Page 3199 - Week 10 - Thursday, 25 September 2014

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The amendments in relation to bushfire prevention attempt to balance the significant bushfire risks posed to the ACT community from bushfire against the important conservation values we hold for our environment. I would point out that the objects of the Emergencies Act are to protect and preserve life, property and the environment. Overall these new amendments, along with the new strategic bushfire management plan, place the ACT in a better position to respond to the challenge of a hotter and drier climate for the ACT which we are confronted with as a result of climate change.

In addition to amendments to improve bushfire prevention, a number of amendments in the bill seek to improve the response capability of our emergency services personnel. In recent years emergency services and agencies have undertaken planning activities and exercises surrounding a wide range of emergency situations, including responding to a pandemic, quarantine event, bushfire, earthquake, terrorism event, energy shortage, flood, mass casualty event, heat event and hazardous materials emergency scenarios. These activities provide the opportunity to continually reflect on improvements to the way we prepare for and respond to emergencies.

Recent exercises and planning activities, along with post-disaster inquiries, have highlighted a number of amendments which would improve the emergency management framework for our emergency services personnel. Many of the proposed amendments attempt to remove any ambiguity and clarify the act in relation to emergency management powers and arrangements. These amendments include ensuring the act recognises the important operational and administrative support areas within the ESA that support the functions of our four emergency services, clarifying the powers of the Emergency Services Commissioner when providing directions to chief officers regarding the coordination of response and recovery activities in times of an emergency, providing the power for chief officers and an emergency controller, if appointed, to close premises in emergencies and to obtain information, and, finally, clarifying the powers available to an emergency controller, if appointed, to manage an emergency involving essential services such as a shortage of fuel or electricity or some other fundamental good or service that supports the community. The additional powers provided to emergency personnel need to be viewed in the context of the reasons for which they are provided. The powers enable our emergency services personnel to protect and preserve life, property and the environment and to manage and coordinate our community response to emergencies when they arise.

In conclusion, the proposed amendments in this bill will improve our planning activities to prevent bushfires, provide new powers to our emergency service personnel to assist them in managing emergencies and propose an increased infringement penalty to those that discard lit cigarettes. I commend this bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth) adjourned to the next sitting.

Training and Tertiary Education Amendment Bill 2014

Ms Burch, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

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