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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 2179 ..

MR CORBELL: I ask a supplementary question. Perhaps the Minister can explain to us how the hospital informs VMOs under their contractual notification period. I presume there is some sort of process there. If you cannot tell us now, perhaps you can take the question on notice. My supplementary question is: Can the Minister also say how much money was paid in the year ended 30 June for scheduled surgery that was subsequently cancelled? Again, if you cannot answer it now, I would be grateful if you could take it on notice.

MR MOORE: Mr Speaker, I will take both of those questions on notice.

Fire Services

MR OSBORNE: My question is to the Minister for emergency services, the Minister for Justice, Mr Humphries. Minister, during Estimates Committee hearings this year you gave a guarantee that the Emergency Services Bureau would not be subject to budget cuts, and it was pleasing to see their budget go up slightly. In the debate on the insurance levy legislation you stated that the levy was "to maintain and enhance the delivery of fire services to the community". Today, Minister, I was shown a copy of a draft budget for the bureau which was prepared by Mike Castle. It was about three weeks old and showed an approximate $500,000 cut to the fire services section of the bureau. Given that the $10m levy was for the delivery of fire services, how is it that this cut is being considered?

MR HUMPHRIES: I thank Mr Osborne for the question. I answered a very similar question the other day from Mr Hargreaves. I repeat what I said to Mr Hargreaves. What you may see in bits of paper floating around suggesting cuts to the Emergency Services Bureau you have to take with a very large grain of salt.

Mr Berry: No, not to the bureau; to the fire services part of it.

MR HUMPHRIES: Even fire services. Mr Speaker, I can guarantee there would be no cut of $500,000 to the fire services of the ACT or to the Emergency Services Bureau generally. But I will say this: We are in the midst of negotiations on an EBA with officers of the Emergency Services Bureau, and that certainly entails the possibility for staff to identify savings in certain areas, through productivity improvements, to pay for wage rises for staff. That kind of process is going on at the moment and may produce at the end of the day some reduction in outlays in a particular area to meet that particular goal. As to overall reductions in the budget of Emergency Services outside that process, I stand with what I said in the Estimates Committee, remarks to which Mr Osborne has already referred.

MR OSBORNE: Thank you for that guarantee, Minister. The question was specifically about the Fire Brigade. I take it that there will be no cuts. I thank you for that. I have a supplementary question. I have been informed that, according to the establishment figures, the fire service is currently 15 positions understaffed. Can you confirm whether this is the case? If so, are these positions funded in this year's emergency services budget?

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