Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 26 August 2009) . . Page.. 3660 ..
because the Stanhope government refuses to engage the community in effective discussion of the analysis and findings that were contained in the Costello report. In one of the 2006 budget papers, the Stanhope-Gallagher government noted that the Costello report had commented critically that the authority’s budget had increased by 46 per cent since 2002-03 and in the next paragraph the government sets out all additional spending that had been made on emergency services.
The arguments used by the Stanhope-Gallagher government to abolish the authority were very weak. In any event, the authority was abolished. The management of emergency services has been treated in a sorry manner by the Stanhope-Gallagher government and, sadly, the situation is no better today.
In July 2009, we had the extraordinary sight of the emergency services minister announcing, out of the blue, that each of the four emergency services would have their own service chief. He claimed all sorts of evidence to support this decision but an internal government document shows that this decision was made on the run. It was a minister who had to respond to serious concerns within the ESA and he shot from the hip. He apparently did not consult with his then commissioner; he did not give it any thought; he did not plan it; and he had no capacity to follow the decision through. The internal document distributed to rural fire service volunteers clearly demonstrates how poor this decision was. It says, “There are no clear directions to how this change will be implemented.”
This was not the only turmoil in recent times at senior levels in the ESA. It actually followed an announcement by the minister two weeks previous to this decision that, indeed, he would not be changing the model and that he would keep the two deputy commissioners. We then saw another senior officer, the Deputy Commissioner of Fire and Rescue, leave the ESA. The internal government document reveals that this position would then not be filled.
This is not an indication of a minister who is in control of agencies that are his responsibility. This is a sign of a government that is unable to manage effectively. The government has no strategy for emergency services. I have not even touched on other issues that affect the provision of emergency services in the ACT—for instance, a new headquarters and its site.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I fully expect that the government will argue that the proposal in this bill is an expensive return to the failed past. That is the way of this government and of this minister. There will not be any substance in these arguments. They are simply rhetoric because we know that since the changes the ESA has continued to blow its budget.
Of course, the model that the Stanhope-Gallagher government implemented from 2006 has been shown to be a failed model for the provision of emergency services. The recent announcements from the emergency services minister demonstrate that this model was top heavy, cumbersome, administratively inefficient and expensive to operate. Not only has the minister’s model failed but history has shown that there have been no savings in costs. Indeed, cost overruns and poor financial management have continued to plague the provision of emergency services in the ACT.