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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3682 ..

MR SPEAKER: Is it the wish of the Assembly to debate this order of the day concurrently with order of the day No 2 relating to the government response to the select committee report? There being no objection, that course will be followed.

MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (11.08): The Liberal Party will be supporting Appropriation Bill 2003-2004 (No 2). We believe that there are many items in it that certainly deserve to be funded and should be funded and we have no wish to hinder the government's progress in preparing the city for the coming bushfire season or in passing on pay increases to the workers of the ACT. However, much of what I will say is a summary of what I said on Tuesday when I tabled the Public Accounts Committee report as the concerns that I had there are certainly concerns that I still have. It basically goes to what seems to be a lack of a strategic view on bushfire management in this city.

The Public Accounts Committee, and certainly I as a member of that committee, got an overwhelming view that we were implementing things because McLeod told us so. In many ways the government put itself in an unenviable position when, in the days leading up to the release of the McLeod report, the Chief Minister said, "Well, we are just going to accept and implement the recommendations."It is that approach that is causing me, certainly, and the Liberal Party some concern.

Many of the recommendations of the McLeod report seem to take a view that we should be moving towards a Tasmanian, Victorian and Queensland style of bushfire fighting. The question that remains unanswered is: what consideration was given to the fact that we are a sort of island inside New South Wales? Surely the move should be to closer and greater cooperation with New South Wales. As New South Wales would be our first response partner to come over the border and we would be their first response partner in this area to go over the border in the surrounding shires, shouldn't the compatibility really work with New South Wales? There seemed to be a lack of that sort of questioning. When we questioned Treasury officials, they said, "Oh, no, we're not experts. We number crunched, we checked the numbers and the numbers seemed to add up. We left the strategic analysis to others."I noticed just in quickly reading the Treasurer's response to the committee's report that the government disagrees with that conclusion. And I guess we are not surprised.

One of the things that McLeod recommends is that we change the structure of ESB. He has this supermodel where it becomes a statutory authority and everything is lumped in together. Clearly there is angst about that out in the community, in the professional firefighting community, the volunteer firefighting community and the emergency service volunteer community. They do not necessarily believe that being lumped together is the best way. Everybody in those brigades and organisations certainly acknowledges that they have to work closer together, but the question out there that has not been resolved is: how do we best make it work?

For instance, at a meeting of the Volunteer Brigades Association, a number of options were put up on the board; I was drafted to put the options up on the board. Each of the four options was gone through and an explanation given for and against. Ultimately, the meeting came down against the McLeod model and chose another one. That is the problem. We are purchasing equipment and undertaking activity that may take us down a certain road whereas other people with an interest in this might prefer us to go in a totally

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