Page 4652 - Week 14 - Thursday, 24 November 2005
appointments. Especially where I live and where Mr Speaker lives, in north-west Belconnen, a low socio-economic area, a lot of people simply do not have access to transport. Volunteers, for example from the Belconnen Community Service, come and assist them and take them to doctors appointments, in many instances over at Deakin where there are a number of surgeries which they have to attend. Those people simply would not be able to get there without immense difficulty were it not for these volunteers, who get some recompense.
They might get $10 or something occasionally for petrol. But again you do not add up the cost. It costs a hell of a lot more than that for each time they help, but they do it simply for the love of it and simply because they want to help their fellow man in Canberra. That is magnificent.
The clubs might be in a bit of danger here as a result of a few of the policies the government has adopted in recent times. Our licensed club industry, apart from the fact that it employs thousands of young and not so young Canberrans, is also staffed by volunteers, many of whom receive no recompense, especially in a club that is teetering. For example, people on boards of directors put in a large amount of time for little or no recompense—again, volunteers assisting our community to make it a far better place.
As Mr Smyth has said, it is up to governments to encourage that, but they cannot expect that it will go on willy-nilly. They cannot expect that it will continue to happen if these people come up against various impediments that make their job as a volunteer harder. It behoves everyone in this Assembly to ensure that the lot of volunteers is not only recognised but assisted by those of us here in terms of not having silly policies put in place that make the lot of volunteers a lot harder.
I commend the government on one initiative, and that is the CFUs. I was pleased to see at least stage one, which has been in the pipeline for some time now, formally activated, I think, last weekend. But I do ask: whatever happened to stage two? I know you have a very difficult budgetary situation, but I would have thought that, as a result of the McLeod inquiry, properly attacking any possibility of Canberra’s urban fringe being hit by fires again would be very, very high on the list of what government should do.
These people spend many, many hours training and now form an essentially important part in terms of potentially fighting fires on the urban fringe, and their numbers should be expanded. We have about 70 kilometres of urban fringe, and we have about only 40 per cent of however many CFUs we are meant to have to do that. I certainly encourage the government to kick-start a program that has been stalled, and let us go on to stage two, because that is important. It is not super costly, but there are people who are desperately keen to volunteer to help in their area who are being denied that opportunity. I see the minister walking away, but there is a lot more he, particularly, can do in relation to that.
Finally, in relation to the Howard government, I remind members opposite that Mr Howard is the second-longest serving prime minister. The coalition have been in power for 40 years out of the 60 since World War II. His particular government have now been in for 10 years; they have been elected on four occasions. They must be doing something right. I find it completely amazing—maybe you are jealous—the way you keep hooking into them at every possible opportunity, and even mentioning them on