving Gungahlin residents with something like a 15-minute response time. Their people are considering closing fire stations, which increases response times for fires. Already we operate on a 10-minute response time when most States operate on eight, and New South Wales operates on 7.1. This is the kind of commitment we see once again from this Liberal Government to service provision.
Mr Berry: And not one word of protest from Harold Hird.
MR WHITECROSS: No, there was not one word of protest from Harold Hird. Madam Deputy Speaker, it is an area where the community have a right to expect the best possible service, and this Government is not about giving them the best possible service.
Another interesting thing about this item is that in the budget papers the Government provided money to Emergency Services - - -
Mr Stefaniak: Yes, of course we did. That is our job, Andrew.
MR WHITECROSS: You provided additional money to Emergency Services in order to recruit new firefighters, but what is Emergency Services doing with that money? They are not recruiting new firefighters. They have wasted all that money paying firefighters overtime because they have not been able to get their act together on recruitment. I do not know whether this has anything to do with Mrs Carnell's "Let the managers manage recruitment freeze". I do not know whether that is what it is about. A more stupid decision than Mrs Carnell's recruitment freeze would be hard to imagine, and a great example of "Let the managers manage" it was, too. Mr Connolly has pointed out what a triumph it has been in the health system, and, Madam Deputy Speaker, we are seeing the same sort of mismanagement showing up in Emergency Services.
One other thing about the Emergency Services budget which is interesting, Madam Deputy Speaker, is the much touted fifth ambulance crew which we are going to get at Fyshwick. The interesting thing about the fifth ambulance crew at Fyshwick is that they have provided only enough money to crew it between 8.00 am and 6.00 pm. Interestingly, most accidents that they need to respond to do not occur during working hours. They occur after work. But never mind the fact that they occur after work and if you want to get an ambulance after work you are back to the old days; they have put the extra one in there, but it is just not going to provide the service when it is most needed.
We do not have the smart thinking you would expect in the delivery of these services. We have a right to expect more from Emergency Services than we are getting. We have a right to expect a stronger commitment from the Government to the provision of emergency services. This is the kind of service that people have a right to take for granted. They have a right to expect that it will be provided. It should not be the kind of service which is subject to the sort of erosion which we have seen this Government try to perpetrate and which, by the admission of the spokesperson for the Minister, they will continue to try to perpetrate when they think up a new excuse to close fire stations.