Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 15 November 2005) . . Page.. 4123 ..
adequately recruit volunteers? Why did you say that you are not in the least bit concerned about this issue, when the community is always concerned about the threat of bushfires?
MR HARGREAVES: I have to say that Mr Pratt asked me this same question through the media and I thought I had answered it. Obviously he does not listen to what is said about his own diatribes in the media.
Mr Pratt: Perhaps it was an unsatisfactory answer, John.
MR HARGREAVES: Oh dear; you are tiresome sometimes.
MR SPEAKER: Order, please! Mr Hargreaves, get on with it.
MR HARGREAVES: Mr Speaker, what Mr Pratt conveniently forgets is, firstly, that we have enormous numbers of volunteers out there. We have something like 700 people in the CFU program. We have—I might stand corrected—up around the 400 or 500 mark in the RFS and 200 in the SES. We have to consider those volunteers in the context of the total fighting force that the ESA actually has to respond to such things as bushfires. Also, we have to consider the extent to which the volunteer infrastructure needs to be kept up. There are a number of aspects to that. One is equipping them all. That is fine and I take the point that that is a resourcing issue. There is the training aspect of it, which is not as straightforward as Mr Pratt would have us all believe. We have dedicated training regimes. What happens—and Mr Pratt ought to know this because, heaven knows, he has been told it often enough—is that most of the brigades, most of the units within our volunteer force, are trained by their own leaders. We need to train these leaders not only in respect of their technical expertise but also their ability to train other people.
Mr Speaker, I stand by my statements. I am quite satisfied. I am not in the least worried about the number of volunteers we have. After the fires of 2003 went through there was an enormous influx of volunteers. Now they have been trained and they are online. What happened when we introduced the community fire units? Bang, the numbers went up. If anything, we have a problem in that when disasters occur we have to deal with spontaneous volunteering. That is an area that gives me some concern.
Mr Speaker, I am not worried about the letters. If, in fact, I felt that the time was nigh to have a massive recruitment drive for volunteers, I would do it. At the moment I do not see it at all. I think the Emergency Services Authority is doing a great job in progressing its volunteer training and collecting people who wish to be volunteers. In fact, I think Mr Pratt ought to stop his whingeing and congratulate the ESA on being so prepared, as they are, for this coming bushfire season. They are exponentially more prepared than they were when the guys opposite got tossed out of office in 2001.
Mr Smyth: Not true.
MR HARGREAVES: Unceremoniously.
MR PRATT: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, is it not true, though, that despite current numbers, you still have turnover targets? How can the ACT