Page 2335 - Week 06 - Friday, 27 June 2008
MR PRATT: Indeed, and the quotes that I am about to make are those which have been publicly reported as coming from the legal affairs inquiry. Mr Michael Ross, ex-chief officer of the RFS, said during a committee hearing, regarding the question of the territory’s readiness to face another major bushfire threat, that in terms of the SBMP, fuel reduction planning et cetera, and in terms of training, philosophy and equipment:
To this extent and in respect of these issues, Canberra is far better prepared than it was before 2003.
But in respect of the major benchmarks for readiness—that is, structure, organisation, command and control, the AIIMS best practice and strategic control—these were “issues that would be found wanting under extreme emergency situations”. In general terms, I would support this observation, but I would add a number of other fundamentals of major concern: morale, capability, chemical-biological-radiological preparation, strategic planning, and emergency contingencies. I do not see activities in the budget that address those matters.
Let us be clear on one thing: it has been this government’s failure to set down good governance models, this government’s failure to scrutinise, and successive ministers’ failure to question and be proactive when seeking advice from senior officials, that have resulted in the disastrous financial and governance management that we have seen in recent times. Not even the rationalisation exercise, undertaken purportedly to address those fundamental financial management concerns, has resolved those issues. In fact, in my view, it has simply sent the services backwards.
I am confident that the government are now well aware that there are serious problems associated with the relocation of the emergency services to the site at Fairbairn. They are well aware that this process may warrant the attention of the Auditor-General, but this awakening has taken too long and has cost the taxpayer far too much money. How many damn annual reports and estimates hearings have we been to, at which we asked questions about the relocation exercise to Fairbairn? It has been going on and on.
Let us look at some of the Fairbairn facts. Firstly, we see $18 million appropriated in the 2005-06 budget for the relocation to Fairbairn. Of that $18 million that was appropriated then, a mere $790,000 will have been spent by the end of the 2008-09 financial year—five years after it was deemed that the relocation was an urgent priority. I refer you, Mr Assistant Speaker, to recommendation 19 of the McLeod inquiry in late 2003: “Urgent upgrade or relocation of ESB”—as it was then called—”headquarters is needed.” So here we are, four years later, and this government has not got off its bum and resolved this outstanding issue. All we have seen is the dragging of the chain, the allocation of a lot of money but the spending of none of it, because of some major management concerns.
The current rent on all the buildings is $173,636 per month, but we only have 20 people at Fairbairn working from those buildings at present. The rent has effectively been paid on some buildings since September 2006. It is outrageous that we have been