Page 4894 - Week 15 - Thursday, 15 December 2005
pay for such a headquarters and the ESA has to operate in inadequate premises. Indeed, they have even taken to bullying childcare centres in order to procure more room for their own activities because this government is unable to provide the headquarters the ESA so desperately needs.
Then there is the strange reversal of the $10 million funding previously appropriated for the joint emergency headquarters centre in Belconnen. Why did that funding have to be reversed? Why was the ESA not able to go through with these important projects? What about your men and women in the field? What about the facilities they need to operate in? This all paints a picture of disarray in terms of budget project management.
Let us look at another issue. Volunteers are the salt of the earth. They are bloody good men and women. They need better support than they are getting with this mob. We know, minister, that you are gagging them. I know it because they are telling me. There are questions about failing to involve those with experience in the field who could make a significant contribution to sorting out problems within the ESA and its agencies.
But when do the commissioner and this magnificent bloody bureaucracy ever consult with the expert captains in the field? How much do our experienced field leaders of the RFS, the SES, the fire brigade and the ambulance get to contribute to project definition, systems design, organisational change and systemic development? The word we have got is that they do not. When they do speak up, they are witch-hunted. Is this the way you expect your departmental officials to behave?
Then there is the question of what has happened to the community fire units, the CFUs? It has taken three years to train 28 CFUs and the minimum requirement, identified by experts in the ACT and, I believe, agreed to by the government, is 80 CFUs. You, the Labor government, then promised to train 80 CFUs, and you are nowhere near it. What about the Torrens community fire unit? They have expressed concerns to me in recent months. Have they had their problems addressed yet?
To summarise a few concerns, there has been a failure to increase funding to ensure the continued rollout of community fire units. There is a lack of commitment to ensure the continuation of the fire management unit in urban services, as was recommended by McLeod. There was the black banning of the fire brigade’s new compressed air foam units, and we still have not heard where those fire units are. There was the clamp on rural fire service drivers to undertake urgent driving duty.
It is clear that the Stanhope government has forgotten its promise after the January 2003 bushfire disaster to make community safety paramount. The minister should not ignore the bushfire threat just because the government has become complacent. It appears that the ESA cannot manage its finances. It cannot resource its projects. There are questions being raised by the opposition and there are questions being raised by the men and women in the field who are rubbing shoulders with these projects. The people in the community are asking questions and other experienced people who used to be in the agencies are asking questions as well.
Therefore, with accountability and community safety in mind, I move this motion today to have the operations and financial management of the ESA to date investigated by a committee in order that the community may have the answers and the protections it