Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 4689 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
The government believes that the concept outlined in Mr Pratt's bill should be substantially modified to provide for a more cohesive governance framework. A more collegiate relationship between the entities would not only bring greater flexibility and efficiency to resource management but also greatly improve planning for and responses to emergency situations in many cases.
The McLeod report made some very clear and fundamental statements about the kinds of changes that must be made to the management of emergency services in order to achieve an integrated framework for the governance of all of the services under a statutory authority. Mr Pratt's bill is inconsistent with those fundamental statements. The government believes that it is entirely possible to meet the intent of the report through the integration of all services under one corporate banner.
An act establishing a new authority should contain a statement of objects clearly articulating the roles and responsibilities of the ambulance, bushfire brigade, emergency services and fire brigade arms of the authority and the level of service to which they should aspire. It should also express the value that this community places on the individuals who serve-differently but equally-including our community's high regard for the special contribution of volunteers.
The bill does not make clear what is to be the employment status of officers of the new authorities. Not all of the existing staff members are employed under the Public Sector Management Act, for example, and the government's concern, amongst many, is that this bill does not address that. It should be noted, for example, that fire brigade officers are employed under the terms of the Fire Brigade (Administration) Act 1974. Those terms differ from the terms set out in the Public Sector Management Act.
In addition, Mr Pratt's bill provides for the establishing of three boards of management, one for each of the proposed new authorities. The McLeod report recommended that the new chief executive, the commissioner, should report directly to the minister to put effect to the desire to reduce the level of bureaucracy. The government believes that the establishment of not one but three boards seems excessive in terms of both the management requirements for the function and the financial burden on the territory.
Having created three boards of management, the bill does not go on to establish any relationship between those boards or between the boards and the chief officers of the various emergency services entities. The government believes, as I have said, that an effective relationship between the entities and their chiefs is critical to the success of the new authority. Regrettably, Mr Pratt's proposed structure only confuses the roles and responsibilities further and creates no clear lines of accountability. The principal aim of this reform process should be to achieve a governance framework that brings the operations and objectives of the services together, not one that makes them more independent of each other.
Importantly, this bill does not contain any transitional or consequential provisions. For example, the bill sets up a bushfire authority, including a bushfire advisory council, but makes no amendments to the Bushfire Act 1936. Effectively, under the bill both the bushfire advisory council and the bushfire council would exist and it is clear that there would be significant overlaps and inconsistencies of roles and responsibilities.