Page 4899 - Week 15 - Thursday, 15 December 2005

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continue to track expenditure and question the government more broadly through currently available Assembly mechanisms.

We must also consider the impact that the coronial inquest may have on the ESA’s functions and policies. While the disastrous fires predate the authority’s establishment, the inquest findings are likely to have implications for future operations. It is my view that this proposed select committee would want to take any findings from the inquest into account in considering the future operations of the ESA. Yet, if the inquest were not complete, or if the ESA had not had time to take those findings into account, then the committee could be simply wasting time chasing its tail.

Finally, I am aware of reports that some volunteers are disgruntled with the ESA, citing a lack of adequate resourcing, be it for the chainsaws or first-aid kits, and their limited capacity to speak out about problems. I acknowledge that relations between the professional arm of the ESA and its volunteers are hugely important if it is to function effectively. However, as I indicated before, it is only hearsay evidence at this point in time. If it were substantiated, yes, there would be cause for concern. I would say that there is a lack of clarity about relationships between professionals working in government departments and volunteers and this might be an area that needs to be clarified across government as a whole. This is particularly important in relation to emergency services.

My office will maintain an active interest in this aspect of ESA’s operations over the next few months and I am quite prepared to revisit the matter in the autumn sittings, if necessary. I must just put it on the record that, while Mr Hargreaves does rail against what he believes to be Mr Pratt’s excessive use of the question on notice system, I believe that Mr Pratt has a particular interest in the ESA and is within his rights, as a member of this place, to ask questions, annoying though they might be. It is still the role of people who are not in government to scrutinise the government’s performance, and asking questions is a really important part of that.

So while I cannot agree at this time to establishing a select committee to examine the ESA, I would like to put on record my interest in the future management of the authority. I am sure that Mr Pratt will remind me of my interest regularly.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (11.33): Mr Hargreaves, as always, misses the point. He refuses to address the substantive. He goes on the personal attack and issues a sermon but, at the end of the day, totally avoids the issue. Let me say, first and foremost, that this motion is not an attack on the volunteers. It is to support the volunteers, who have come to us because they feel that they are not being heard. They are saying that they have not been heard for some time on a number of very important issues, including adequate equipment, equipment replacement, logistical support, and the list goes on. I will go through the list.

Mr Hargreaves talked about Mr Pratt’s diatribe. He said that Mr Pratt should learn respect and that he is dismayed at Mr Pratt’s vicious and venomous bullying. It is good theatre when you do not have an answer to the substantive issues that have been raised in the motion. Mr Hargreaves is good on the theatre and very, very lousy on the content.

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