19 June 2012
The Australian Government’s contribution to ACT fire emergency services is still being negotiated, Special Minister of State Gary Gray said today.
“Suggestions that the Australian Government will pay only $4 million for fire emergency services in 2011-12, after receiving an invoice for $10 million, ignore the fact that negotiations are continuing,” Mr Gray said.
“These negotiations are necessary because fire emergency arrangements between the ACT and Commonwealth expired on June 30, 2011.
“The Commonwealth is introducing a fair and equitable funding arrangement across all jurisdictions from July 1, 2012 and is arranging transition payments for the current financial year.“
Mr Gray said the Commonwealth believed all property owners in the ACT should pay their fair share towards fire services. This included the ANU and Canberra Airport, which currently did not contribute. Nor should the Commonwealth pay for fire services for premises it leased, because this commitment was met through lease agreements.
“The new arrangements are the result of several months of discussions between Commonwealth, State and Territory officials. Since November 2011, Commonwealth and ACT officials have had three face-to-face meetings to discuss the reviewed arrangements as well as significant email and other correspondence.
“The Commonwealth has indicated that under the new equitable arrangement it believes it should pay the ACT $4.04 million in 2012-13.”
Mr Gray said claims in The Canberra Times that the ACT had the highest incident of “white powder incidents” – at 200 a year – is inconsistent with information provided to the Commonwealth by the ACT as part of the negotiations.
“Last year there were five such incidents, of which three were Commonwealth premises,” he said.
“The ACT has not been able differentiate the services provided by the ACT Fire Brigade in comparison with other jurisdictions throughout the negotiation process.
“The fact is that the proportion of Commonwealth-owned buildings in Canberra has significantly fallen in recent years, while the proportion of privately-owned buildings in Canberra has grown, for example significant new office and retail buildings near Canberra airport as well the development of new Canberra suburbs.
“As a property owner, it is therefore fair that the ACT will receive 26 per cent of the overall funding on the basis that 26 per cent of the value of Commonwealth buildings is located in Canberra.”
|John Arthur - 0408 991 261||www.smos.gov.au|