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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (20 August) . . Page.. 2907 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

Second, the recommendations coming out of December 2001 called for the government and ESB management to undertake better strategic planning and fuel reduction programs. Third, the recommendations coming out of December 2001 called for the government and the Emergency Services Bureau management to undertake a fast-tracking of the outstanding communication and equipment programs that were still in abeyance, and had been in abeyance for two years in some cases.

The government should have heeded those recommendations. The government should have picked up on some of those routine administrative requirements. It should have fast-tracked them. It could have come back here to the Assembly, if necessary, to seek the additional authority and resources to do just that, and it failed. This government failed to heed the lessons of December 2001. This government failed to ensure that our emergency units were better equipped when we were approaching the fire season of 2003 which, by all accounts then, was going to be a doozey.

MRS CROSS (11.59): I will start by speaking to the first four parts of Mr Smyth's motion, and I will address each one of those. Regarding the first one, about not implementing their proposed emergency services authority until consultation has occurred and so on: I believe that the various organisations who have the responsibility for the protection of the residents and the environment of Canberra have the experience needed to guide the proposed emergency services authority. I agree with Mr Smyth on this part of his motion. Their expertise is vital and I would have thought that any government would actively pursue these people to acquire their knowledge before jumping into any new venture.

The government should not jump into a new authority before it is really sure that it is not just creating another empire for one of the boys. The people who have acted on the ground for years are often the best to talk to, and I do hope that these people are given the opportunity to contribute.

Of course, if anyone said no to the second part of the motion "where appropriate, increase services to those in the community affected by the bushfire disaster, rather than decrease or remove services", one would have to wonder whether there was something wrong with that person's mental state. There are too many stories that have been brought to my attention about people and services not being given to bushfire victims-far too many for there to be no problems. I hope that the government would actually listen to people who have suffered, and not just the departmental officers.

Part three of the motion: I have spoken to many volunteer fire fighters who have not as yet had any of the counselling supposedly on offer that I referred to in my question yesterday in question time. Mr Wood answered that by saying that it had been dealt with. I will continue to speak to these people to determine whether the government is doing its job, and to determine the efficacy of the program.

Part four of his motion: this issue, I would have thought, has been talked about since January. I cannot understand why the government has been tardy in giving the volunteers and others the individual public recognition that would have made them realise that they really are appreciated and valued for the work they did.

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