Emergency Services

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. R.L. Brokenshire:1. That a select committee of the Legislative Council be established to inquire into—

(a) the government establishment of the commissioner to replace chief officers in the proposed emergency services reform;

(b) the process involved in consultation and what consideration was given to matters raised during consultation in developing the reform proposal;

(c) the business plan;

(d) cost benefit analysis and probity regarding the proposed reform;

(e) consideration and consultation with volunteer organisations affected by the government proposal;

(f) the establishment of legal requirements for the chief officer and chief executive officer of emergency services and SAFECOM and the SAFECOM board; and

(g) any other relevant matters.

2. That Standing Order No. 389 be so far suspended as to enable the chairperson of the committee to have a deliberative vote only.

3. That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.

4. That Standing Order No. 396 be suspended to enable strangers to be admitted when the select committee is examining witnesses unless the committee otherwise resolves, but they shall be excluded when the committee is deliberating.

(Continued from 11 February 2015)

 

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 17:01 :48 ): I rise on behalf the Greens to indicate that we will be supporting this motion, brought by the Hon. Robert Brokenshire, to establish a select committee; indeed, we look forward to being involved in populating that select committee. As members are aware, and as many in the South Australian community are aware, last year minister Piccolo announced that it was the government's intention to have a sole commissioner oversee emergency services in South Australia. While I have not been contacted by the MFS or the UFU on this issue, I have certainly been lobbied to support this select committee motion by both the CFS Volunteers Association and the South Australian State Emergency Service Volunteers Association. I would say that given that two key stakeholders' representative bodies have grave concerns and support this select committee, then the government should be taking note of the select committee and participating fully in it.

Sonia St Alban, who is the executive director of the CFS Volunteers Association, writes, in a letter dated 24 February:

The CFSVA writes to you in relation to recent media release by the Minister for Emergency Services , Tony Piccolo . T hrough the media on Sunday 22 February 2015 (the day before the reference group meeting) and Monday 23 February 2015 (subsequent to the reference group meeting) t he minister issued some 'loose announcements' without detail, which the minister suggests shows he is 'listening' to concerns raised by volunteers.

The CFSVA is totally frustrated by the minister's reactionary process which lacks substance, detail and most importantly direction. This continual change is causing CFS volunteers to be angry, disillusioned and indeed nervous for the future of CFS and the emergency services in South Australia.

Minister Piccolo will only discuss the sector reform process with the CFSVA at monthly reference group meetings in case, as suggested by the minister, it might be seen that the CFSVA is attempting to do a side deal. The minister's position is forcing the CFSVA to seek alternative avenues of raising the serious and justified concerns of 13,500 CFS volunteers.

Ms St Alban goes on, but I say that this government should be listening to those 13,500 volunteers who sacrifice not only their health and personal safety but also their spare time to work for South Australians and to protect our life and liberty.

South Australian State Emergency Service Volunteers' Association Chair Warren Hicks wrote on 24 February to myself and no doubt other members of this council:

On behalf of SES volunteers, the Association endorses the proposal by the Hon. Robert Brokenshire for a Select Committee to be established to look into the proposal to amalgamate the Emergency Services Sector in South Australia under a Commissioner and asks that you support his motion.

The letter goes on:

T he proposal still lacks considerable detail and even the announcement by the Minister yesterday is ultimately saying that the restructure will take 12-18 months, having not allowed the time required for the legislative changes needed for full implementation. In the interim he proposes to appoint a Commissioner as soon as practical and volunteers are concerned this will become a Community S afety D irectorate Mark 2 and we are all well aware how that failed dismally and was best summarised by Police Commissioner Gary Burns who said: 'he did not really have a handle on what the body's role was'. And then 'he did not know how the directorate differed from the South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission.

Simply the Government by establishing their new body 'SAFER' is going to increase the senior management structure with a Commissioner and 6 Assistant Commissioners, when if SAFECOM hadn't been decimated via the Sustainable Budget Commission, the Sector would still then have been supported fully in areas such as Procurement, IT, HR, WH& S, Finance etc, instead of agencies trying to cover the shortfalls that resulted.

Strong words from both of the volunteer associations here who are key stakeholders.

When the minister announced these reforms he said that agencies would retain their individual identities, and certainly here these agencies are asserting their own individual identities and I believe they need to be listened to. While the minister said that there would be a two-phase process, I certainly note that the minister has proceeded with advertising for the appointment of a commissioner, which I believe is putting the cart before the horse and is treating this parliament with contempt because this is, of course, a two-part process. The minister himself admitted that when he announced it, and the second part of this will require legislative change.

To debate that legislative change, this select committee will certainly properly inform that debate and give stakeholders a voice that they believe is not being heard by government at the moment. With those words, I indicate that we will be supporting and populating this select committee.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 17:24 :06 ): I rise to support this motion and add further to my comments in supporting the establishment of a select committee. I have no doubt that the government has done extensive consultation. It is just that I think that their definition of consultation is a little more like mansplaining than listening. This government, the Weatherill Labor government, came to power after the years of the Rann government saying that they would no longer do a 'declare and defend' strategy. This appears to me to be a 'decide, declare, travel all over the state and have 40+ public meetings and talk, but not listen' strategy. Yes, some amendments have been made, but I would point out to government members that the letters I just read out in the previous debate were from this current week from the CFS Volunteers Association and the SES Volunteers Association. They are not outdated letters; they are current, contemporary letters of the last few days.

The volunteers associations are still not happy, even though they have had extensive consultation. To me, if you are saying that you are having a conversation, perhaps that conversation does need some more active listening. This is a way that this Legislative Council can say to this government, 'We are listening to those associations, and we are standing up and we are giving you a very large red flat that, when you bring legislative reform to this place, we will stand up for the volunteers associations, unless they are happy with these reforms.'

They have said that they are open to a mature debate. I would think that the nuclear industry is not the only place in this in state that we can have a mature debate, and there is no more important area than our emergency services, particularly in this era of climate change, where we need to ensure that we have a healthy, volunteer-led and, indeed, a high-morale emergency services.

These are people who put their life on the line for us. They deserve to be listened to, to actually be heard, not just treated as if they are somehow needing to be mansplained that this government knows what is best for them. With those words, I say that, at this point, the Greens wholeheartedly support a big red flag being sent to this government by saying that we will support this motion.

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