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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1920


Mr RUDDOCK(7.33) —I wish to talk in this adjournment debate about assistance to emergency services. It is perhaps not readily appreciated that in each of our States we have organisations known as State emergency services. Very often it is thought that because they are State emergency services they are organisations that we can leave safely in the hands of the States without acknowledging that we have some special responsibility in relation to their needs and particularly in relation to the work that they undertake. In fact, if we look in the Budget Papers at the assistance given to local government and particularly to emergency services, we find that the Natural Disasters Organisation, which the Commonwealth established in 1974, is responsible for co-ordinating physical assistance provided by the Commonwealth, including that provided by the defence forces, with the efforts made by State and Northern Territory emergency services and local and voluntary organisations in order that they they can cope with natural disasters and assist with civil defence. These organisations are very important groups operating in most of our electorates, and the Natural Disasters Organisation has the function of supervising the provision of special forms of assistance that the Commonwealth is able to offer.

The Commonwealth assists in these areas with grants to meet the cost of salaries of an agreed number of State emergency services personnel, grants made on a dollar for dollar basis for the clearing of fire-breaks-that is not terribly prevalent in my electorate-and the provision of depots for emergency service units at a local level. It also provides assistance to officers to attend courses at the Australian Counter Disaster College at Mount Macedon, and capital equipment is provided to State organisations. In the year 1985-86 the total value of that equipment was $1.2m. For what amounts to $2.62m in 1984-85, $2.72m in 1985-86 and an estimated $3m this year, we obtain an extraordinarily valuable service.

I raise this matter because in my electorate at the moment the Ryde State Emergency Service is undertaking the task of endeavouring to raise money-a quite large amount of money-to acquire a rescue vehicle. I will support that organisation as significantly as I can in its efforts to raise the funds, but I think it needs to be understood that in these very difficult times organisations are not able to get assistance from the Commonwealth or from the States and are having to go into the streets to raise money in order to carry out what is, in essence, a voluntary function. The State emergency organisation is a voluntary organisation. Its duty is to protect the public and their property. It represents a commitment by volunteers to aid other emergency services when they are needed. It has to provide manpower and equipment, very often from its own resources. It gets money to assist in providing uniforms, which invariably do not fit or are taken when people leave the organisation, so people even have to equip themselves with uniforms to work in it.

The Ryde service is an important one. It covers the suburbs of Ryde, North Ryde, Gladesville, Eastwood, Meadowbank, Marsfield, Macquarie Park, Putney, Melrose Park, Denistone and Hunters Hill. It is also called upon to assist other organisations in Sydney and is available for emergency work anywhere in country New South Wales. The magnitude of the appeal that the organisation will have to undertake can be understood by the following costs: In order to buy a vehicle it will have to spend $55,000 on a chassis, $10,000 on a winch, $5,000 on a generator, $7,000 for bodywork and material, $2,000 for painting and sign-writing, $3,000 for communications equipment and $3,000 for contingencies-a total of $85,000. The organisation will need that vehicle to enable it to carry its rescue team and rescue equipment and to be an integral part of the total rescue operations mounted by State emergency service organisations generally. It is also needed to provide a mobile operations centre, a mobile communications centre and the transport of equipment and materials under the instruction of the police and the fire brigade.

While officers of the State Emergency Service are trying to raise money to pay for a vehicle, they are not able to involve themselves in the important work for which they ought to be preparing; that is, the rescue of people and assisting with civil defence functions. At the moment, in order to raise money, they have to play a part in the organisation of functions, street parades and things of that nature. It is a very demanding exercise but one in which they deserve all our support.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.