Mr NORTHE (Morwell) — I rise this morning to speak on the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee Report on the 2015–16 Budget Estimates, and I specifically refer to chapter 9 of the report, which is headed ‘The government’s election commitments’. In particular this is an analysis of Labor’s Financial Statement 2014. This chapter sought to assess the extent, the output and the expenditure reduction commitments in Labor’s financial statement that had been funded and to what extent the asset commitments in Labor’s financial statement had been funded.
If you have a look through that particular report, you will see it talks about a number of commitments that were made and that were funded, partly funded or not funded. Of those, there were 14 projects that were not funded. I have not got the list of the whole 14 here, but I did not see the West Heidelberg police station within that. The Acting Speaker, the member for Ivanhoe, might have something to say about that.
Section 9.2.4 refers to the projects that were funded, but to an unclear extent. Within that, it refers to 450 new firefighters. In that context I want to speak about some of the fire services in my area, in particular the implementation of Country Fire Authority (CFA) district 27. I also want to talk about the budget and election commitments of a new Morwell CFA fire station or, in the government’s words, the ‘new emergency services hub’. In addition to that, appendix 9.3 of the report, headed ‘Output initiatives noted as fulfilling election commitments where it is not clear what commitments they relate to’, specifically refers to firefighter training at Hazelwood, with a $1.7 million commitment in the 2015–16 budget.
With respect to the implementation of a new CFA fire district, district 27, which essentially covers the Latrobe district and includes 23 fire stations within the Morwell electorate, $5.5 million has been allocated to introduce the new district, but unfortunately there are a series of questions that remain unanswered in relation to its implementation. At this point in time, as I understand it, we have an operations manager supported by a couple of administrative staff. It is not fully operational and not fully resourced, and I am approached on a regular basis by both volunteers and CFA staff with respect to what is happening with district 27.
In this place recently I submitted 14 questions on notice to the Minister for Emergency Services with respect to district 27, including how this $5.5 million commitment will be spent. I asked for a staffing profile of district 27, I asked how many employees would be required to staff CFA district 27 adequately and I asked when district 27 would be operational at full capacity. Where is the implementation plan? Where is the business plan? What has happened with the communications with local CFA volunteers and staff? All these things are missing. There is some concern that resources and equipment will be transferred from other districts to establish district 27. If so, will those resources and assets be backfilled? Appendix 9.3 does not make clear what brown coal or specialised brown coal fire training would occur.
We talked about the emergency services hub. There is $8 million in budget and election commitments provided for that hub. Will the Morwell CFA station have a brand-new site? Will it be co-located with ambulance services as it currently is in Morwell? None of these questions have been answered. With respect to technical rescue vehicles and associated equipment, my understanding is that there is a shortfall in the region, and that needs to be addressed as well.
There are a number of questions that were put on notice with respect to these issues, and unfortunately the minister’s response was totally unsatisfactory. She basically said it is a matter for the CFA to work through. There has been no comment and no communications with local CFA volunteers and staff. It is simply not good enough, and the government needs to answer these questions of not only CFA volunteers but also the community.