Page 4286 - Week 13 - Thursday, 17 November 2005

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Public Accounts—Standing Committee

Statement by chair

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (11.32): Pursuant to standing order 246A, I wish to make a statement, on behalf of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, on a review of Auditor-General’s performance audit report No 4 of 2005 into courts administration. On 21 September 2005, Auditor-General’s report No 4 of 2005 was referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts for inquiry.

The committee resolved on 28 September 2005 to inquire further into the report. The committee will be seeking submissions to its inquiry next year and is intending to hold public hearings in March and April of 2006. The committee is expecting to report to the Legislative Assembly on the report as soon as is practicable.

Emergencies Amendment Bill 2005

Debate resumed from 23 June 2005, on motion by Mr Hargreaves:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (11.33): I rise today to speak generally in support of the government’s Emergencies Amendment Bill 2005. I will commence my speech by reviewing some of the aspects of the bill that the minister previously tabled. This bill, as the minister explained previously in the June sitting, amends the Emergencies Act 2004 and also amends the Fuels Control Act 1979 and the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1989.

The Emergencies Act 2005, referred to by me now as the act, and its regulations came into effect on 1 July 2004 in response to the aftermath of the January 2003 bushfire disaster and to facilitate the formation of a new Emergency Services Authority to replace the previous Emergency Services Bureau. It includes a raft of amendments which the opposition recommended and which, thankfully, were agreed to by the last Assembly, making it, we believe, a much more effective piece of legislation.

Among other things, the act sets out the powers and responsibilities of the ESA, the commissioner, staff, officers and component services under these new arrangements. The bill makes some amendments to clarify the meaning and intent of the original act and to make some minor policy changes. The minister claims—and I would agree with his claims—that for the most part the proposed amendments and additions do not significantly alter the make-up and functions of the authority and its component services. After examining the bill and its impact on the Emergencies Act, I would agree that this, for the most part, is the case.

It is of some significance, however, that the bill amends the act to ensure that the authority now has a role in planning for, not just managing, emergencies. The proactive planning component is essential in preparing for community safety in the event of another disaster, and to that end the opposition is entirely supportive. It is certainly no good being reactive and simply responding to or managing an emergency under way. There needs to be significant planning, and I think that has been fairly well addressed.

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