Tonight I refer to the impact on my electorate of the consistent failure by the Liberal-Nationals Government to adequately fund and resource the Blue Mountains State Emergency Service [SES].
Yesterday the Minister for Police, and Minister for Emergency Services and his lackeys were traipsing around the building celebrating Wear Orange Wednesday and this afternoon they hosted SES top brass at the rooftop garden on Level 9.
I often accuse the Liberals and Nationals of saying one thing in their electorates and of doing another thing in Parliament. This is an example of them saying one thing in this place at an afternoon tea for hard working volunteers, but doing another thing in the very same building by refusing to fund the Blue Mountains SES fleet replacement.
The Government has brought its hypocrisy to Macquarie Street and it is on display for all to see.
In the Blue Mountains, local SES rescue vehicles are pushing 15 years of age. They are literally falling apart after a tough life of serving and protecting the local community.
One of the vehicles has gaffer tape holding in the rubber seals around the fixed windows.
Another vehicle periodically loses all electrical power for a short time while being driven, effectively rendering it useless. The same vehicle also has random electrical gremlins which cause the red and blue emergency lights to activate while the engine is off and the doors are locked.
If people cannot trust the vehicle to operate reliably they cannot use it.
When the vehicle was sent from the Blue Mountains to Revesby for repairs, the volunteers were expected to make their way home on public transport, making it a day-long exercise just to drop off the vehicle at the workshop. This is not what people who volunteer for the SES signed up for—running errands for the State Government because SES vehicle electrics are chronically stuffed.
In another case of electrical gremlins, yet another large rescue vehicle was taken out of service recently. It had to be push-started by volunteers outside Katoomba police station after the SES team had assisted police with a search for a missing person. What an embarrassment for the organisation to be seen trying to push-start a government-owned rescue vehicle in front of tourists and visitors on the main street of the biggest tourist destination in the Blue Mountains. With that vehicle out of action it means five fewer volunteers available to respond to emergencies. As my constituents who are volunteers at the Blue Mountains SES highlight to me, our region has the highest bushfire risk levels in the country. They are terrified of the potential outcomes should these vehicles suffer a failure while on deployment during an emergency.
The volunteers are concerned for their safety and, as a consequence, the Minister should be ashamed of himself for failing to respond to their calls for adequate funding. The Minister should be doubly ashamed for getting around this place this week celebrating the SES and Wear Orange Wednesday but refusing to do his job by funding their vital work.
I have repeatedly written to the Minister to outline these concerns. In January this year and, coincidentally, at 4.18 p.m. this afternoon, I have received replies from the Hon. David Clarke MLC, the Minister's Parliamentary Secretary.
The Parliamentary Secretary's replies boast of the many millions of dollars spent renewing the SES fleet elsewhere in the State. These pathetic replies enrage SES volunteers in the Blue Mountains.
In the rollout of many millions of dollars of funding for new SES vehicles the Blue Mountains did not have its decrepit, tired vehicles replaced and this is what prompted volunteers to contact me and to request that I make representations to the Minister in the first place.
I can only conclude that millions of dollars have been allocated to electorates where The Nationals receive more votes. This is a genuine need for these new vehicles and a large pot of money has been allocated for that purpose, yet the Blue Mountains has received nothing, which is pathetic.
This Wear Orange Wednesday I joined a delegation of SES volunteers to Parliament House and once again committed myself to supporting them. That is why I say to the Minister that he should put his money where his mouth is and replace our tired and unreliable SES rescue vehicles in the Blue Mountains.
He should do that sooner rather than later because these hardworking volunteers deserve the best we can provide them.