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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 4698 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

and women out there with far more experience than I-15, 20, 25, 30, 35 years worth of experience-who have endorsed this model.

Why are we ignoring them? Why aren't we really listening to them, instead of doing so with deaf ears? Why are we delaying this model with process when we have the ability to have it in place now? The vote today will come down against us. I can count and we will lose on this bill. It will be interesting to see what the government brings back in July of next year, which I believe is the deadline for its bill, so it can be ready for the next season.

Is that a repeat of what we heard at question time, Mr Deputy Speaker? We are not going to do anything for Australia Day this year, but we will have something in place for 2005. We cannot be ready for the bushfire season this year, but we will have something in place for 2005. Goodness me, government by distance. These are urgent issues. These are issues that need to be addressed. There are problems with morale out in the brigades. The Volunteer Brigades Association voted many months ago for the basic Pratt model. (Extension of time granted.) The government is aware of that vote. The government has ignored that vote.

The government persists with saying that it will institute the McLeod recommendation simply because Mr McLeod said that it should. It is not logical to do that. Listen to the experience. Listen to the volunteers out there with the 25, 30 and 35-year badges they wear so proudly that have been given to them for their community work. Some of them out there have three bars. They are actually saying that this model is the one they want because it gives them operational freedom and operational responsibility, which they are willing to accept, which they want to accept, which they want to embrace, to make their community safer. We are ignoring them. I think it is about time that we stopped ignoring them.

Mr Deputy Speaker, this bill will go down, which is a shame. It is a shame because it does offer the path forward. It offers the operational path, it offers the path that will actually deliver better emergency services for all Canberrans, and that is the path that we should follow. I would urge the crossbenchers to change their minds, because I believe that this bill will give greater security to the people of Canberra.

MR STEFANIAK (4.33): It is always very important for politicians to listen to experienced people on the ground who have been there and done that and who know what they are talking about through bitter experience. No more was that shown in the January bushfires than by Val Jeffery who, as a result of his experience, took it upon himself to initiate action that saved the village of Tharwa. That just goes to show what someone who has a lot of experience can do in a situation like that.

Mr Smyth has put most eloquently how important it is to listen to the troops on the ground. It is very telling that these volunteers-people who give of their spare time; many of whom, like Val Jeffery, have been involved in firefighting for decades-have looked at lots of models and, out of all the models, picked the basic Pratt model with a few of their own suggestions. That is very telling. It is something that the government ignores at its peril. I do think that it is very unfortunate that Mr Pratt's bill is not going to succeed today.

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