Page 4728 - Week 15 - Tuesday, 13 December 2005

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MR CORBELL: Because we rely on people, Mr Smyth, to tell the truth and unfortunately—

Mr Smyth: We rely on you to issue the information. If you withheld information—

MR CORBELL: No, that is right, and we cannot. You are quite right, Mr Smyth, we cannot rely on you to tell the truth; we cannot rely on you—

Mr Smyth: Mr Speaker, he has to withdraw the imputation.

MR SPEAKER: Against whom?

Mr Smyth: He just said, “We can’t rely on Mr Smyth to tell the truth”. He must withdraw.

MR SPEAKER: He did not say that. I was listening closely. Order! I ask Mr Corbell to conclude.

MR CORBELL: The reality is that we cannot rely on Mr Smyth to correctly represent the facts to the people of Canberra. We cannot rely on him to make an argument based on the facts. We cannot rely on him to have any integrity when it comes to reporting information made available to him under freedom of information.

We all know what Mr Smyth is interested in. Mr Smyth is interested only in making an argument that suits his means, regardless of whether it is true. His attitude is: say it often enough and someone, hopefully somewhere, will believe it. On this occasion, he went too far. He had a claim that he knew was blatantly untrue, and he still went and made it. That only brings his office and himself into disrepute. It does not do anything to encourage confidence in the public health system when you have the potential minister for health out there deliberately misrepresenting figures for his own political ends.

Emergency Services Authority—volunteers

MR GENTLEMAN: My question is to the minister for emergency services. Minister, are you aware of allegations made in the media regarding the treatment of volunteers during the recent storm cleanup? What is the government’s response to these concerns?

MR HARGREAVES: I thank Mr Gentleman for the question. Yes, I am aware of the allegations made in yesterday’s Canberra Times. I was concerned by the allegations as, like most Canberrans, I believe the handling of the large storm and the subsequent cleanup was a credit to those volunteers and paid staff from the rural fire service, state emergency service, the fire brigade and the ESA in general.

Although I am no stranger to the media and the opposition trying to find negative stories in order to denigrate and undermine the fantastic work done by our emergency services volunteers, I felt that it was important to have these allegations investigated. Upon investigation, it appears that the efforts of the vast majority of our volunteers have been tainted by the actions of a few. I refer members to the letters page of the Canberra Times

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