Page 526 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 13 February 2013

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Yes, the McLeod report had a swag of recommendations. Most were actioned positively, and then most were undone. I think the most startling one is recommendation 53:

The separate organisations that make up the emergency services group that is coordinated by the Emergency Services Bureau, and the associated arrangements, should be replaced by a statutory authority, the ACT Emergency Services Authority.

And of course that happened. But it did not last very long, because it did not meet the government’s budget requirements.

One of the concerns that certainly come out of the volunteers continually is the state of the budget and some of the loss of funding that has occurred. And it would be good if perhaps the minister, and he would have time to do it, stood up and told members what has happened to the budget of the RFS. We know there were some significant cuts to fire funding over a decade that resulted in the loss of about $10 million. It has bounced back in the last year. But there is an inconsistency in the approach and the inconsistency leads to an inconsistent outcome, and there are many volunteers that are concerned with that.

Part 2—and I do not think anybody would disagree with it—commends the hard work of the staff and the volunteers. It is very hard to disagree with that. When we look at part 3—and it acknowledges the recent successful operations to deal with the extreme fire danger on 8 January 2013; indeed, the operations were successful; they put out the fires that occurred—there is concern among a number of volunteers that I have spoken to since we were given warning of the motion.

Indeed, it was curious that on the day when the government had the motion, they also had the question about this matter in question time. Not everyone is convinced—and many volunteers have told me the jury is out—of our ability. This is volunteers critiquing themselves and saying: “Yes, we did a good job, but we are not sure because there were not a significant number of fires on a significant number of days or indeed a large-campaign fire over a four, five, six, seven or eight-day period.” Many of the older, senior volunteers are still quite concerned about that eventuality.

There is a lot of new blood in the brigades. Consequently, there is a lack of experience. A lot of it is not perfect, and most of it, in many people’s minds, has not been tested. People told me the reaction to the fires on the 8th out at Wallaroo Road and other places was good, but many thought they had not been pushed hard. Many have memories of 2001. Remember, this is a government that after December 2001, when fires swept all the way up to the entrance to Government House, had recommendations that really were not actioned so that in 2003 we were probably less prepared than we had been in 2001. So there are volunteers out there in the know who are telling me the jury is out and they are concerned with cuts to RFS funding.

I would like to praise the former commissioner Mark Crosweller. He did, of course, come out of New South Wales RFS and had a particularly big focus on RFS in the

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