Page 2760 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 12 August 2015

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Directorate. I understand there were several reasons why this occurred, including that the ACT is a small jurisdiction and it is difficult for the ACT to operate a large number of statutory agencies.

I agree it is something of a vexed question as to what would be the perfect structure for the ESA. I know there are some advantages to having the ESA as an independent agency. There are also advantages to the current administrative structure. The Emergencies Act, for example, still ensures that the commissioner and chief officers for operational response have independence. They also have direct communication and reporting to the minister.

There are significant efficiencies to be gained by having the ESA in a directorate structure. It saves duplication on things like corporate functions, financial governance and, for that matter, project management for new capital infrastructure. The benefit is that this allows the ESA to focus more on operational service delivery rather than having to deliver those functions as well.

I cannot say at this point that I am convinced that making the ESA an independent statutory authority will necessarily solve the challenges faced by the agency or that it will result in an overall better outcome. As I said, that is a serious decision that would result in a significant restructure.

There has been a large amount of work in this area. The McLeod and Doogan reports gave the ACT government and emergency services a wealth of recommendations to work with. The Auditor-General has undertaken relevant inquiries, including several relating to bushfire management. We have seen more recently, for example, the lower Cotter catchment report. The government has been working with these for several years.

There is a strategic reform agenda underway within the ESA. This is a complex task, occurring over several years. It does not surprise me that there are contentious elements of this agenda. One specific issue that Mr Smyth has raised relates to the executive structure. The four service chief officers remain, and three new areas are created to support the agency’s enabling services. My understanding is that these changes stem from ESA reviews. I am satisfied at this point that we should let this process continue to unfold.

Minister Burch recently reported to the estimates committee on the strategic reform agenda. She said that it was progressing positively and especially noted that since the quarterly report for the ESA the ACTAS blueprint for change showed that staff in that agency were positively engaged in the organisation. As she also noted, the Assembly will receive an update in September when Minister Burch reports to the Assembly on progress.

At estimates the commissioner, Mr Lane, also elaborated on the rationale for and the progress of the strategic reform agenda. He pointed out, for example, that the ACT is part of a national strategy for disaster resilience and that the strategic reform agenda focuses on achieving that, especially through a focus on prevention and protection. He also pointed out that the expenditure review of the ESA and the recent $3.9 million

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