Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 3816 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

The Greens agree with the principle that individual agencies involved in emergency services should be integrated into an overall emergency management framework. When emergencies arise, it is important that all relevant services such as the Fire Brigade, the Ambulance Service, the police and Emergency Services work cooperatively to effectively address the emergency. Ideally, the means of cooperation between the agencies and the lines of command should be worked out before the emergency occurs. The introduction of the Bill to provide a comprehensive approach to emergency management is, therefore, welcomed.

The committee's recommendations to clarify the position of Territory Controller and the role of the Emergency Management Committee seem quite sensible, and I note that the Government has supported those recommendations. I accept also the Government's view that delegation of the Territory Controller's power should only be done with the concurrence of the Minister, so that ministerial responsibility is maintained.

I have concerns about the part of the legislation covering the ACT Ambulance Service. I note the Government's argument that this Bill is about integrating similar functions into a single piece of legislation. I believe, however, that this approach is not an absolute rule. At the moment the existing Motor Traffic Act is being broken up into four separate Acts. I believe that some flexibility needs to be allowed in the structure of legislation to match the complexities of the issue being covered.

I can accept that the operations of the Ambulance Service could be included in the Bill on the grounds that it is also an emergency service, but it concerns me that the Bill also contains details of the ambulance levy, which is basically a tax imposed by the Government on health benefits organisations. The details of this levy are not really related to emergency management. I am, therefore, not convinced that the levy needs to be included in this Bill. I would prefer the existing legislation covering the levy, the Ambulance Service Levy Act, to be kept in place. I note that Mr Hargreaves will be moving an amendment to delete the Ambulance Service levy from this Bill. I will be supporting that amendment.

I am concerned that the clauses on the Ambulance Service have been written in line with competition policy principles. That opens up the Ambulance Service to contestability, with the possibility of private ambulance services being given approval to operate. I note that the Government is proposing to amend the Bill to include a public benefit test on approvals of private ambulance services and that further details are to be included in the regulations. However, I believe it would be much better if the Assembly were given the opportunity to scrutinise this proposal more thoroughly through a separate Bill on the Ambulance Service.

MR HUMPHRIES (Treasurer, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Community Safety) (12.08), in reply: Mr Speaker, I thank members for their support for this legislation. It is very important legislation. We are one of only a couple of jurisdictions that have not enacted comprehensive emergency services legislation to ensure that, as much as possible, there is a seamless response across agencies, across services, to crises and problems that face our community. That is a desirable transition

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .