Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 4692 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
As I said, Mr Pratt has generated some useful ideas and the government now has a consultation process in train, but we cannot work on a consultation process that has predetermined outcomes that do not allow members of the emergency services to put forward their views and their solutions. I hope that we will have a real consultation process and that we will be able to move forward, but most of all I hope that our emergency service organisations and our volunteers will be prepared for the upcoming seasons, that their dedication will be still there and that they will be still willing to do the work to protect this city, because without them this city would be lost.
MR HARGREAVES (4.07): As the government has already said, Mr Pratt's bill-the Fire, Emergency Services and Ambulance Authorities Bill 2003-makes a good start on reform of the governance arrangements for emergency services, but it falls short of the mark in a number of respects. The government's main concern with this legislation is that it divides, rather than consolidates, the management of our emergency services. By creating three separate authorities, each with its own functions and management structures, this bill would ensure that emergency services would be managed in three kingdoms and each kingdom would be counselled by its own advisory committee, managed by its own board, operate under its own chief executive and employ its own staff. As an aside, I recall a former Chief Minister and Attorney-General, Mr Humphries, advocating in the last Assembly the collapsing of all of the emergency services legislation into one bill. We have a bit of a contradiction here.
It is important for members to note that some aspects of the operations of our emergency services are already jointly managed. In particular, the Emergency Services Bureau's communications centre, information technology, personnel management, payroll and financing functions are managed between two or more of the various services or within the Department of Justice and Community Safety. There is nothing in this bill to draw the many and varied functions of the agencies closer together and it is a very strong desire of this government to achieve that objective.
I should note that the bill provides for each of the authorities to have the benefit of a provision requiring government agencies to assist the authority in carrying out its functions. I will say that again. It provides for each of the authorities to have the benefit of a provision requiring government agencies to assist the authority in carrying out its functions. I think that we would all support this concept in principle. In fact, section 26 of the Emergency Management Act 1999 makes similar provision for the Territory Controller to require a department to lend assistance in a state of emergency.
Whilst I acknowledge Mr Pratt's sentiments in inserting these provisions, I note the government's concern that there is no limitation on the power to press a department into service. It could be invoked at any time, whether there is an emergency or, indeed, any incident. It could be invoked for any reason, including the need of an authority to have its paperwork done by a department. It could be accompanied by a direction from the authority that could, under this bill, be very specific about how assistance is to be given and thus introduce the concept of general direction of a department by an authority. The government would be pleased to consider the merits of extending the requirement for assistance by departments beyond state of emergency situations. However, the requirement as framed in this bill is excessive.