Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3690 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
of the project. It highlights some of the flaws in the whole planning process relating not just to that Civic redevelopment but also to providing adequate and up-to-date community facility space. I hope that the government is well aware of the problem and that it is a problem that it is seeking to address.
I reiterate my concern that the original Appropriation Bill did not make it clear when the money that was allocated for improving firefighting preparedness would be spent. That basic information should have been presented to the Assembly. Members of the community have a right to know whether they will be safer this summer. The Treasurer stated in his response to the estimates committee report that it would be irresponsible of the government not to act prior to the next bushfire season. I agree wholeheartedly with the Treasurer's statement.
I refer to answers to questions that were taken on notice during the estimates committee process and specifically to the bushfire initiatives in this bill. About half of them will not be ready before the next bushfire season, three or four of them will not be ready until the end of the year and only two or three of them will be ready in time for the next bushfire season, which actually starts in about five to 10 days time. I am glad that the government is taking steps to make the city bushfire-ready, but the additional dollars that are being appropriated now will not necessarily be on the ground, turned into action components, at the commencement of the next bushfire season.
There is a difference between being seen to act and actually making a difference. While we all agree that we need to increase our bushfire activity preparedness I do not think we can say, "We have passed the Appropriation Bill, so everything will be okay."A lot of work still needs to be done. We need to analyse the McLeod report and the results of inquiries for which we are still waiting. The Chief Minister said that the government has done all that it can to be bushfire-ready, so we are yet to determine how the initiatives in this Appropriation Bill will assist us in our preparedness. The estimates committee recommended in its report the imposition of a timeframe on its bushfire initiatives so that we are able to establish whether they are being implemented.
We know from previous budgetary cycles that the money that is appropriated for spending at the beginning of a financial year often is not spent until the end of that financial year. We cannot afford to do that when we are looking at protecting our suburbs from the threat of bushfires; we need to act quickly. Even though this Appropriation Bill will be passed today we must be vigilant about its implementation. We need resources on the ground to support our firefighters and those who live on the urban edge. We want to ensure that their homes will be safer this summer.
MR CORNWELL (11.42): I refer briefly to a popular topic of mine, that is, the Australian International Hotel School. The background to that school really does not need reiterating. I sum up by referring to the Auditor-General's report for the financial year ending 30 June 2002, which states:
The AIHS's loss from trading was $1.2m in 2001-2002 compared with $1.6m in 2000-2001.
The AIHS received subsidy payments from the Government of $2m to meet operational costs and had borrowings of $7.3m waived during 2001-2002.