Page 4893 - Week 15 - Thursday, 15 December 2005

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That was all bunkum; that was all spin. Recently, in an FOI request, I asked the ESA for all documents pertaining to such preparations. The commissioner advised me in a letter that he was referring my request to JACS for such information. The commissioner did not appear to have any information under his agency that could be provided to me: no plans, no strategies, no working papers, no draft papers and no correspondence apparently pertaining to any thinking, preparation or identification of the terrorist threat management.

Why would Commissioner Dunn be advising Mr Stanhope on these terrorist threat evacuation issues if, as Commissioner Dunn stated in his FOI request response, JACS is the lead agency for counter-terrorism activities and he does not have any documentation pertaining to such preparations? This does not make sense. Either the ESA is responsible or they are not. The Chief Minister seems to think the ESA are responsible for counter-terrorism and evacuation preparation or at least plays a major role with other agencies in those preparations. But the ESA commissioner seems to think they are not as they appear to have no documentation on the matter at all.

That is really curious. There are also big questions about the appropriation of money to fulfil the McLeod recommendations. In the communications area $26 million was identified as the requirement, with $23.6 million actually being appropriated in the 2003-04 budget in the aftermath of the January 2003 disaster. There is no clear indication of how this funding has been spent, where it has been spent, if contracts have been completed and if this funding has been diverted into other areas. Over the last two and a half years the opposition has continually asked questions in estimates and hearings. Often we have been given very broad information on many of these issues, but nothing definitive.

Mr Hargreaves said that, under the new trunk radio net system, the staff of the ESA wanted 22 base stations. That has become only nine base stations, with only five of those nine installed at the beginning of this year. It is still not clear how many of those base stations have been installed. There are very significant questions about where that $23 million actually has gone, whether these operational objectives were actually achieved, whether the original operational requirements that were the basis for the appropriation of funding have been achieved and whether projects have been completed and are effective.

Let us look at staffing. The ESA seems to be very keen on employing consultants and temporary contractors on communications projects. In fact, the remuneration for only two temporary contractors on some communications projects was $1,100 a day for one and $780 a day for the other. That is close to $500,000 for the year that those two contractors were employed by the ESA. This raises more questions. Minister, why did you expand the original operational communications centre? Why did you double or even triple the number of staff? Why have so many of those staff been consultants and why have they been paid exorbitant rates? These are things that a select committee should examine.

Then there is the headquarters debacle. After the McLeod findings into the 2003 bushfire disaster, this government promised that the ESA would be getting a new headquarters. Where are we going with that recommendation? Now we find that there is no funding to

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