Page 2338 - Week 06 - Friday, 27 June 2008
With respect to digital data communications and the vehicle locating system, we have been through, many times in this place, the debacle about what was then called the FireLink project. There was $5 million wasted on that project and we have nothing to show for it now; nor do we have any sign in the budget of an attempt to develop a digital data communications and vehicle locating system. While McLeod did not particularly name this concept, he did recommend that the studies underway, which included analysing and implementing such a system, should proceed. He was quite keen that they should proceed. It would seem to be best practice that such a system needs to be in place, but we do not see any efforts or any intention by this government to move in that direction.
Let us look at the ESA as an organisation. I quote again from the McLeod inquiry report. It talked about “a more unified and independent emergency services organisation”. But Mr Corbell, in July 2006, as part of the rationalisation, cut that independence and the ESA reverted to being under the umbrella of JACS, in much the same way that the ESB had been previously. Mr Corbell will stand up and say until he is blue in the face that it has not lost its operational independence. He says that all the time, but that is just bunkum. What happens when you place an entity like this back under a department? We see it here and in estimates; we see it in the body language and in the answers from senior JACS officials on behalf of the commissioner. JACS really envelops and controls the ESA. And do not tell me that the commissioner is independent; he is not.
The other very important litmus test is this: there is still very deep bitterness in the ranks of the Rural Fire Service about this matter, and that bitterness has not been addressed. This minister will not address this issue. He allows his commissioner and the senior officials in JACS to continue to stamp their authority—and in some cases we are being told it is in a very bullying way—over the RFS. This minister is out to lunch. He stands back and lets that go on.
Witness the public pronouncements coming out of the legal affairs committee inquiry. The overwhelming evidence by experienced RFS volunteers, including a brace of captains who turned up to that inquiry, was that there is a great depth of discontent about this particular matter. They are really concerned and really peed off—excuse my French; I will withdraw that, Mr Assistant Speaker.
MR ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr Pratt.
MR PRATT: They are deeply concerned and really upset by the fact that this minister will not step in, grab that commissioner and the senior officials in JACS by the short and curlies and do something about the independence of the ESA, and do something about morale in the RFS, which is in a disgraceful state. There is no question about it. If things go the way they have been going, if this minister remains out to lunch, we are going to have a repeat of what happened on 12 March 2007, when the RFS turned up outside in this square, parked their fire trucks and dumped their keys. With the grace of God, and with a winter break at this time, we will not have a repeat of this problem, but it is brewing and it will happen, unless you, Mr Corbell, get off your backside and address the matter. There is plenty of money in this budget