Firefighter denied reply

A leading volunteer firefighter has taken the unusual step of seeking a "citizen’s right of reply" in the Legislative Assembly to respond to statements made by Emergency Services.

However, the Assembly’s administration and procedure committee members split on whether the issue warranted a reply. Liberal MLA Brendan Smyth and Greens MLA De Foskey believed it did, but Speaker Wayne Berry and Labor MLA Karin MacDonald said it did not; which meant the reply was not allowed.

ACT Volunteer Brigades Association president Pat Barling took offence at Mr Corbell’s comments in the Assembly on March 15 after volunteer firefighters had earlier protested outside the building against the proposed emergency services restructure.

He objected to Mr Corbell’s assertions that volunteers had been invited to discuss the creation of the Emergency Services Agency but had declined and instead held a rally. He said neither Mr Corbell nor the Agency’s commissioner, Gregor Manson, had made the invitation and he wanted his objections recorded in the Assembly.

"We believe the minister has misrepresented the ACT Volunteer Brigades Association and misled the Assembly on this matter." Mr Barling’s reply was not tabled, but Mr Smyth read it out in the Assembly so it would be recorded, saying there was still "much disquiet" within the ranks of the volunteer firefighters.

There were concerns about the restructure but also other serious issues such as the safety of new tankers used by the brigades. Mr Corbell said he stood by his comments.

He was not focused on the past but the future, and believed his relationship with the volunteers was strong, not least because he met with them every six weeks to discuss issues.

Courtesy of Megan Doherty Canberra Times Friday, August 31, 2007

Last updated 4 November 2014