The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN ( 15:04 :10 ): My question is for the Minister for Emergency Services. Is the minister aware of the longstanding issues in the Onkaparinga SES Unit, which I understand arise from member disputes with management, and can he confirm whether the membership in a vote on Monday night decided to wind up the unit? Further, can the minister assure the chamber that there will be no risk to life and property as a result of the actions of the membership of the Onkaparinga SES?
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 15:04 :47 ): I thank the honourable member for his important question. I am happy to confirm to the house that on Monday 7 March this year the Onkaparinga SES held a special meeting, and 17 members of the SES in Onkaparinga voted unanimously to disband the unit. I have been briefed by the chief officer of the SES, Mr Chris Beattie, on this matter and, while it is concerning, it is entirely an internal SES operational matter for the SES management to resolve.
I have been advised that alternative emergency response arrangements have been put in place to ensure ongoing community safety. The unit has been offline for almost two years, meaning that they have not been responding to calls for some time. The unit is closely integrated with the Onkaparinga Country Fire Service group. Many of the volunteers are members of both the SES and the CFS, and vehicles from both services are used to respond to emergencies in the area.
Volunteers requesting significant changes to SES operational arrangements, including a demand that they report through the CFS chain of command, have not been supported by SES management. Over the past two years, SES staff have worked closely with the CFS to develop new response plans to accommodate the requests for changes. Bespoke paging and response plans were put in place at the union’s request, including a reduced response area.
I have been developing an increasing degree of awareness around the concerns that SES members have within the Onkaparinga Unit. It is disappointing that they have voted the way they have, to disband the unit, but the principal concern of this government is, of course, to ensure the ongoing safety of residents within the area who may be beneficiaries of SES services in the event that an emergency arises. I am thoroughly confident and have been satisfied that SES management has put in place alternative arrangements in order to be able to accommodate such a circumstance if it does arise.See full session on Hansard