Page 2218 - Week 07 - Thursday, 23 June 2005

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amendment does not add to the functions of the authority, it is important that its strategic role in emergency planning is recognised in the act.

Clause 5 inserts a new section 19A into the act, clarifying the power of the Emergency Services Commissioner to delegate the commissioner’s specific functions to a public servant or a member of an emergency service. Clauses 6 and 7 amend sections 54 and 59, respectively, to enable the naming of Rural Fire Service and SES brigades and units to be declared and notified simultaneously. The function of forming and naming operational units has also been moved from the authority to the respective chief officers. The authority’s overarching management responsibility can be administered through guidelines, if necessary.

Clause 8 of the bill inserts a new section 59A, to confer on the Chief Officer of the SES a power to declare ranks of officers. The power already exists for the Rural Fire Service and the ACT Fire Brigade. The power is not needed by the ACT Ambulance Service, which is structurally unique within the authority.

Sections 78 and 79 of the act deal with the requirement for owners and managers of land to prepare a bushfire operational plan in accordance with the strategic bushfire management plan. Clause 12 replaces those sections with a new section 78, which changes the requirements for managers of government land. Those managers must now also have their plan approved by the authority. Under the existing provision managers refer operational plans to the Bushfire Council, but they are not required to obtain the approval of the authority for their plans.

The new more general provision now also states that, if the authority does not approve a bushfire operational plan within 40 days, it is taken to be approved. This allows the bushfire planning and preparation processes to continue, while saving the authority’s ability to have plans reviewed at intervals of not more than two years.

Section 198 of the act deals with the protection of authority officials from personal liability. Clause 18 of the bill recasts that section in line with current drafting practice in the ACT. The section now states that an official is not “personally liable”, rather than referring to an official’s “civil liability”. It also now extends protection to an official who acts “in the reasonable belief” that conduct was in the exercise of a function under the act, avoiding a technical disqualification of an officer who is acting honestly and without recklessness.

Finally, schedule 1 to the bill amends the Fuels Control Act 1979, transferring the emergency powers under section 12 of the act from Fuels Controller to the Emergency Services Authority. A new section 12A is inserted to require the Fuels Controller to give the authority necessary information to manage a fuels emergency.

I mentioned earlier that the amendments in this bill are mainly corrective or clarifying and that they do not introduce any significant policy changes. They are, no less, an important first stage in reviewing the effectiveness of this key legislation. I know that the Emergency Services Authority has been assessing various policy and operational issues during the past 12 months and I look forward to presenting to the Assembly a range of more substantial initiatives in the near future. I commend this bill to the Assembly.

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