Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1668 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
The position taken by the federal government is not good enough. I would be expressing concern about the federal government's behaviour in this instance, not concern about the ACT government's actions. As has already been said, both the previous Liberal government and this government have been trying to get the Commonwealth to take greater financial responsibility for the work that we have to do in the ACT. It is outrageous to suggest that payment should be made only if the force is called out. No-one could accept that that is a reasonable arrangement. Obviously, you have to support the service as a whole and not base payment on whether or not it is called out. It is essential that the service be maintained.
As I have said, the service will be increasingly essential, hopefully not because of any kind of terrorist attack but because we certainly can expect more fires as a result of significantly increasing global temperatures. We know that fires will be more intense because of the increasing incidence of drought. Several reports, which I cannot give you the reference to at this point-I have referred to them in this place so they are on the record-confirm that human activity has certainly played a part in increased global warming and that that is related to drought and fire. So we can expect that we will need to deal more and not less with these issues.
I will not be supporting Mr Pratt's ill-advised motion.
MS DUNDAS (4.42): While I would say that perhaps the ACT government has not acted as promptly as it should have in pursing and completing negotiations for a fair rate of payment for firefighting services relating to Commonwealth land, I do take the point made by the minister that this motion being passed by the Assembly will not help those negotiations in any way.
It is a complex task to work out the appropriate sum for firefighting capability maintained for a mix of ACT and Commonwealth property. This task has been made more complex by the fact that some Commonwealth land that has been sold has then been leased back. My understanding is that the Commonwealth has advanced around $3 million, but a sum of $2.8 million extra is being disputed.
The ACT government does have a relatively small budget and we cannot afford to forgo what may be as much as a couple of million dollars of federal government payments for service rendered. I agree that the approach of the federal government to say that these services will be paid for on a fee-for-service basis is not at all the way to go.
We need to have the capacity to be able to respond, hence you need people who are trained, who have the equipment, who are aware of how to fight fires, especially in buildings. Resources are needed to support such a capability. We do not have a fire every day in the ACT but we need firefighters every day, just in case.
I understand that negotiations are stalled and at this moment the ACT government is going without the additional sums of money the Commonwealth should be paying. I hope that there is a way to break this deadlock. I hope that there is a positive outcome so that the ACT can get the recognition and the support it deserves from the federal government for the services that are provided by the ACT government.