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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (19 June) . . Page.. 2065 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

extraordinary amount of money for use by the community which basically has been given away at a bargain basement price as far as we can make out to a joint venturer who will share in the profits from what has been described as an excellent product in high demand here in the territory. We know that the nearest quarries that might compete with the Williamsdale quarry are as far away as Nimmitabel and Gundagai, and the costs, as a result of the proximity of the quarry to work in the ACT, are much lower.

Mr Speaker, the issue of nurses wages also was discussed in the Estimates Committee. I recall clearly the attack on the nurses during the course of the debate in this place about whether they should have access to fair bargaining under the Workplace Relations Act. It was clear that the government never intended to give the nurses a wage rise except on the government's terms. The Estimates Committee merely confirmed what had happened in the past and the disingenuous way that the nurses were dealt with right throughout the process. I think the government has cut our hospitals short with its approach to dealing with industrial issues in the hospital system. I think there is no better example of that than the response that was given in relation to the nurses.

I note from the news recently that the National Capital Hospital, the private hospital on the site out there, is not doing so well. If members are interested, they might have a look at a select committee report in relation to the National Capital Hospital, which I suspect, if my memory serves me correctly, got the same vitriolic response from this government when it was critical of the government and the prospects of an extra hospital in the ACT.

Mr Speaker, I want now to talk briefly about a jobs issue. Unemployment in the ACT has been on the increase for the last few months. Some time ago I called on the government to fill 50 job vacancies within its ranks in the ACT Fire Brigade because it became clear that over several years the government and the fire service administration had not kept up with the recruiting requirements of that arm of our emergency services.

I have some sympathy for the new Fire Commissioner because he has basically inherited the legacy of the failure to act in the past. He is going to have to deal with it. When officials came before the committee they seemed unable to address adequately this issue of a shortage of staff. It was only when they were forced, by way of public pressure through some announcements that I made, to acknowledge that there was a need for additional staff that we started to make some progress.

After several calls on the government to recruit fire service staff, the government has at last conceded that it needs to recruit 48 or so firefighters. That number will probably grow because about a dozen are expected to leave over the period of the recruitment process. So, years of inactivity have led to a shortage of about 48 and there will be about a dozen more go. About 60 vacancies have occurred or will occur over this entire period with no action from the government to fill the positions.

What does that do to the fire service? Well, I will tell you what it does to fire service workers. It puts a lot of pressure on them. Okay, the government will say, "Some of them will work overtime. They love working overtime." Well, it is not too good if you are working overtime and doing without access to things like long service leave and casual recreation leave because of staffing shortages. Emergency workers would fully understand that. There is nothing worse than doing a torrid shift, having a few hours off,

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