Page 3155 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 24 August 2005

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Minister, the Emergencies Act 2004 establishes that the ESA is responsible for “the overall strategic direction and management of the emergency services”. Minister, why is the SES, an organisation staffed predominantly by volunteers, being made responsible for the management of the evacuation strategy when the ESA has the responsibility for this role?

MR HARGREAVES: Mr Speaker, I wonder if the Chief Minister could pass his speech to me so that I can repeat yet again to opposition members what he said. Obviously those opposite were not listening to the way the Chief Minister twice explained this matter.

Firstly, can I advise Mrs Burke that the SES is a subset of the ESA. It is not a separate organisation, Mrs Burke. It is now a recognised fighting arm within that organisation. In days gone by, the SES, because it was staffed by volunteers and did not have a particular leadership and management infrastructure, was regarded as a bit of a Cinderella service. Such is not the case anymore. There are administrative arrangements. There is very significant and professional leadership in the SES. Also within the ESA, dedicated deliberately to the SES, there are logistics and planning people and, as I said, very professional leadership.

Over the last wee while and particularly over the past 12 months, significant training has been delivered to SES officers. In the judgment of the executive of the ESA, the volunteers and the managers in the SES have the competency to assist and are quite capable of assisting something like 2,500 building owners and managers around town. They have the job of working with these people to develop their incident action plans and evacuation plans for their buildings. There is a need for some parts of the community to take responsibility for their own evaluation plans, and this has to be done in partnership with the government. Of course, the ESA will be the agency of the government that the partnership will be with. As the Chief Minister so eloquently pointed out repeatedly, this hitherto was done by the urban fire brigade.

We now have the benefit of an additional resource. We can reach more people over time. We can have expertise delivered to building managers. I do not think I will go over again what was said by the Chief Minister. I will leave it at that.

MRS BURKE: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, if the ACT SES is being tasked in this way, what will the staff of the ESA be doing and do they have the resources?

MR HARGREAVES: Mr Speaker, I have already answered that question. I will have to do a Jon Stanhope and repeat what I said—I will have to say it again. The SES officers are now in a position where they can actually assist building owners and managers with the development of real-time incident action plans and evacuation plans. We now have an opportunity for trained people to have dialogue with building owners and managers. To answer Mrs Burke’s second question, we have an increasing number of people within the SES because people still volunteer to joint it. We are getting more and that is why we have training regimes.

All I can say is that in this instance it is pretty poor form for Mrs Burke and her colleagues to denigrate the work that these officers perform.

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