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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 4690 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

I understand that Mr Pratt has acknowledged that more work is needed on the transitional and consequential aspects of this proposal. For this reason and for the others I have outlined already, the government does not believe that it is appropriate for the Assembly to debate and pass this bill on the basis that the hard parts can be looked after later. Those are the parts that will make the authority function properly and they should be fully explored before, not after, this Assembly agrees to any new model for the governance of emergency services.

Mr Pratt has made an important contribution to the debate on this significant policy issue, but much work still needs to be done. The government will not be supporting this bill, not because we believe that Mr Pratt's thinking is fundamentally flawed or misguided, but because much more should be known, considered and done before this Assembly proceeds to debate. On behalf of Mr Wood, I indicate that the government will continue to discuss this matter with Mr Pratt and will continue to work with stakeholders to develop the best available management framework. I ask members to take on board what this bill presents for discussion, but to oppose the bill at this time.

MS DUNDAS (4.00): Mr Deputy Speaker, the ACT Democrats will not be supporting Mr Pratt's bill today. I acknowledge that there have been important questions raised by successive inquiries about the operation of ACT emergency services, but this bill, in response, basically divides the emergency services into three separate, standalone authorities. My understanding is that this is to allow greater autonomy for each service to operate independently and to reduce high-level interference with the operation of each agency.

I agree that Mr Pratt has generated some useful ideas with this piece of legislation, but I think that those ideas deserve some serious consideration through the consultations and the development work that are currently occurring within emergency services. However, I am far from convinced that the model before us today is necessarily the best model. In particular, the issue of how communication occurs between organisations has not been thoroughly addressed. I believe that we need to have those answers before moving forward with any proposal.

The minister has just stated that there are a number of issues that are yet to be resolved and more work needs to be done. I think that is a very important comment to make. I think that a lot of that work is happening in an environment in which an outcome has already been predetermined and prejudged. It appears that there is a race on to restructure the emergency services bureaucracy. We have seen various models put forward, but the emphasis has been on changing the organisation of the bureaucracy rather than dealing with the significant on-the-ground operations problems that have been identified.

The option of leaving the current structure largely intact does not seem to have been considered. The option of going back to what the current legislation says but is not necessarily being done on the ground also has not been considered. I think that this is due to a reactive approach by the government, which seems to be more interested in projecting a public image of change than in actually addressing operational shortcomings. In the pressure to be seen to be doing something, the government has not considered whether its actions will result in organisational improvements in emergency services. Instead, it appears that we are having a shuffling of the deck chairs which will produce no additional capacity to respond to a large-scale emergency.

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