Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 4694 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
The general feedback that they were giving us was that they were concerned about signs that the Emergency Services Bureau would continue as a powerful structure on top of the operational control and expertise of the different services. They emphasised the specialist and very different tasks of the services and made a case for a stronger and better coordinated response being built on internally strong services.
The urban firefighters representatives pointed to drastic reductions in their training budget from the time the services were merged into the Emergency Services Bureau. That was given as an example of how the merging of management had led to a weakened service and one less able to work cooperatively. On the other hand, I also hear about historical territorial disputes in other jurisdictions and I think that these stories need to be sorted out. There is also the question of whether it is appropriate to manage ambulance services within the same structure as the fire response.
I agree with the minister that we need to take these arguments and suggestions on board and continue to work with stakeholders. I would point out, though, that I would be very concerned if the structure of the boards did not include representatives of all the land managers and it did not require consideration of environmental management priorities and knowledge. I think that this is essential. It is entirely possible to conduct good bushfire prevention work focusing on land managers working on their own boundaries while not compromising environmental values. It is essential that that be done at the design stage.
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (4.17): Mr Deputy Speaker, from the comments of the members who have already spoken to this bill, there is much to be complimented in the work that Mr Pratt has done. I want to go to something that Ms Dundas spoke about when she said that she was concerned about a predetermined or a prejudged outcome; that is, the concern of volunteers on the ground. When the McLeod report was tabled and the government responded that it would accept all the recommendations there was dismay, particularly among the rural firefighters, because the model in the McLeod report does not work. That is the opinion after years of experience of the volunteer brigades.
Indeed, not long after the McLeod report was tabled and the government said that it was going to implement McLeod, there was a meeting of the Volunteer Brigades Association. All members of the volunteer brigades were eligible to turn up and the representatives of each brigade were eligible to vote. The Chief Fire Control Officer gave a presentation on what was happening and, when quizzed about what the government intended to do, could not answer any of the questions. That was not his fault; the government had not told him.
The stock standard answer was""We're going to implement McLeod.""What does that mean for us?""We don't know?""What can you tell us about the new model?""It hasn't been decided."But it is the predetermined, prejudged position of the government that should be of huge concern to all here today. That is why we have determined to proceed with our bill.
The meeting of the Volunteer Brigades Association had a general discussion after senior officials had left about what the brigades wanted and what the members wanted. In the end, because no-one could decide, I was asked to put on a series of whiteboards in that meeting room details of the different sorts of models as they existed at that time. I said to