Thursday, 19 October 2023


Triple Zero Victoria Bill 2023

Georgie CROZIER, Michael GALEA, Jeff BOURMAN, Gaelle BROAD, John BERGER, Ann-Marie HERMANS, Jacinta ERMACORA, Wendy LOVELL, Sonja TERPSTRA, Trung LUU, Tom McINTOSH, Jaclyn SYMES, Sarah MANSFIELD

Triple Zero Victoria Bill 2023

Second reading

Debate resumed on motion of Ingrid Stitt:

That the bill be now read a second time.

Georgie CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) (14:14): I rise to speak on the Triple Zero Victoria Bill 2023, and at the outset I want to put on the record that my thoughts are with all of those Victorians and the family members of those who have lost their lives because of the failures of this system overseen by this government. I want to say to those people that have been impacted that I was concerned at the time and I remain concerned about the cover-ups, the lack of detail and no responsibility being taken for these massive failures that have led to dozens of deaths, unnecessary deaths in many instances – well, they were all unnecessary but in terms of the failures in the system causing these unnecessary deaths. That is what concerns me. I have got so much to say about the failures that I suspect I will not have enough time for my contribution. We know that Victoria has seen significant failures in the system.

What this bill does is establish Triple Zero Victoria, a new statutory authority, to replace the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, ESTA. The government is going to paint this as it is going to be closer to the minister, that it is a branding exercise in terms of changing names – taking full responsibility for the failures. I have got to say that as this bill has come closer, or as the minister will have greater oversight, does that mean they will actually take some responsibility for the failures when these failures occur into the future?

I have just been provided with government amendments that have been emailed to me a few minutes ago, which largely take in the amendments that the Liberal–Nationals were going to put forward. It is about greater transparency and accountability in reporting. If the government is bringing these house amendments into the house now, because they do not even have the foresight, capability or understanding about true accountability and reporting, then I do not know that I have got an enormous amount of faith in what this bill is trying to achieve. This is just a cover-up for the ongoing failures and lack of accountability. I am just staggered – staggered – that you would not put proper reporting processes in a bill when you have made such a song and dance about how you are fixing up the system, a simple measure about greater accountability and more data that we have been asking for not just for months but years.

I wanted to know the true numbers of deaths, and I still want to know how many people have died – in this sentinel event report. The government will not tell me. So I will be asking the minister, and I expect the minister to have the answers. With the latest sentinel event report these are captured by these 33 deaths from the failures of 000. I want to know how many children were part of that. So I am giving you plenty of warning to get the answers. I want to know how many adults, and I want to know the time frames.

These failures should never have happened. In 2015 your government was warned about the need to resource ESTA properly, about the failures in the IT system, about a whole range of issues that you ignored. When COVID hit, you just blamed it all on COVID. No-one took any responsibility. The former Premier has nicked off. He promised Victoria he was going to stay until 2026 and then upped sticks and went. The lack of accountability with that man just astounds me. No-one has lost their job for the deaths and the destruction because of the failures and policy decisions by the Andrews–Allan governments. Those people that were affected – many of them I have brought up in this house and raised. The minister knows who they are. The minister would not pick up the phone and speak to them, her own constituents. David Edwards in Swan Hill – his family tried to get through to 000. The poor mother found the father dead on the front lawn.

Then there is this blame game with Canberra. What a disgrace in that inspector-general for emergency management (IGEM) report to even say that it was the federal government’s problem when Paul Fletcher, the then minister, was writing to this minister – to you, Minister – stating the facts about what was going on here in Victoria. You had the audacity to blame the federal government. We are so sick of you blaming everybody else for the mismanagement and failures. What has happened is that people have lost their lives, and those families’ lives have been destroyed because of the failures. There are so many more cases that I could recount – too many.

Graham Ashton did his report, and he has got his findings about what happened. The Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority Capability and Service Review: Final Report of 2022 is absolutely littered with failings. It states:

AV expressed concern regarding the error rate in the classification of ambulance calls, and the impact this has had on their qualitative approach to patient care.

For many years ESTA’s CTD service has experienced challenges with recruitment and retention of staff and fixed-term funding for CTD staff. As a result, the capacity and capability of this service has eroded … From a service delivery perspective, a lack of experienced CTD staff has resulted in ESTA’s CTD service being driven by workforce availability, rather than by Victorian community’s demand for its services.

There are so many issues in this report – so many – that just demonstrate the gross mishandling of this area and the subsequent failures that have led to tragic deaths. This report also has other points about call taking and dispatch:

The initial assessment can be crucial to patient outcomes and therefore must be accurate. In practice, AV can reclassify events when they have been assigned an incorrect priority and this occurs through AV’s physical presence in the dispatch area at ESTA …

There is a lot that happens – I understand that – but there is a lot that should have been fixed by the government, and they ignored it. The storm asthma event of 2016, when tragically too many Victorians lost their lives because of the failures was precipitated by the lack of planning and the failures through COVID. And yes, we all know COVID put pressure on the system; nobody is denying that. But it was putting on pressure around the country, and it was Victoria that had the worst outcomes, despite the harshest of restrictions. I have said it so many times: the restrictions placed on Victorians because of COVID, because the government were telling us they needed to prepare the health system, made no difference. It was shocking. But what it did was put more pressure on the system, because more people got sicker. There were a whole range of issues around inability to access health care, and as a result we just got terrible outcomes for so many Victorians.

I made reference to Paul Fletcher’s letter to the minister on 8 October. I have raised this in the house, but I want to read this letter in because it showed at that time what they were concerned about. I raised it with the minister: ‘Oh, we’re putting on 400 staff’ or ‘We’re doing this or we’re doing that’. It shows exactly what was going on. The then federal Minister for Communications said:

Dear Minister

I write regarding Triple Zero delays that are occurring in Victoria.

My Department oversees the contractual arrangements between the Commonwealth and Telstra for the delivery of the Triple Zero Emergency Call Service. Under these arrangements, Telstra is responsible for answering calls to Triple Zero and transferring them to the relevant State or Territory emergency service organisation (ESO).

Telstra has advised me that there have been significant delays in Victoria’s Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) accepting the transfer of Triple Zero calls from Telstra’s Triple Zero operators. The delays are most acute for calls requesting ambulance services.

The ESTA call answer times are impacting Telstra’s ability answer calls from anywhere in Australia as delays to transfer calls to ESTA are utilising most of Telstra’s staff.

Telstra has provided the following data for delays on 6 October 2021:

• 2 calls held for over 30 minutes

• 20 calls held for between 20 and 30 minutes

• 37 calls held between 15 and 20 minutes

• 53 calls held between 10 and 15 minutes

He went on to say:

I write to seek your urgent advice on what the Victorian Government is doing …

He had to write follow-up letters about what was going on, and clearly there was no action coming from this government – or the Andrews government, but the same minister – because they were trying to cover up and fudge and get themselves out of what has been a disgraceful period in health service delivery in this state, with unnecessary deaths that could have been avoided. I say that because I am just stunned that no-one will take responsibility for those failures.

As I said, what this bill does is it establishes this new entity and gives it a new brand name – ‘Move on from the old ESTA, let’s call it Triple Zero Victoria and hope that all is well.’ Then we go through to what else it will do: it will give the minister more oversight. But I say I am not overly confident with that, because of the lack of accountability and responsibility taken over the last four years – actually longer than that, since 2016, so the last seven years – in relation to this really important area of health.

These reports that have been provided to government do highlight – whether it is IGEM’s or whether it is the Ashton report – some very severe failures in the system. At the time budget resources were required, and the government needed to provide them. It was not just those two reports that highlighted the failures; there had been Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO), ESTA and IGEM reports prior to that that had also been raising concerns about the funding model, and they had been raising that for years. So the government was aware of the very perilous situation that ESTA was in and did nothing. As a result, we have had these tragic deaths here in Victoria.

What this bill will do is it will change the fee-for-service model to direct funding, and that is to supposedly allow a greater financial certainty for the organisation. But as I said, there are still issues around how the government applies the funding and what will happen about resourcing and IT systems. The IT systems have been a big issue. We know that from people that have worked in it and said, ‘They’ve been warned about it for years, they’ve done nothing, and as a result we really don’t have the infrastructure in place.’ Staff attrition happens routinely. The government will say ‘we’re putting more staff in’, but they are not telling you how many they are losing.

We know that through COVID everybody was stretched. But I am saying that it was set up to fail so badly because of the lack of the attention that it deserved, after VAGO and ESTA had been saying that to government for years – way before COVID. So you cannot blame COVID for these failures. Government must take responsibility, and that is why it is so frustrating that not one person out of the Andrews government lost their job after these shocking failures. Not one of you. Minister, quite frankly, you should have resigned after 33 people had died. You should have gone. You should have said, ‘I’ve failed this, I’ve failed these Victorians, and I resign from the position,’ but not one of you has taken any responsibility.

As I said, the IT systems have got massive problems. The Ashton report highlighted that the computer-aided dispatch system is not fit for purpose to meet future needs. So the government is acting on that, and that is what this bill is supposedly addressing as well. In 2018 it was highlighted that there were deficiencies all through the system. That is what I am saying. They cannot blame COVID. Whether it was after the thunderstorm asthma event in 2016, after the VAGO report, the 2018 dispatch system, where there were known deficiencies, where call takers were resorting to pen and paper, turning screens off to reboot computers – I mean, it is just Third World stuff, and we saw that time and time again.

Sadly, I think our health system is not getting any better. It is really struggling. Ambulances are still not arriving, code orange events are still occurring and people’s health is still being put at great risk, but we do not have that transparency or accountability from this government because we cannot get the facts or figures out of them. We do not know the true details of what went on because the government knows it is so unpalatable. The Victorian public know that there were massive failings. So this issue needed to be addressed.

It is October 2023 and we have got this bill in this house at the moment. As I said, the bill contains provisions that bring the new entity closer to the government with increased oversight by the minister and the justice secretary. It establishes an operational committee that includes representatives from ESOs as well as relevant government departments, and its role is to provide strategic advice to the board. I do want to delve into this operational committee in the committee stage, because you have got the normal operating structure – the CEO and those that are under the CEO – you have got the board, you have got this operational committee and then you have got an ability to put in delegates to improve the performance of the board if the minister is not happy. I do not know why you do not just sack the board. If you are not happy, sack the board and get people in to do the job.

This is going to require lots of scrutiny, because I think the Victorian public has lost trust in the government’s ability to manage this critical system. It is not actually just about throwing billions and billions of dollars at it, as they throw at everything; it is actually about what you do. So, yes, you are giving it supposedly greater oversight in setting up subcommittee after subcommittee, it seems to me, but we want to see that actual improvement in the delivery of this system to be able to take that call-taking system, because we were told by the Department of Health and others that spring is here and of course thunderstorm asthma can be an issue for some people who have asthma. If there is another critical event like that, will it cope? Well, I do not know. There was a code orange last week. People could not get an ambulance last week – they were told to wait. A 94-year-old was stuck on the road with a fractured pelvis – ‘Sorry, no ambulance is available.’ What a disgrace in October 2023 that they cannot get an ambulance. Our system is still under pressure, and it is still letting down Victorians. In fact it is verging on being Third World in many areas because of what people have got to do.

This government think they know best about health care. Well, they have failed Victorians dismally. On so many levels they have failed Victorians, and they continue to fail Victorians. So this bill, after years of under-resourcing and mismanagement, which have led to the tragic deaths of dozens of Victorians, of children, is a reminder to us all: when things fail, take some accountability, take some responsibility. Do not hide behind excuses. Do not hide behind an unwillingness to even pick up the phone and speak to people. All these people wanted was just to hear the government say, ‘I’m so sorry. I’m sorry this happened to you. There were problems. We must fix it.’

As I said, I have got a lot of questions. The opposition will be moving some amendments because we want to have greater accountability, we want to have greater transparency and we have concerns around the data – the hidden data that is a hallmark of this government. They never, ever provide proper data so that we fully understand what is going on. The amendments that the coalition are proposing will ensure proper management time lines when the reporting system fails or folds and establish a 14-day time frame in which reports are to be made publicly available from the moment they are tabled. That is about greater transparency and about greater accountability, and I see that the government is taking up that suggestion. They are saying they are going to amend their own bill because of this oversight, because of this very necessary requirement. I do not know who drafted this bill and did not put in those basic things so you could put trust back into the community, but clearly the government are now so panicked about our amendments getting up, because even the crossbench agree with us, that they are bringing in their own house amendments.

Our amendments will also have a schedule for mandatory monthly data reporting. We actually do not trust what you are providing, because this report does not say a goddamn thing. It says a couple of things, and we have got blank pages and we have got unnecessary pieces that are not even relevant to what we are talking about. We want greater transparency, and we think our amendments will put trust back into the community through having that greater transparency. It establishes categories in which data is to be collected – that is, the number of calls received daily, the length of time between taking a call and the dispatch of an emergency service and any disruption to call taking – because if we do not have that data, then we cannot improve the system if it is not working. We really need to have that data and be fully abreast of what is going on so that we can see that actually the government’s legislation is working how they expect it to work. We think that is a very important amendment, and I hope that the government do also, as they are supporting our other amendments in their own way by introducing their own amendments to usurp ours, around reporting. We hope they also support ours because of the clear requirement for greater accountability and understanding.

I want to make a point, and I am a bit loathe to say this, but I am going to have to. I cannot understand how the government were saying that they have the best interests of Victorians but they were not going to include as much data as we need. We know that they hide data. I do not really want to raise his name again, but when the former Premier had his accident – and I am glad he recovered, as everyone is – they rang an ambulance. His wife said he was navy blue. That is code 1 – lights and sirens. But then the ambulance report came out, and it said: ‘No, there was no need to rush to the accident.’ So something is not quite right there. I do not know if it is a failure of the 000 system when she said, ‘My husband’s navy blue.’ Ms Andrews went on 60 Minutes and said he was navy blue: ‘I thought he was going to die there in Sorrento.’ That is code 1. That is a respiratory or cardiac arrest. That should have been lights and sirens. Yet the official ambulance report came out, and it said, ‘Oh, no, there was no need for lights and sirens.’ So something is really wrong in the system or in this story perhaps – I do not know. But what we do know is that there have been failures all throughout the entire time this government has been in power, and the outcome has been the tragic deaths of far too many Victorians.

I will have more questions in committee around some of these issues. As I said, I hope the minister will be able to provide that information, seeing as I have given the government plenty of notice that I am going to ask for it, but I will also be asking about other aspects that do need to be clarified around this operational committee and the delegates. But I say again: what a devastating period it has been for Victorians that have not been able to rely on a first-class health system, when tragically so many Victorians have died because of government policy and government decisions and cover-ups.

Michael GALEA (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (14:41): I rise to speak today on the Triple Zero Victoria Bill 2023. I do have some points from listening to Ms Crozier’s speech that I wish to come back to. I appreciate when we can have a debate on the substance of a bill, but what a low blow – what a low blow. Here we go again, going back to the Premier’s accident last year – or was it the year before? It is absolutely shameful, despicable and typical.

Jaclyn Symes: Yes, it’s unsurprising.

Michael GALEA: Unsurprising. Ms Crozier says she has more questions. Who does she have questions for – the step? Who does she want to speak to? It is absolutely shameless and absolutely typical.

It is a very disappointing note on which I rise to speak today on this bill, on what is a very good bill, a sensible and progressive reform to our 000 service. As Victorians, whenever we have a time of crisis, whenever something is wrong, the first instinct for us all is to call 000. I am sure each member in this place could give an example of when they have had to use it. I only a couple of months ago had to call it when a car in front of me had veered off the road and off an embankment, and we were not sure if the people were okay. Fortunately, they were. But whenever you need support, whenever you need them, our very, very hardworking staff at ESTA, the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, are there for us.

I do want to also start, moving on from that rather low note that we were left to pick up on, by thanking our emergency services workers, obviously our entire range of emergency services workers, who do an incredible job. ESTA staff are often forgotten by a lot of people when they think about emergency services, but the work that they do is so critical. I have had the pleasure of knowing a few and working with a few people with various community groups who have also for their day jobs worked in ESTA. The work and the pressure that they deal with are remarkable, so it would be remiss of me not to highlight that in this contribution. I will refer back to ESTA staff at some point later in my speech if I do have the time to do so. Our ESTA staff have been an absolute pillar of strength for us all.

I also reflect on a contribution made earlier this year, a very moving contribution, in the Legislative Assembly by the member for Pakenham, who as some members may know is a stroke survivor. It is a very inspirational story that the member for Pakenham has. She spoke of the importance of 000 when she said how her daughter, her child, called 000 when she had that stroke. It was a very, very moving and very powerful speech, and I would encourage all members to glance at it when they do have the time. But it is a very important and very busy service. In his contribution on this bill in the other place last sitting week the member for Narre Warren South outlined how in the last financial year 2.7 million Victorians called 000 at some point. It is a vital service for us all, and it is important that these reforms provide support to our emergency telecommunications staff and improve and inform where we can make this organisation better, and that is what this bill does.

In doing so I would also like to acknowledge the very hard work of the Attorney-General herself, who has worked tirelessly to bring this bill to a point where we can be here today, and I sincerely hope we will be able to pass this bill today as well. It is critical for us as legislators to ensure that when Victorians call 000 they receive absolutely the best response. Victorians ought to be able to continue to trust and rely on this new Triple Zero Victoria to act reliably and effectively, and that is what I believe this bill does.

Several objectives are achieved through the reforms in this bill. This will establish a replacement of the Emergency Services Telecommunication Authority. It will replace that with Triple Zero Victoria as a new independent statutory authority, which will be governed by a board with an operational committee and led by a CEO. It will ensure accountability and fiscal responsibility to the Minister for Emergency Services for all aspects of the business of Triple Zero Victoria. It will also provide transparent administration and oversight through the appointment of board members by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Minister for Emergency Services, which will be done in consultation with the Minister for Ambulance Services and the Minister for Police. Additionally, the CEO will be appointed by and report to the board and be accountable for the management of this new agency.

Creating a new operational committee of the board to bring together representatives of our various emergency services is a very important part of this too. It will bring together Ambulance Victoria, the CFA, Fire Rescue Victoria, Victoria Police, the SES and other relevant government departments and agencies, and this is another measure of this new structure that will provide a strong and resilient body.

In mentioning ambulance services, it would be remiss not to briefly touch upon the incredible investment we have seen in our ambulance services, and I was particularly pleased recently to visit the site of the new Clyde North ambulance station with the then Minister for Emergency Services Gabrielle Williams along with some other colleagues in the south-east. That is going to be an absolutely fantastic facility for a very big and growing outer suburban community in Clyde North and in the broader south-east. That is going to be a fantastic asset, and I cannot wait to see that up and running.

In terms of these reforms, ESTA has faced numerous challenges, particularly during the pandemic. I appreciate that Ms Crozier – I believe at one point – did at least acknowledge that the pandemic did place quite unusual stresses on this system and quite severe stresses on ESTA at the time. Again, it really does underscore the tenacity, the hard work and the professionalism of those ESTA staff that I again wish to acknowledge. We also have a growing population, growing cities, growing suburbs and growing regions, and we have already invested $363 million to help ESTA meet the overwhelming demand that it has seen in the last few years and to make sure it is able to meet its responsibilities and deliver at its best.

Even under pressure, the institution consistently met and, in many cases, exceeded core statistics and benchmarks. This success is not a result of luck. It reflects the dedication of the ESTA staff as well as the commitment of the government to invest in this important service. So much of this bill deals with the establishment and governance of the new Triple Zero Victoria agency. This marks a transformative step towards delivering high-quality and prompt call-taking and dispatch services and the various modern operational communication requirements for Victoria’s emergency communications sector.

This change stems as well from the inspector-general for emergency management’s, IGEM’s, review, which emphasised the need to strengthen governance, accountability and service delivery, especially with the peak demand periods, and those peak demand periods have increasingly changed over the last few years as well. In addition to the IGEM review, another review also highlighted the importance of organisational adjustments, further cementing this need that we have for change. It did become clear that our emergency services needed to align with the organisation’s structure, functions and, yes, even name, to meet the public expectations placed upon it. Additional funding has been allocated for system upgrades, which demonstrates that this approach is not just a rebadging or renaming, as some might portray it; these proposed reforms do address past concerns and pave the way for a stronger system moving forward.

At the heart of any effective organisation, especially in emergency services but in any field, is a clear organisational structure. This understanding underpins these changes, with the new agency first and foremost acknowledging that operational autonomy is essential and is preserved. This approach of course is not new. Much like Ambulance Victoria and the other emergency services we have in this state, we believe that Triple Zero Victoria’s status being that of a statutory authority will solidify and protect the autonomous role that it has to play, especially when it is needed most.

This new governance structure is designed for clarity and also efficiency. Triple Zero Victoria will have a comprehensive legislated governance framework, underscoring our commitment to timely and effective call-dispatch services. It is not just a structure, it is also an embodiment of our commitment to the community of what this new organisation will be able to do. As mentioned, this will also involve having a new board for this agency. The board will consist of officials and individuals with rich experience in public administration, and critically in health and in emergency services. This mandate that they will have will require that service is at the front of what this new agency delivers. Obviously hand in hand with those things we will have things such as relationship building and appointments which will be made, as I outlined earlier as well.

Victoria’s unique position is quite evident. Unlike most regions, where emergency services manage their call taking independently, Victoria has a unified central approach. This bill makes amendments to establish an operational committee which is informed by the insights from the ESTA capability and service review. This committee will be a blend of senior leaders from various emergency sectors and will act as Triple Zero Victoria’s strategic compass, ensuring that Victoria’s emergency needs are met with unparalleled service.

The Department of Justice and Community Safety, DJCS, will take on a more pronounced role, which will ensure more stringent financial oversight and proper resource allocation. This partnership also symbolises the dedication to fiscal responsibility and clear communication structures. Additionally, the direct reporting structure for the CEO of this new agency will enhance accountability. The streamlined approach really does promise faster decision-making and reinforces the significance of the CEO’s role in the emergency services framework.

In her contribution Ms Crozier was delving a little bit into history. In researching for this debate I happened across the remarks of the member for Melton in his contribution in the other place just last sitting week, when this bill was presented through there – and quite an informative contribution it was too. ESTA was established as an agency in 2004 following quite significant issues and in fact a royal commission following the privatisation of the emergency call-taking services by – yes, I am going to say it; it is another example – the Kennett government in the 1990s, when it was franchised out. It was privatised and given to an outside American operator. I think we have heard this story before, and here we have it again in emergency call taking – here we go. It was a previous Labor government under Premier Steve Bracks who fixed this disastrous situation.

Ms Crozier was happily quoting all sorts of things to us before, and, well, I could quote some absolutely horrendous things that happened under the privatised model. Indeed at the same time – and I referenced the Clyde North ambulance station before – in the 1990s we actually had a privatised ambulance service in this state. Yes, they actually even privatised the Cranbourne ambulance station, and it went so badly that this privatised service had to beg public ambulances for basic medical equipment. The public system was donating basic things like bandages to this privatised ambulance service – an absolutely atrocious situation, once again representative of those opposite and what they wish to do and what they would do most likely with their blatant disregard for what is an essential community service. You cannot just privatise everything, and emergency services are probably chief amongst the things that you cannot and should not privatise. It was a very good thing that that was reversed by a previous Labor government. We are not in that position today; we are in the position that we have a wonderful bill here before us which will continue to reform our emergency call-taking system, and for those reasons I do commend this bill to the house.

Jeff BOURMAN (Eastern Victoria) (14:56): I rise to speak in support of this bill. Mr Galea went into a little bit of the history of ESTA –

A member: You can go back further, can’t you?

Jeff BOURMAN: I can go back further, sadly. At the risk of saying, ‘Once upon a time there I was,’ originally the emergency services ran their own 000. Ironically, whilst I was in the police they changed over to Intergraph, an American company, and it was not the case that it was painless. There were a lot of changes, a lot of politics – not this sort of politics but the internal politics, the politics of one organisation losing its complete control. In the end there was a royal commission held into the awarding of the contracts and some of the behaviour. To this day I am still a bit dubious about whether that royal commission was value for money for the simple reason that, if I recall correctly, one person was charged with perjury for around 20 million bucks, but here we are. Out of that eventually came ESTA, when the government took it back. It has not been without its problems, and none of these things are without their problems.

I guess from my own personal perspective the system maybe has not grown with society. As Victoria has gotten larger it has become harder and harder to keep up. It is a system that is kind of feast or famine. You will be sitting there one moment doing nothing, and then next thing the world descends on you and you are busy for the next 4 or 5 hours before you can actually take a break, and it makes it hard to allow for that. But in the end – I am going to cross parties here – as Ms Crozier more or less said, when you pick up the phone, you want an ambulance to come, or you want to be able to talk to someone and get an ambulance to come, or a fire engine or police or whatever.

I have had a look through this bill. There are quite a few changes. I hope that they do attend to the issues. I will be supporting the reporting amendments from the opposition, but I just hope we are not back here again as a Parliament trying to do things and the government of the day, whoever it will be, just has to budget to invest more money. Keeping up with society is the best we can hope for, but we also need to try and get those numbers down. I think 16 minutes is the maximum time for an ambulance, and having waited 5 minutes for an ambulance once, not for me personally but in a critical situation, 16 minutes seems like a lifetime. So in closing, I do hope that this moves towards a faster system. I do hope this helps streamline it. Time will tell, but we will get it through in this house, and I do believe we will find out.

Gaelle BROAD (Northern Victoria) (15:00): I rise today to speak on the Triple Zero Victoria Bill 2023, a bill that will attempt to address at least part of the crisis in health care that has affected residents right across Northern Victoria. The state government has known there have been flaws in the 000 system since 2016, and every report has said the same thing: fix it. The Triple Zero bill will establish Triple Zero Victoria and repeal the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority Act 2004. The Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, ESTA, will cease, and the new entity will be known as Triple Zero Victoria. It is hoped that this new body will have stronger governance arrangements and increased accountability and oversight.

This bill has been introduced following some extremely damning findings in the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority Capability and Service Review: Final Report, a series of failures in the 000 and ambulance response systems and the tragic deaths of 33 Victorians. My staff have spoken with dedicated, caring, professional ESTA staff who were so traumatised and frustrated with the system that they left the role altogether. Clearly change is needed, and this bill contains a range of provisions as to how the new Triple Zero Victoria entity will work and how it will replace ESTA. The detail includes their powers, objectives, functions, administrative matters and staffing. We hope this control will also come with accountability to fix this broken system.

Within Northern Victoria there have been a range of failures within the 000 system and calling an ambulance service. It is struggling. I met a man who told me of a case in Castlemaine where his daughter’s friend had been left to wait for 2 hours on the side of a road after a fall that broke her arm, despite the ambulance station being very nearby. Earlier this year a man from Kerang could not get an ambulance dispatched after a motorbike crash. His mum had to take him to hospital herself, and then he was airlifted to the Alfred hospital with a serious spinal fracture. Just recently Kerang locals told me of a case where an ambulance was called but none was available. Thankfully, one of the people at the scene knew a paramedic and called them for advice over the phone as to what to do. Visiting Beechworth in the Indigo shire, locals raised concerns about the slow response time for ambulance services there, amongst the highest in the state.

Our cross-border communities are also under pressure. On 4 October the ABC reported that Victoria–‍New South Wales border residents are at greater risk of ambulance delays due to a communication glitch. According to the ambulance union, unnecessary delays are putting lives at risk in 38 communities on the border of New South Wales and Victoria, as residents may not get the closest ambulance when they call 000 due to call-routing issues. These include towns in the electorate of Northern Victoria like Mildura, Swan Hill, Yarrawonga and Corryong. The ambulance union said they have been raising concerns about cross-border responses for 12 months and have been trying to get some traction with Ambulance Victoria management about the desperate need for some action, but nothing has happened. An email from Telstra to New South Wales and Victorian ambulance representatives said the issue could be simply fixed by an email agreed to by both parties.

These are just some of the shocking stories that have emerged, and it would be remiss of me as I talk about ambulance services not to mention how disappointed I am at this state government’s decision to demolish the old ambulance station in Inglewood. Locals have been fighting to retain that building. The Minister for Health had given the impression that the building was riddled with asbestos, but there has been no asbestos found in that building, so I am waiting on a response.

On this bill the Liberals and Nationals will put forward some commonsense amendments that I hope will be supported in this chamber. Instead of providing reports as soon as practicable, which could be never, we recommend a time frame of within 14 days. We have also included key information to be included in the monthly reports to be published on the Triple Zero website for transparency, and I want to thank Georgie Crozier for speaking further about those amendments earlier.

I do want to note that this bill brings the entity much closer to government, and it is clear from the clauses in this bill that the Minister for Emergency Services will have close control of the new entity. Clause 16 states that Triple Zero Victoria is subject to the general direction and control of the minister and must comply with the direction issued by the minister. In clauses 19 and 19A the membership of the board and the interim board is determined by the minister. Clause 32 states:

The Minister may appoint not more than 2 delegates to the Board if the Minister considers that the appointment will assist the Board …

Clause 40 says:

The Minister or the Board may remove the Chief Executive Officer from office at any time.

Clause 67 says:

The Board must submit a corporate plan each financial year to the Minister for approval.

I am concerned given this government’s track record of political appointments within the bureaucracy and other board positions. In setting up this new entity it is vitally important that the minister chooses people with the skills and experience to carry out the roles. We have had enough of the jobs for mates. We need people in these roles who are qualified and equipped to deliver world-class emergency response services.

These issues with ESTA come on the back of major problems within the wider healthcare system. Our regional health services are struggling. I was very concerned to read reports just this week of St John of God doing a current review of programs like their maternal health and obstetrics program. If that closes, that is going to put a huge amount of pressure on Bendigo Hospital, and it is already under significant pressure. Problems include ballooning surgery waitlists and cuts to essential health services. Earlier this year we saw cuts of up to 15 per cent to our grassroots preventative services, including programs to address chronic illnesses. Last year we saw $2 billion cut from the health budget, on top of cuts to preventative health services. The strategy to cut funding for preventative health care while allowing surgery to continue being deferred has been a double blow for Victorians. There are ongoing issues with dental care as well. In Bendigo we saw funding come to an abrupt end for the stroke support centre, despite significant need for support in the major regional centre of Bendigo. It was a relatively small amount of money in government terms, but it was a massive blow to the support centre and those in need of support in the region. They were quietly doing invaluable work, helping people to live well after stroke and reducing the dependence on our health system. But it is clear that the financial mismanagement of this government has left us with the highest debt of any state and a soaring bill of $22 million a day in interest payments alone. So they are now scraping the barrel, looking for ways to cut funding from local services in regional areas and introducing tax after tax while they continue to waste our taxpayers money.

All Victorians, regardless of where they live, deserve quality health care. We rely on 000, and we need a modern, effective and reliable ambulance service in regional Victoria as well as Melbourne. This bill has been a long time coming, and with our proposed amendments, I trust that it will help resolve a key element of our struggling healthcare system.

John BERGER (Southern Metropolitan) (15:08): I rise to speak on the Triple Zero Victoria Bill 2023, a brilliant piece of legislation to modernise our 000 service system in Victoria and ensure the effective delivery of our state emergency responses from here on in. Over many years we have been talking about reforming our 000 system for the better, and today I am proud to stand here in support of this new step forward. The bill entrenches a reform of the state’s emergency response system by establishing a brand new entity, Triple Zero Victoria. Triple Zero Victoria is a new entity collating the workings and operations of numerous emergency service organisations under a single roof to improve outcomes for all of us. It was born out of a series of independent reviews into our 000 system which oversaw and scrutinised our 000 capabilities, capacity, service delivery and finances. The new body will be under the responsibility of the emergency services portfolio, overseen by Minister Symes.

So what is Triple Zero Victoria? In effect it is a new statutory body built to enhance our existing 000 operations beyond their current abilities. It is not a mere successor to the ESTA board or advisory committee, it is a total reorganisation of the internal mechanisms of emergency response. Instead of the advisory committee and ESTA board that exist now, Triple Zero Victoria will have an internal board with an operational committee spearheaded by the new chief executive officer, which will in turn directly report and be accountable to the Minister for Emergency Services. That accountability extends to the board, which focuses on not just capabilities but Triple Zero Victoria’s financial state and its performance in tune with agreed standards. The operational committee will act in effect as an advisory subcommittee of the board, with senior officers, commissioners, executives and select board members tasked with specific goals, as opposed to the old advisory committee, which operated within the vague guidelines of the old legislation and gave advice. This new piece of legislation is specific, directing the new operational committee to set sector-wide priorities and produce annual reports, taking part in the strategic planning processes of Triple Zero Victoria. The committee will still continue to give advice to what will become Triple Zero Victoria, and the CEO and board can continue to act on that advice. The board itself will be appointed through a consultative process with the Minister for Police and the Minister for Ambulance Services. By doing so we can ensure the minister’s responsibility for the various emergency services in Victoria – namely, police and ambulance. They can have direct oversight of this new board and hold it to account as it also ensures its efficacy through a rigid selection process.

The bill also strengthens the power of the Minister for Emergency Services by requiring the new Triple Zero Victoria to comply with the minister’s directive, which where appropriate will again be done in consultation with the other ministers overseeing our emergency response organisations – namely, the Minister for Ambulance Services and the Minister for Police. That way we can ensure that, when required, Triple Zero Victoria can listen to the direction called upon by the Minister for Emergency Services and simultaneously the body can be held to account through the board, comprised of members appointed through consultation with other emergency services ministers. This newly reformed system reimagines how our 000 service will operate, restructuring the emergency services response to improve not just efficiency but oversight and accountability as well. It is simple, really – the board will be appointed through a joint consultative process with relevant ministers. That board will report to the Minister for Emergency Services and will be led by a new CEO.

Do not worry, the staff over at ESTA and the advisory board will be looked after. We will be keeping them on their enterprise agreements and transitioning them over to Triple Zero Victoria on the same terms and conditions of employment. That way we make sure they keep their jobs and their hard-fought-for labour rights. Nobody in ESTA ought to be uncertain about their future. We are not dismantling the system, we are modernising it through the creation of Triple Zero Victoria, which will integrate the various bodies under a single roof over time. To the staff and advisory board now at ESTA: you work hard, and I not only recognise it but thank you for it. Without your hard work the whole system comes crashing down. You play a vital role in keeping it all going. That is part of the reason why we are going through with Triple Zero Victoria. It is to make your job that little bit easier, organised and efficient.

In effect we are entrenching a reform which ought to be uncontroversial. There are no losers, there are only beneficiaries – our countless dedicated emergency response workers and the good people of Victoria, and how good is that. We cannot reasonably stand here and dismiss the importance of this move. We are bringing our emergency services under closer supervision of the government while improving outcomes, accountability, capability and efficiency. In my book, I call this one a no-brainer.

Anyone who knows me knows that whenever our government puts forward an important bill I talk about consultation. The more we listen to people who know what they are talking about the more likely we are going to push out something worthwhile. With something this important, it is not just about due diligence, but it is of utmost importance that we get it right. We cannot do that without proper consultation, and I am happy to say we have done just that. Consultation is important to any reform, and I believe we have drawn on input from a wide range of organisations. We have spoken to Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria, Fire Rescue Victoria, the CFA, the Victorian SES, the emergency management commissioner, Safer Care Victoria and ESTA itself. Together we have drafted this piece of important legislation cooperatively to ensure that Victorians can get the best delivery and our emergency services can operate at their very best. It was important to listen to our state’s great emergency service providers and operators directly to make sure we heard from all quarters of the system before we went ahead and reformed it, and we did just that. It was a robust process that will benefit us all through the cooperation of all the emergency services we met with, not to mention the many government departments involved in this process. The Department of Health, the Department of Transport, the Department of Planning, the Department of Treasury and Finance and the Department of Premier and Cabinet were all great contributors to this legislative piece. I am also proud of the hard work they have done.

When we work together, we not only draw on each other’s strengths, we get something new and something effective, and that is what Triple Zero Victoria will be – effective. With a bold new step into the future of emergency services delivery in Victoria, we are bringing together and pooling talent and letting everybody do what they do best, cooperating like never before to deliver outcomes Victorians have been asking for.

When the capability and services review for ESTA came out in 2022 it recommended various things, including internal organisation restructuring to meets the community’s expectations. The same can be said for the Review of Victoria’s Emergency Ambulance Call Answer Performance following and during the COVID-19 pandemic in Victoria led by the inspector-general for emergency management. Among other things, they recommended ESTA be rebranded, with the board replaced and responsibilities and emergency service delivery outcomes vested in the body and compared to performance standard targets. This bill will not just do that but also create a whole new statutory body tying the new Triple Zero Victoria closer to government, giving direct oversight by the relevant ministers and a more effective role for the ministers responsible for various emergency service organisations and the board of Triple Zero Victoria.

It acts on the recommendations of the review, bringing accountability and oversight to emergency services operations, while restructuring the organisation and ushering in a series of operational changes which should improve efficiency and provide better outcomes for all Victorians. Whilst I am on that, let us talk about accountability. It is important that we get it right as well, and I am pleased with what we have done and what we have come up with. We have always had a degree of reporting and accountability with ESTA, but I am sure you have noticed that we have been bringing up the vagueness of the old legislation time and again, and this bill is specifying how we can hold these operations to account. Under this legislation our expectations of Triple Zero Victoria’s operations are spelled out in black and white, with ministerial approval and consultation for strategic plans and endorsements from the justice secretary to ensure financial stability throughout the new organisation.

We are laying out our expectations and processes as clear as day, and that way we can assure accountability and oversight. We know who is doing what, what everyone is responsible for and who to answer to. Those recommendations were born out of the independent reviews conducted with the intent of improving emergency services delivery, and these reforms will help do just that. By strengthening the collaboration between the various emergency services organisations we can tackle any inefficiencies and shortcomings in the existing paradigm, and by having staff that currently operate relatively decentralised across the sector now cooperating under a single roof, we can hasten the process of call taking, dispatching services and communication between emergency operators. The reviews called for these very reforms, and we are listening to those recommendations.

The government has agreed in principle with all of the recommendations in the independent reviews, and now we are acting on them, tackling the shortcomings of the existing system and pushing forward with the creation of Triple Zero Victoria. Our emergency services have been under significant strain for some time, even before the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic hit. When the Andrews Labor government was first elected in 2014 we were quick to tackle the ambulance crisis and restore the level of service everyday Victorians expect out of their emergency services, and today we are proud to help our emergency service providers again. With the number of 000 calls for fatal conditions rising rapidly during the pandemic, the system was becoming overwhelmed. Our emergency service times were creeping upwards as the same system came under enormous pressure. In that vein I would like to take this moment to thank our state’s great first responders for all the work that you do that has gone unnoticed. I hope I speak for everyone here when I say: we cannot thank you enough for all the work you have done for us.

The government is committed to driving down emergency response times, and this bill can do just that, not just delivering better outcomes for ordinary Victorians but ensuring our first responders can get where they need to be faster in the time they are needed the most. If we want to be serious about bringing down these times, we have to get serious about organisational reform, and the Allan Labor government is proud to put this bill forward, which can bring us closer to accomplishing this feat. Victorians are demanding better response times and we are delivering. It is the right thing to do, and it just makes sense. In bringing all these various groups together to cooperate and draw on each other, you get the best of all of worlds; it is common sense really. We have a track record of investing in our emergency services, particularly ambos, and now we are turning our eyes onto the caller network – the entity that sits between you and the first responder on the phone communicating and directing everybody. We have all at some time or another in our lives relied on the good work of the emergency services providers in Victoria. For many of us it is deeply personal, and we are forever thankful for the work done in those moments. It is why this legislation is so important and why we have worked hard to make sure we get it right.

It does a whole range of things I have already touched on, but in summary, it is modernising our system by introducing a new statutory body to oversee and manage operations. It brings together the various emergency services operators into Triple Zero Victoria, whose roles, tasks and functions are spelled out clearly in legislation. We spell out the internal structure of operations and the chain of command in clear language so that we know who is responsible for what and who is accountable to whom. We will have the minister as a last input to direct and ensure interdepartmental agreement and cooperation as well as efficiency in the highest chains of command in the new body. With a board of agreed-upon appointees, an operational committee comprised of senior and respected members in the field and ministerial responsibility under the emergency services portfolio, we are making the system more accountable, efficient and effective and boosting its capabilities and capacity to tackle the pressure of the workload. We are bringing together talent under a single roof, and the great thing about that is that it is not at the expense of anyone. Everybody at ESTA will keep their jobs and terms. It benefits everyone and harms no-one.

I am proud of this legislation, and it is another step forward for the ambitious reform agenda that has defined the Andrews Labor government and now will define the Allan Labor government. I am excited to see Triple Zero Victoria at work when the legislation passes, because acting on these recommendations is important. It is vital we work together to reform the system and bring response times down so Victorians can get the service they expect in a timely manner, as they will be demanding.

With the detail present in this bill I am optimistic for the future. It is modernising, improving upon and reforming our emergency services providers. It has been done with a wide range of input and consultation across the sector. I trust my good friends the Minister for Police, the Minister for Ambulance Services and the Minister for Emergency Services in their judgement, and I have no doubt they will excel at the task before them. Overall, I am happy to stand in support of this, and I commend the bill to the chamber.

Ann-Marie HERMANS (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (15:22): I rise to address the Triple Zero Victoria Bill 2023, and first of all I also wish to send my deepest sympathies and to express my concerns for the many families, individuals and even former workers who have been impacted by the failures in this government with ESTA that resulted in at least 33 deaths over a small period of about six months during the COVID pandemic.

I understand that the bill has been designed to give the government far more control and authority. It is not just about bringing it closer to government. It is about actually being able to control what messaging is given out to the public and to everyone else. Now, we know that the change is necessary. Obviously if you have tragic deaths there has to be some sort of review that results in change. The government has introduced this bill in response to the findings and recommendations of, firstly, the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority Capability and Service Review: Final Report, which was conducted by the former Victoria Police commissioner Graham Ashton, and secondly, two reports prepared by the inspector-general for emergency management (IGEM), namely the Review of Victoria’s Preparedness for Major Public Health Emergencies, Including Pandemics and the Review of Victoria’s Emergency Ambulance Call Answer Performance.

These reports were prompted by the well-publicised failures in the 000 and ambulance response times. These 33 deaths might just look like a number on a page, but they have severely impacted families. It is not just the deaths of the 33 people but the number of people that were left waiting who were also traumatised. I can say that in the area that I live in, in the south-east, I have actually personally met with people who have been impacted, and I have heard stories of people, just like some of my colleagues, where people have had to take their own family members to the hospital because waiting for the ambulance was simply taking too long. It is important to note that such tragic results and poor performance at ESTA in recent years occurred despite the outstanding work done by ESTA call takers and other employees in what was arguably one of the most difficult and challenging times in Victoria’s modern history. I also wish to thank our tireless workers who work in the area of emergency services, particularly those call takers who have to deal with such stressful calls and are such essential workers that they are helping all Victorians when they answer those calls.

There are a number of issues with this bill, and the coalition has worked hard to address them. I do want to mention too that we have had a number of recommendations that came out of committee and advisory meetings, and it is good to see that some of those recommendations have been put together in this bill. However, there are a number of concerns that I have and some little alarms that went off when I was reading it and going through it carefully.

The IGEM report 1 was very insightful. It resulted in 30 observations, 41 findings and seven recommendations. It had a number of very important points, and some of these are included here.

During the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic response, the arrangements and priorities established under the State Health Emergency Response Plan (SHERP), including pandemic influenza plans, were not used.

That is right, they did not use their own plan. Here is another one:

The ongoing reorganisation of governance arrangements, including the elevation of governance and decision-making to ministerial level for six months in mid – to late 2020, was a further departure from the emergency management preparedness arrangements.

And this one too:

Ministerial decision-making effectively elevated control to government.

I can say that in this bill we are also once again effectively delegating more control to government. In fact if you have a look at the fine print and the details in this bill, you will see that the minister signs off on basically everything but that there are ways that the minister does not have to be accountable or completely transparent. While the government have only just released – and I am only seeing these for the first time – a draft of their amendments, I am pleased to see that they have considered what the coalition has proposed, at least in part, and that is that they would consider a 14-day publication of the reports in schedule 1. That is going to be a huge improvement on ‘as soon as practicable’, because ‘as soon as practicable’ is open to interpretation and could leave people without the information that they do need. We want to have the Triple Zero website also reporting any changes that are made, and that, at this stage, is not yet included in the same way in the government’s amendment. At the moment I would like to have circulated, if we could, please, the coalition’s amendments.

Amendments circulated pursuant to standing orders.

Ann-Marie HERMANS: There are a number of other things that I do want to bring to the attention of the house. One of those things is the fact that having public information was not timely, and that is why these amendments are so important. The Victorian government brought together a team of communication professionals from different agencies and departments to form the Department of Premier and Cabinet COVID-19 communications team. This provided additional oversight for executive government but arguably also created problems in the timely accessibility of public information. We found also that lengthy daily media conferences included inconsistent, incorrect and complicated messages.

We also can see from the way things operated that the way the government’s structure was with ESTA caused a lot of confusion during the time of the pandemic, and that is very relevant in the IGEM report 2. The IGEM report 2 had nine observations, 42 findings and eight recommendations. It found:

The Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) did not meet the primary ambulance emergency call answer speed benchmark in any month from December 2020 to June 2022 …

not in one single month.

Call volume increases from December 2020 to June 2022 alone, did not lead to the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority’s non-compliant performance.

In fact what resulted was that patients did not survive, and we were not getting the information that we needed to be able to look into this matter. We cannot blame this all on the pandemic, as has been said in this house already. The report states:

The Victorian Government was aware of ESTA’s precarious financial position as early as 2015 after it received the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office Report on Portfolio Departments and Associated Entities: Results of the 2013–14 Audits.

The ad hoc nature of the supplementary funding arrangements … limits ESTA’s ability to recruit to meet demand. It also limits ESTA’s ability to plan beyond 12 months …

This has translated into genuine consequences for our community, and that, as I said, has tragically resulted in the loss of life.

My concern about bringing this entity closer to the government in the format of Triple Zero is with the number of changes that are in the bill. As I went through it with a fine-tooth comb, I was able to outline a whole lot. I will not go through all of them but just give you a couple of examples in this opportunity. Clause 17 is ‘Minister may issue directions to Triple Zero Victoria’. Clause 11(1) says:

… the Minister may confer any additional function on Triple Zero Victoria that the Minister considers is necessary.

Clause 16 says:

… Triple Zero Victoria –

(a) is subject to the general direction and control of the Minister; and

(b) must comply with a direction issued by the Minister.

I know that I have asked questions in this house in question time and been told that the minister is not involved in the daily operations of things like emergency services, but clearly from this bill we can see that the minister is going to be very involved. In fact everything is going to be signed off by the minister, including the CEO, who can be sacked by the minister. The minister can recommend to the Governor in Council the removal of a board member under clause 23. Under clause 19 the membership of the board and the interim board is determined by the minister. Clause 32(1) says the minister may appoint not more than two delegates. Clause 38 says the minister must approve any appointment that is more than two months. Then there is clause 40, and it goes on and on and on and on.

I understand that the board has to report to someone, and that is quite rightly the minister and the justice secretary, for the performance of Triple Zero Victoria. I think it is important that there is a restructuring. I think it is important that there is clarity on who people get their information from, and that was one of the issues that we can see obviously unravelled during the time of COVID-19 – that there were a number of people all saying different things in different committee meetings and people were getting confused as to who they were supposed to listen to, how they were supposed to perform and what they were supposed to do.

I also am aware that there was a period of time when a number of the ESTA workers, the people who would be working on the phones, had not received triple vaccination, and they were dismissed in that six-month period – very experienced workers – allegedly, from the workers that have spoken privately, so there were people who were no longer there with their experience and expertise. They warned that there could be a loss of life, and that is exactly what happened. To me that is negligence. But of course finding that sort of transparency in this government is just not going to happen. These are just some of the issues. I have got so many things that I could talk about in terms of this bill.

I am pleased that this bill is here and that we are looking at how we can change things. Victorians need to know that when they make a call, the ambulance is going to come, that they are going to call 000 and they are going to have an emergency service response and it is going to be in a short period of time so that they can actually save lives. This is incredibly important, so I am pleased that the government has addressed this, but the delays in the past are incredibly concerning, and it remains to be seen whether this will change anything in terms of the governance. We want that transparency and we want that accountability, and that is what we are asking for, because people’s lives are at stake. And it is our job to keep looking at that and to make sure that governance is working; that is what the role of an opposition is. It is not because we are trying to be mean or unreasonable but because we are here to make sure that government is doing its job and doing it well so we can save lives.

In the remaining time, I do hope that the government takes the necessary action and does not stall in fixing this mess. I do hope that it looks at our amendments and supports them. We only need to be reminded of the inadequate funding and resourcing that was outlined in finding 22 of the IGEM report, where it was stated that:

The Victorian Government was aware of ESTA’s precarious financial position as early as 2015 …

I also know that we have brought up the issue with the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee, in this house and in our papers for PAEC that the funding for ESTA was not provided in the budget papers, and I still have tremendous concerns, given that there are so many cuts and so many additional taxes being added, about where we are going to get the money to make sure we have these improvements. This is something that we cannot scrimp and save on, because lives are at stake.

So while I commend the bill to the house, I ask that the government consider supporting our amendments which have been circulated, because a lot of time and effort has gone into going through all the reports. I commend the bill to the house.

Jacinta ERMACORA (Western Victoria) (15:37): I too rise to make a contribution today here on the Triple Zero Victoria Bill 2023. This is an incredibly important bill. Indeed anyone who has ever had to call 000 understands just how much it matters. I know firsthand, as do many Victorians, what it is like to have to make that kind of call and what it means to have that cool, calm, reassuring voice at the other end of the phone. I once had to call 000 because an elderly woman had fallen over onto the road. She must have become unconscious, because she landed on the road headfirst. She came to with a cut on her head and some confusion as to what had happened. I called 000, as I happened to be walking along the footpath when she fell, who were calm, and once they clarified where exactly in Warrnambool we were, they advised me to keep her resting on the ground. She kept trying to stand up, but she might have fallen over again, so once the ambulance arrived I felt enormous relief and thankfulness that the people on the other end of the line were so calm and practical and reassuring. This story is relatively minor in terms of the scheme of issues that 000 services people have to deal with, but it was not minor for the elderly lady involved, and I must admit I was a bit nervous for her wellbeing myself.

Whether it is in the wake of a fire or a flood, a road accident or a loved one in desperate need of care, every day our state’s 000 staff speak to thousands of Victorian families, often in their most distressed moments. This bill is ultimately about them, Victorian families, making sure they continue to have the strong, reliable, responsive emergency response service that they deserve.

There is another group of Victorians that this bill matters to as well – our amazing emergency services workers. In my past roles, and now in my current one, I have had the immense privilege of seeing the work of our emergency services up close. I am a former volunteer member of the Warrnambool Fire Brigade, and during my time as a CFA volunteer I did experience communicating with the ESTA team on what we might be facing as we travelled to an incident and reporting back on the situation as it progressed and changed. From that limited experience I have observed how closely ESTA and each of the emergency services work together. Each is a vital cog in the chain in response to an emergency. Day in, day out the CFA, Ambulance Victoria, Fire Rescue Victoria, Victoria Police and our state’s SES display the most incredible professionalism. That same sense of professionalism extends to our Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority – or, as we call it, ESTA – those who in the face of every imaginable emergency are there to answer the call. These workers deserve an emergency response system that is up to the task.

As others have said, this bill responds to the recommendations laid out in the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority: Capability and Service Review, led by former Victorian Chief Commissioner of Police Graham Ashton, and the inspector-general for emergency management’s ambulance call answer review. Both of these reviews set out the ongoing demand for ESTA’s services. Just to put the demand into perspective, between 2022 and 2023 ESTA answered close to 2.7 million calls for assistance – that is more than 7300 calls per day, around five calls a minute and equivalent to one call every 11 seconds. Each and every year ESTA saves, supports and welcomes thousands of Victorian lives. Despite this overwhelming demand, ESTA has consistently not only met but exceeded the 90 per cent ambulance call answering performance benchmark. This is testament to our emergency response workers’ remarkable dedication and their commitment to making sure that every Victorian has the care they need when they need it. But as these two reviews both noted, demand on these services is only expected to increase. This in addition to the need to bolster the governance accountability and oversight of Victoria’s 000 service forms the basis of this bill.

Both independent reviews provide government with an honest and informed framework. Twenty recommendations from the capability and service review will transform ESTA’s governance, call-taking and dispatch service, technology and managed services, intelligence services and performance standards to address the systemic issues within the organisation. A further eight recommendations, 42 findings and nine observations from the inspector-general for emergency management provide us with the necessary guidance to strengthen the sustainability of ESTA’s operations for the future, improve patient outcomes and ensure confidence in these important services.

In action this bill will repeal the current Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority Act 2004. ESTA, its board and its advisory committee will cease to exist on the commencement of this act. In its place our state will have a brand new and dedicated entity, Triple Zero Victoria, an independent statutory authority that has the framework and oversight that means Victorians can continue to be confident when they call 000. Maintaining Triple Zero Victoria as a statutory authority will ensure its operational autonomy but also its ability to respond rapidly to emergency situations. Importantly, these reforms will bring the authority closer to government. Under the changes Triple Zero Victoria will be led by a CEO and a board that are directly accountable to the minister and secretary. At the same time these changes will help ensure genuine partnership across the emergency services sector, another of the key expert recommendations. Triple Zero Victoria’s operational committee will encompass senior leaders from our emergency services, including those that I mentioned earlier: Ambulance Victoria, police, fire, VICSES and other relevant government departments and agencies.

The bill includes a number of other important measures to ensure Triple Zero Victoria’s accountability and responsiveness. Robust reporting requirements will enable the authority to quickly escalate and resolve issues that could affect emergency services delivery. The Department of Justice and Community Safety will be required to endorse Triple Zero Victoria’s annual financial planning and operational budgets, and of course the inspector-general for emergency management will continue to monitor and provide assurance on the performance of this vital service.

ESTA’s current workforce will also continue in their important role, transitioning to Triple Zero Victoria to ensure continuity of service for all local communities. This bill builds on the government’s existing commitment. I am proud to say that over the last two years our Labor government has invested more than $363 million to help ESTA meet its growing demand, employing more than 400 additional staff, building better support and surge capacity during the busy times, strengthening mental health support for workers and investing in vital technology upgrades.

Without wading too much into the detail, I would like to put this commitment into contrast. There are those in this chamber who prefer not to remember, but as a regional Victorian and as a representative of a regional community it is much harder for me to forget. It was Premier Jeff Kennett who privatised our emergency services communications and the Liberal Napthine government who went to war with paramedics. I disagree with Ms Crozier – our emergency services are not Third World and do not deserve to be run down and criticised by the coalition. In contrast to Kennett and the current opposition’s attitude to emergency services, our government is supporting on-the-ground services that Victorians rely on, including in my electorate.

As my colleague Minister Tierney so eloquently described in this chamber this morning, we were delighted to open the new facility for the Port Fairy SES a few weeks ago. I would suggest that the role Ms Tierney played in responding to the dire need for a new home for the Port Fairy SES unit was quite understated by her in her ministers statement this morning. Former unit controller Stephen McDowell described in detail the advocacy and hard work of Ms Tierney in achieving an urgently needed new facility so quickly, and I congratulate Minister Tierney, Stephen McDowell, the new unit controller Hannah Morris and all Port Fairy SES unit members for this wonderful community outcome. I have also in recent months had the great privilege and pleasure of opening the Warracknabeal and Dimboola fire stations, and also the Casterton fire station. As I said earlier, I am profoundly grateful to the workers and volunteers who make up our state’s emergency services.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those individuals from across western Victoria: our dedicated paramedics who care for and about our local families; our local police men and women, who work tirelessly to help keep our communities safe; and our SES workers and volunteers, who respond to floods, storms and everything in between. I must say, in the recent strong winds a tree went over on my parents’ farm, where my mother lives alone. She is 83, and that tree blocked her into her property. She had occasion to call the SES and is very, very thankful. And of course Fire Rescue Victoria and our local CFA volunteers – I made some great friends, some dear friends, in the CFA in Warrnambool and surrounds during my period as a volunteer firefighter. They are still friends of mine today, and I am very grateful for their continuing volunteer work in our community. Many members of our family, including my father, my uncle and me, and others, have served our community as volunteer firefighters. It means I know well the hard work and commitment that go into it. Ash Wednesday was a big day for our family, as have been most of the other large fires over the decades. It is these emergency services workers that this bill is all about, the Victorians who serve our state and who deserve a responsive, cohesive 000 service. And it is about Victorian families, who deserve to feel confident, like I did the day that I called 000 on the side of the street in Warrnambool, that if they ever need to make that phone call, they and the people they love will have the help they need. I am proud to support this bill and the Victorians it matters to.

Wendy LOVELL (Northern Victoria) (15:51): I rise to speak to the Triple Zero Victoria Bill 2023, which is a bill for an act to establish a new entity called Triple Zero Victoria, to repeal the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority Act 2004 and consequentially amend other acts. This bill will result in the cessation of the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, known as ESTA. The government has introduced this bill in response to findings and recommendations of, firstly, the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority Capability and Service Review: Final Report conducted by former police commissioner Graham Ashton, and secondly, two reports that were prepared by the inspector-general for emergency management, namely, the Review of Victoria’s Preparedness for Major Public Health Emergencies, Including Pandemics and the Review of Victoria’s Emergency Ambulance Call Answer Performance. These reports were obviously prompted by the well-publicised failure of the 000 system under this government.

I take up Ms Ermacora’s contribution and also one that I was listening to earlier by one of her male colleagues, which talked about all of the problems in the ambulance services being the fault of the Liberals, being the fault of the Kennett government, which was not just 24 years ago, not just last century, but last millennium. This government is still blaming Jeff Kennett for everything that has been wrong. This government have been in power for 20 of the last 24 years. The failures in these systems rest solely and squarely on the Labor Party in this state. Not everything that went wrong in this state happened last millennium or happened in the four years of the Baillieu–Napthine governments, but according to Labor of course that is the truth – but we all know that it is not the truth.

We know that Labor have a very cosy arrangement with the unions, and yes, the ambulance union did work very hard to assist them to get back into government in 2014. And then, once they got into government, the union took exactly the same offer that had been offered by the Napthine government for their EBA. They took that from a Labor government but created all hell in the community when it was offered to them by the Liberal government. But what we know is failure after failure after failure has happened in Victoria, and people have died because of this government’s mismanagement of our ambulance services and of our health system.

I would like to talk about a particular case in my own electorate, that of baby Lawson. I was horrified when his parents Ashley and Tamika contacted me in 2022 to talk about what had happened to baby Lawson. At about 5:30 in the afternoon on 12 May 2022 Lawson actually suffered a seizure. He was 15 months old. He suffered a seizure at his home in Girgarre. His parents had to drive him to the hospital in Kyabram, and as they did they were dialling 000. 000 rang out three times. While this family, whose child had had a seizure, was driving to the hospital, the 000 number rang out three times. Finally, on the fourth attempt an operator did answer, but they got cut off, so they redialled it again, and on their fifth attempt they actually connected and stayed with that operator for about 12 minutes, because that operator was actually unable to transfer them to the ambulance service. You know how they say, ‘It’s 000; do you require police, ambulance or fire?’ They were unable to transfer them from that person to the ambulance.

As they arrived at the Ky hospital the operator then said to them, ‘Look, I’ll try and get onto ambulance and send an ambulance, but I’m not sure if one’s going to be available or if one will arrive.’ Lawson had stopped breathing and was turning grey, so the Kyabram hospital, which only has an emergency care centre, were unable to care for him as well. They rang for an ambulance. That took about 30 minutes – to get to a hospital ringing because a baby had stopped breathing and was turning grey. They obviously resuscitated Lawson, and the ambulance arrived about 30 minutes later. But when the ambulance got there the paramedics were not comfortable to transfer him. They did not think they were qualified enough to transfer Lawson from Kyabram to Shepparton. They wanted a MICA paramedic present. But Lawson had stopped breathing twice, so they eventually did load him into that ambulance and they started on their trip. They did stop just outside Kyabram and they waited for the MICA ambulance to meet them there, and Lawson stopped breathing four more times before they reached Goulburn Valley Health. That was six times that the parents or the hospital had rung before an ambulance even attended and seven times by the time the ambulance also called for a MICA service. Anyway, finally Lawson did receive the care that he needed from MICA paramedics. No-one criticises our paramedics – our paramedics and our MICA paramedics do a tremendous job. The criticism here is with the government’s failure to manage these services properly.

I think everyone here would understand the stress and the anxiety that Ashley and Tamika, Lawson’s parents, felt as they repeatedly dialled 000 while their child had stopped breathing and their child was turning grey. Remember, this baby was only 15 months old. Fortunately, once Lawson was in MICA care and he was transferred to GV Health, he finally did receive the care he needed, and his parents are very, very grateful. But then, to add insult to injury, the government sent them a bill – a bill for $2000 for an ambulance that they called that never arrived. This received a great deal of attention by the media. Lawson’s parents were absolute media stars for a couple of days. They were on breakfast TV, they were on the evening news and the Sunday Night program, and eventually the government, due to the pressure that the media coverage attracted, did waive that bill. What an insult – call an ambulance, it does not arrive, ‘But here’s a $2000 bill for that ambulance.’ What a disgrace.

I had another constituent of mine contact me just a couple of weeks ago to say that she had called an ambulance at 5:45 in the morning because her husband had collapsed on the floor of their kitchen. That ambulance took almost 2 hours to arrive. Fortunately the husband has recovered from the incident that he had, but 2 hours – it could have been too late. It is just a disgrace. Then just last week I was sent pictures from people in Wodonga of the ambulances ramping at the border health service. Every single ambulance in both Albury and Wodonga in the middle of last week was ramped at the border health service. This has been an absolute disgrace, the way the government manages health services and ambulance services in Victoria.

I am going to also talk about an article that appeared in the BendigoAdvertiser, something that has not had a great deal of media attention considering just how serious it was. This is an article that was actually driven by the Victorian Ambulance Union. They raised that on grand final night:

Victoria’s regional emergency control centre was forced to close due to staff shortages … one of “the busiest nights of the year” …

The ambulance union said that, and I can certainly believe that. They warned that:

… understaffing at the Ballarat centre risked placing paramedics in dangerous situations without co-ordinated support from police, the CFA or SES.

What was the reason for its closure? It was personal leave by staff. Surely you would know it is one of the busiest nights of the year. You know that many people want personal leave on that night. The government and the people who operate these services should have rostered accordingly. It is not good enough if people are just calling in on the day. They need to roster accordingly for those days. We have these trials in all of our health services for things around special events. Whether it be the grand final, whether it be Cup Day or whether it be Christmas, staff do want those times off. And we feel for people who work shiftwork: nurses, doctors, paramedics, our fire services and other emergency services – our volunteer services. I have known my own brother to get up from the Christmas table, leave his Christmas dinner and go to a car accident, or other friends who have gone to fires on Christmas Day – because that is what they do. If you are being paid to do a job and you are rostered, then you turn up. The government need to make sure that they adequately fill those rosters to keep these services operating. Obviously they did not do that on grand final day in Ballarat, and the service closed down. Danny Hill from the ambulance union said that emergency control centres are:

… vital because they’re almost like our flight air traffic controllers, they control every ambulance resource in rural Victoria …

But on grand final night they were not there to control the ambulance resources. They were not there to make sure that ambulances that were dispatched by the centre in Melbourne had the backup, whether it was fire services or police services, so the paramedics may have been put into dangerous situations because these services just did not operate under this government.

But does this government care? No. As long as this government has power, it has control over people. That is all they care about. They certainly do not care about the day-to-day lives of ordinary Victorians. They do not care about the hundreds and thousands of people who are on waiting lists for health services in the state. Whether it be waiting lists for elective surgery or emergency surgery, whether it be waiting lists just to see a mental health professional or whether it be waiting lists to get into a doctor, this government does not care as long as it has power and control over people. That is all that it cares about: the Labor Party first, the Labor Party second, the Labor Party third, the Labor Party fourth, the Labor Party fifth. I could go on and on and on. At the end of a very long list of the Labor Party and their own personal interests, then you might get an ‘Oh, we might care because we want to keep control of power,’ but they do not really want to deliver anything that will improve the lives of Victorians and the economic prosperity of our state. As long as the Labor Party is in power and as long as the Labor Party has control, that is all that they care about.

Sonja TERPSTRA (North-Eastern Metropolitan) (16:05): I rise to make a contribution on the Triple Zero Victoria Bill 2023. At the outset I want to acknowledge all the fantastic work that our emergency services people do on behalf of Victorians in keeping us all safe but of course also our call takers at the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, otherwise known as ESTA, because I could not imagine a more challenging job than being a call taker, responding to people who call in at times of extreme distress and under extreme pressure. I note that at times they are even taking calls from children when their parents have become seriously ill. Trying to remain calm in those circumstances and trying to extract the relevant information from people who are calling the emergency services is extremely challenging, and I just want to thank those people for the amazing work that they do and for being part of that really important chain of workers that keep Victorians safe. As I said, it might start with the call takers at ESTA, who then patch it through to the emergency services, whether it be the police, the fire, the ambulance or the like. I am really grateful for the work that our emergency services do on behalf of Victorians. It is a very challenging job, and I think it is becoming even more challenging these days. I just think it is very impressive to dedicate your life to these sorts of services as an emergency services worker. It is something I am forever grateful for, so I just want to give that shout-out to our emergency services personnel.

This is an important bill. I have listened to the contributions from the government benches over here but also from the opposition benches. Wow, what a picture of doom and gloom has come from over there – a whole grab bag of unsubstantiated, crazy information which really does not even warrant responding to in a lot of cases. It seems that all the opposition want to do is talk doom and gloom but also use examples of situations that have been quite dire to muckrake the human tragedy from them. That is completely inappropriate, because we know that we have got bodies that are charged with investigating when things actually go wrong. From what I understand, I know there have been situations where people have unfortunately died whilst waiting for an ambulance, but they are matters for the coroner to determine. It is really inappropriate to come in here as part of a contribution in regard to this important bill and talk about those things without the foundation of an inquiry backing those claims. We get these sorts of inflammatory, overblown remarks and claims from those opposite, which is really unhelpful and shows the reason why they should never be in government.

I might talk about how they went to war with our paramedics as well. The war with the paramedics that the Liberals embarked upon was unprecedented, uncalled for and completely irresponsible, and it took a Labor government to resolve that. It takes a Labor government also to fund our emergency services and to make sure we have the appropriate frameworks in place, because what we know about those opposite is all they did when they were in government was cut, cut, cut, go to war with workers, go to war with paramedics and completely undermine these important services – and attack the workers, by the way, who were so fundamental and critically important to these services. Everyone knows that there is no credibility on that side of the chamber when they talk about these things. No-one is listening; they are talking to themselves anyway.

I just heard a whole grab bag, so I am just waiting for the interjections and interruptions from those opposite. They will come thick and fast, I am sure, as I keep working through these notes today, because that is all they have got. It really has been an embarrassing display from those opposite today. Their contributions have just been appalling. There have been no alternatives, mind you, put forward. You would think if you were going to put yourself forward as an alternative government you might have something – policy, maybe – but they have nothing other than rhetoric, which no-one is listening to other than them.

Importantly, this Triple Zero Victoria Bill 2023 will reform the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority – ESTA, as we know it – to bring it closer to government, ensuring greater oversight and providing clear and transparent accountabilities for the organisation, board and chief executive officer. The bill will establish a new statutory authority called Triple Zero Victoria, which will be led by a new board and CEO directly accountable to the Minister for Emergency Services. Triple Zero Victoria will draw on expertise from across the emergency and health services sector, and the legislation marks an important step forward as the government delivers on its commitment to create a stronger, more resilient 000 service for Victorians following the findings of the ESTA capability and services review led by former Victoria Police chief commissioner Mr Graham Ashton in 2022. Obviously that is what we do as a government. If there is a review undertaken, we listen to the findings of that review so we can continue to improve on the services that I know so many Victorians rely on in their time of need. As I said, they are an amazing service with amazing stories. I know that throughout very challenging times – I mean, you can think about all the ways in which our emergency services and first responders respond to emergencies. For example, if it is the 000 service, of course they are responding to medical emergencies and the like. Or it could be fire and then of course police where there is some sort of law and order response required.

It is important to make sure that we continue to review these things and refine things where that is necessary, and so this bill will, as I said, bring in some important reforms, which will mean that the board and the CEO will be directly accountable to the Minister for Emergency Services. Greater accountability is always a good thing, and we do not shy away from that as a government. We are very happy to embark upon those sorts of reforms. We know Victorians rely on these services heavily, so it is critically important.

The inspector-general for emergency management’s Review of Victoria’s Emergency Ambulance Call Answer Performance following the COVID-19 pandemic-related 000 demand surge also identified a number of opportunities to strengthen governance, accountability and service delivery, including in peak times of demand. What we know is, as we saw during the pandemic, there were peak times, obviously, that resulted in a surge of demand on those services and there are other times where you notice surges in capacity being put on our services – things like, and I often reflect back on, the thunderstorm asthma event that we had a few years back now. I note that some of the apps that are available can actually give you prewarning if there is a thunderstorm asthma event that might be pressing, because that means that people who may suffer from asthma can take action to manage their condition and perhaps act more quickly if they feel they are going to be impacted by such an event. I know that was just another example of when our emergency services had a demand surge placed on them. As an emergency call taker, responding to those things is critically important. They get excellent training as well. 000 call takers are very well trained in being a worker on these services, and it is critically important. You need a very cool, calm pair of hands in taking those calls. They are amazing people with the contribution they make to our emergency services.

Just returning to the IGEM review: this review also identified a number of opportunities to strengthen the governance, as I said, accountability and service during and including in times of peak demand. Both reviews recommended organisational change to ensure that the organisation’s structure, functions and name aligned with community expectations of the services to be provided. That is why ‘Triple Zero’ makes sense, because we all kind of know that in times of emergency you ring 000. Although some people like to quote 911. I think they have been watching too many American TV shows. But we get told these sorts of things when we are at school. I can remember learning about 000 as the number to call in case of emergency, so it is good to make sure that our framework and the organisation that these people work for reflect what people understand.

The bill is establishing Triple Zero Victoria as a new organisation that will provide high-quality and timely call-taking and dispatch services and operational communication services for Victoria’s emergency services. It is critically important to make sure that the organisation that will employ our call takers and still does employ call takers has a name that reflects the emergency nature and status of what people need to do when they are calling for emergency assistance. The bill marks a new era for Victoria’s emergency call-taking and dispatch service, and it will ensure Victorians can continue to have confidence that when they call 000 they will get the help they need when they need it. The bill will ensure that Triple Zero Victoria can deliver an effective, sustainable service to the Victorian community now and for decades to come. As I said, this review is timely and it is an important review that has informed the reforms that we are making. We do not shy away from ensuring that when there are recommendations made we act on those recommendations to improve those services as well.

I will just talk a little bit about the organisational structure and the new organisation. It is a unique service that will maintain Triple Zero Victoria. It is a statutory authority, and it will preserve its operational autonomy and its ability to respond quickly to emergency situations. This is similar in arrangement to how other emergency services operate, like Ambulance Victoria, so again aligning the organisational structure to make sure it is reflective of the nature of the emergency services that it participates in and understanding that that is part of that broader function.

In the 2023–24 Victorian budget an additional $2 million was included to support the 000 reform program so that we could roll out these reforms. Our government is continuing to invest in the emergency services. In the 2023–24 Victorian budget we also included additional funding for ESTA to procure a new computer-aided dispatch system, again making sure we have the most up-to-date and fit-for-purpose technology to assist in making sure that these services can operate effectively.

In 2022–23 ESTA answered almost 2.7 million calls for assistance, which represents a call every 11 seconds, or 7350 calls every day. That is a staggering amount of calls, and you can see why we need to make sure that the service has the appropriate amount of resources, and fit-for-purpose resources, in order for them to carry out their very important function. Despite this unprecedented demand, ESTA has consistently exceeded the 90 per cent ambulance call answer performance benchmark since last August. In large part that is a massive credit to those call takers who very efficiently and effectively deal with these calls as they come in, being able to get the information they need in a timely way but also being able to dispatch those calls to the emergency services. Again, it is an amazing statistic: 2.7 million calls for assistance, representing a call every 11 seconds. That is so incredible and a very impressive result for those call takers to manage that volume of calls. 7350 calls every day and one call every 11 seconds; that is staggering – a very impressive record by the ESTA call takers. Our government has made sure that we have resourced ESTA, which will now be Triple Zero Victoria, to be able to perform the very important function that it serves as part of our emergency services response.

In terms of bringing the entity closer to government – and I touched on this earlier – under the legislation the Department of Justice and Community Safety will be required to endorse Triple Zero Victoria’s annual financial plans and operating budgets. This will make sure it is financially robust and gives greater transparency to the organisation’s financial position. The bill also requires the CEO to report directly to the minister and the Secretary of the Department of Justice and Community Safety on significant risks on matters of significant public concern affecting Triple Zero Victoria. So again, there is more opportunity to get more transparency and accountability into the system.

I might leave my contribution there with about 30 seconds on the clock and just note that this is an important bill. It brings in some important reforms ensuring that our emergency call takers will be able to undertake their very important role and function as emergency call takers. I think it is a great reform. Triple Zero Victoria will also signal to the Victorian public that it is an emergency organisation, bringing it into alignment with all of our other emergency services, and I commend this bill to the house.

Trung LUU (Western Metropolitan) (16:20): I rise to make a contribution to the debate on the Triple Zero Victoria Bill 2023. This bill will abolish ESTA and rebrand the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority as Triple Zero Victoria. The bill will create a new entity, Triple Zero Victoria, which will replace ESTA and perform the functions that ESTA used to perform. It will take emergency calls from the general public and connect them to the particular emergency service that they need.

It is good to keep in mind that the core function of 000 simply is to connect members of the public to the emergency service that they need. When people call 000 it is an emergency, and by definition their call is urgent, their call is serious and their call could be a matter of life and death. So it is vital – very important – that a caller is connected to the relevant emergency service as soon as possible. That is the core function of 000. Anything that detracts from the core function needs to be dealt with and resolved. In past years Victorians have experienced this failure, resulting in loss of life. Ultimately these failures end up with the government of the day, not those who were in government 20 years ago. We know ESTA did not satisfy its core function to the community’s expectations.

The fact is we have known since 2016 that there were flaws in the 000 system. Because of these flaws, as we have heard in this chamber today, three inquiries were conducted into emergency call taking. The inspector-general for emergency management did two reviews and former Chief Commissioner of Police Mr Graham Ashton completed his review, the Ashton review. These reviews uncovered very serious concerns. They identified various issues.

The goal of the call takers is to answer within 5 seconds. Of course we want them to answer as soon as possible and respond to emergencies where they can as soon as possible. But we know that from time to time that is not possible due to various things that might arise. With every single call the expectation is that it needs to be responded to as quickly as possible. So the benchmark that ESTA tried to meet was to answer 90 per cent of calls within 5 seconds. I know that those across the chamber here like to refer back to numbers in years past, but what I would just like to emphasise is that in 2014 ‍– I am not sure who was in government at the time – the average was 93 per cent of calls answered within the time frame, which was 4 per cent above the national average. Since then, during the pandemic the amount of calls increased greatly and as a result the response rate went down.

During this time New South Wales and Queensland, for example, hit their 5-second target around 85 per cent of the time, but during this time Victoria somehow managed to hit only 65 per cent. There was something wrong with this, and we needed to ask why this had occurred, why our state had dropped the ball so dramatically. The success rate dropped even lower in January 2022, which was ESTA’s worst month of performance, with only 39 per cent of calls answered within the required time frame. Many calls were answered soon after the 5-second benchmark, in 20 seconds or a minute, but hundreds of callers were waiting for 10 minutes or more. And for an emergency call that sometimes means the difference between life and death, this was an issue that we needed to look into deeply.

The Ashton review found that 33 people who waited for a long time for their call to be answered did not survive the emergency. We understand that every incident has its challenges and unique situations, and the coroner was very careful not to make any finding of call delay contributing to anyone’s death. However, there is a possibility, as we know, that the long wait was a factor in these cases of death. When health and medical aid is delayed in responding to requests for assistance, it will cause and contribute to people’s deaths. So we must take this seriously: we need to improve the call and dispatch performance.

This bill seeks to reform the emergency call-taking service by abolishing the ESTA altogether and starting from scratch with a new entity. One important change is the funding model. ESTA was originally designed so that the emergency services would provide its funding – the idea of the actual service assisting in paying for service delivery. However, the fact is that the funding model proved unsustainable, and ESTA has required regular top-up funding of around $30 million a year since 2015. Under this proposed reform Triple Zero Victoria will move away from a fee-for-service model to be directly funded through the budget. This is a reform I support. It eliminates the pay-for-service attitude.

It has been said that this new structure will be better than the old one because it will be closer to government. I just hope being closer means the ability to recall what has happened, the ability to recall their actions and the ability and the willingness to take responsibility and ownership. The Ashton review said that one problem with ESTA was the independence of the board, and this bill tries to fix it by increasing the reporting requirements. The board and the CEO will now report to the Minister for Emergency Services as well as the justice secretary. The Triple Zero bill will give the minister the direct power to dismiss the CEO. Nevertheless, in its basic features the new entity of Triple Zero essentially will reproduce the structure of ESTA. The government will appoint the board and an advisory committee made up of representative individual emergency services, and a CEO appointed by the board will oversee the day-to-day operations. From these changes it might be the case that the new entity is closer to government, but again I hope it will give more ownership and more responsibility to the minister.

We need to understand that the failure of the response rates was identified with government not having enough control over authority bodies, not because of the frontline staff. The frontline staff were and are doing a fantastic job – and I can vouch for that personally – during demanding and stressful conditions. If the service has failed, it is not because of the frontline staff’s performance but because of how the staff have been deployed and managed – how they were rostered, what IT services they were using and what procedures they were following. These are all responsibilities of the management, the board and ultimately the minister.

Rostering should also be considered. The nature of emergencies is unpredictable, and any organisation tasked with responding to emergencies must be responsible enough to match the unpredictability of emergencies. The review of ESTA identified staff rostering as an area of concern because staff were fixed to a 12-hour roster. There is not enough flexibility in the roster system to react properly or rapidly to changing demands. Changing this would require changing the enterprise agreement with call-taking staff and would require agreement with several different unions, and I hope this bill will focus on that.

The review also considered IT issues. The five different emergency services organisations themselves each have their own unique IT system, which makes it very difficult for ESTA to structure its IT service in a way that fits with the emergency services that it communicates with.

In conclusion, I do not oppose the bill but do hold some reservations. A reformed emergency call-taking service cannot come soon enough, and I welcome the reform. I hope the government will support the amendment the coalition has put forward. But the public should not be fooled by the rebranding of this exercise. The new structure does not itself address the issues around IT and staffing. These were at the centre of ESTA’s problems in the past years and will remain so until the minister addresses the issues and works with the board to govern and hopefully meet the community’s expectations in responding to emergency calls. In conclusion, the rebranding in this new bill is a start, but ownership and responsibility lie squarely with the government to work with various agencies and unions to focus on responding and meeting the community’s expectations.

Tom McINTOSH (Eastern Victoria) (16:31): I rise to support the Triple Zero Victoria Bill 2023, and I want to start by acknowledging all those that have done a power of work in ESTA in recent years and across all time frames, because it is an incredibly challenging role. We know that that line of work, dealing across the areas that those workers are, is incredibly challenging. As we heard, Mr Bourman, my fellow Eastern Victoria Region representative, talked well about the complexity that lies within every single call, and we are talking about nearly, on average, 8000 calls a day coming into this service for all manner of reasons and never knowing what is coming at the other end of that call. I think it is absolutely important that we recognise those workers and also the extra stresses and pressures that were put on through the pandemic and that the government reacted to that with well in excess of $300 million for additional staff and mental health support to support those workers.

Post that we have had an independent review, and obviously that has led to this bill here today and the changes that we need to create Triple Zero and to ensure that we have the best possible services to respond to emergency calls and to liaise between our emergency services – our ambulance, our police, our SES and our fire services – and to make sure that those people who are calling in need and our responders have the best possible connections.

Of course what we are delivering and what we are responding to from the review is a far cry opposite to what we have seen happen with these services in the past and what we saw the governments of the 1990s do – privatising and outsourcing to an American company that literally ripped the guts out of our capacity, our skills and our services, which have had to be rebuilt over time. We know that when we take shortcuts and when we do not value and invest in our people, in the skills and in the infrastructure that is needed for our essential services, we do not get the services that our community so, so very much needs.

I have just noticed that I have got 30 seconds on the clock, but I do not think I have been going for 14 minutes. That is okay; I will just keep at it. There we go. We are back. I have got a full 15 minutes, which I will probably need to talk in detail about everything that exists in this bill.

Back to that point of privatisation, we saw what came out of the royal commission. We saw the hands-off-the-wheel approach. I think that period of time under Kennett, when the Liberals and the Nationals last had their way, was probably one of the –

Wendy Lovell interjected.

Tom McINTOSH: Sorry, it was not the last time. It was the last meaningful time they had their way and they did anything in government, which we do not want. I think I recall that it was the biggest gouge of privatisation that anywhere in the world has seen. Many of the consequences of that have lingered.

There is the investment that we are making and the investment we are creating in the staff, in the service and in the infrastructure. Following on from that independent review and following on from those recommendations, ensuring with the board and the committee we are bringing experience and expertise in those services that will work in this space to meet that critical demand and that urgent need from the community for these services is so crucial to get right. It is a very challenging space. It is very easy to throw mud at the workers in this space, but it is incredibly challenging for those taking the calls and those responding. Every time I go out to meet those people at their ambulance stations, fire stations or police stations – whatever it is – I think about how we all owe them such a huge debt of gratitude for the work they do, because it is incredibly demanding, and it is at times dangerous. It is a debt we owe to all these workers.

When I see the infrastructure investments that we are making in this state – in my region, being able to go out to Yarram and see the new CFA and ambulance upgrades or see the Foster ambulance station or at Mornington a completed ambulance station – and see what it means to those teams who are working day in, day out and see how it improves their workplace, their workspace and their headspace for the work they do to deliver for our communities, it is something that I am very, very proud of. It is something this government is committed to and is committed to in an ongoing way. When the value set of government is to absolutely support our essential services, to support the workers – to support them with the infrastructure, to support them with the tools and the skills they need – we know, despite what can be incredibly challenging work, we are on the path to success.

I dropped in at the incident control centre in Heyfield during the recent fires and floods. We know that in one day, within hours, alerts were coming up on the VicEmergency app of fires and floods on the same screenshot. We know that with climate change, natural disasters are exacerbated. They are more frequent. It is on us all to ensure that we are, first of all, reducing our emissions and stopping climate change but also dealing with the impacts that we know are already locked in. We are supporting those emergency workers to get the best out of them. Part of that is ensuring that our 000 call service – which is the mesh, the connection point – is delivering what Victorians need, want and expect and ensuring the best results for all of them and the people that use the service.

I just want to touch on a couple of points about the new structure and to highlight that it will be led by a new board and a CEO directly accountable to the Minister for Emergency Services, who is in the chamber – and I acknowledge the minister. It does mark an important step forward as we are delivering on our commitment to creating a stronger, more resilient 000 service for Victorians following the findings of the ESTA capability and service review that was led by former Victoria Police chief commissioner Mr Graham Ashton and the recommended organisational changes to ensure that the organisation’s structure, the functions and the name align with community expectations of the services to be provided.

I really take great heart from the fact that we are going to have input across our services, and between the board, the committee and our ministers I think we are going to get really good outcomes. But as I said before with reference to Mr Bourman’s comments, which were very insightful, it is such a difficult and complex space. It needs a government that is committed to constantly improving, constantly delivering, working with the service, ensuring that we understand what we need of it and ensuring that is delivered. I have absolute faith in the ministers and the government to continue this good work and deliver what all Victorians need. I will finish my contribution there.

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (16:42): Thank you for your contributions on the bill today. The bill covers important, serious issues but is relatively simple in its form. It is predominantly around governance and establishing Triple Zero Victoria as an organisation to provide high-quality and timely call-taking and dispatch services and operational communications for Victoria’s emergency services sector. It does mark an important step forward as the government delivers on its commitment to creating a stronger, more resilient 000 service for Victorians following the findings from reports that have been well canvassed in debate.

I do want to put on record again my sincere apologies to any Victorian who has experienced unacceptable delays in their calls to 000, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have had several personal discussions with some of the families who have been impacted by those delays. Some of them have lost loved ones and some of them have had experiences that were really harrowing, so to speak firsthand with those people was a real motivator in relation to the development of this bill but also ensuring the government’s substantial support and increases in funding for ESTA came to fruition to bring about a service that Victorians can be proud of and rely on.

I also need to place on record my thanks to the staff from each of the emergency services agencies, ESTA’s industrial partners and department staff that have been consulted and have made a contribution to the development of this legislation. Most of all I would like to thank the staff at ESTA, an incredible group of people that make up an organisation that has seen significant change over the past 24 months. They did an incredible job throughout the pandemic. They faced unprecedented demand and several times had furloughed staff, and they all stepped up to do their very best in the most trying of times.

It was 8 October 2021, six weeks after I became Minister for Emergency Services, that I announced that the Victorian government had commissioned a review into ESTA by former Victorian Chief Commissioner of Police Graham Ashton. The following year the government supported in principle all 20 recommendations from that review, and the 2022–23 state budget invested a record $333 million to deliver more than 400 staff, build better support and surge capability for busy times and provide that really important wellbeing support to look after those frontline workers. It is an incredibly difficult job. They do it so well, but it is important to invest in their wellbeing, and we were sure to make that a priority in our investments.

Witnessing the call-taking process firsthand is inspiring. I just love visiting ESTA centres. We have got three in the state, and when I visit I always take the opportunity to plug in and listen to the calls being answered. I am in awe at the expertise, the calmness and the professionalism that the call takers deliver each and every time. They demonstrate great resilience, skill, patience and empathy to help Victorians when they need it most, and I just cannot thank them enough for the work that they do.

Our investments to date have helped to stabilise and improve call-taking performance. On ambulance call taking, a lot has been mentioned about ambulance services in today’s debate, but I can confirm that ambulance call-taking performance has exceeded the benchmark of 90 per cent of calls answered in 5 seconds for over a year. In fact in June ESTA had its equal best month in terms of call answer speeds on record. However, we acknowledge that the job is not done. In partnership with ESTA’s new leadership team the government continues to work closely with them to restore community confidence in our 000 service. As I said at the time of accepting all of the recommendations, we did want to ensure that our focus was on the highest importance at that time, and that was ensuring that call-taking speed and dispatch was the focus. Whilst we got that on track, we then commenced the next step in relation to government’s reform. This bill is testament to that work. It is another step forward in the government’s commitment to delivering a stronger, more resilient 000 service.

The bill will establish Triple Zero Victoria as a new organisation to provide high-quality and timely call-taking and dispatch services. The functions of Triple Zero Victoria set out in the bill are clearer and they are more tailored than those that were prescribed for ESTA, so we are effectively modernising this organisation’s foundation legislation. The bill provides for clear governance of Triple Zero Victoria’s service delivery, a signal to the emergency services sector and the community of where Triple Zero Victoria’s focus will be now and into the future. I would like to take the opportunity to circulate my amendments. I have, substantially, three house amendments, and I might just pause while they quickly go around.

Amendments circulated pursuant to standing orders.

Jaclyn SYMES: On the government’s house amendments, the first one is on clause 17(3). It is adopted from the opposition’s amendment and requires the publication of a ministerial direction issued to Triple Zero Victoria on its website within 14 days of the direction being issued. It was ‘as soon as practicable’. There does not seem to be a lot of trust for my commitment to make that public, so we will accept 14 days to make sure. In fact we will probably endeavour to be quicker than 14 days. We do not have a problem with putting a specific period of time for people’s comfort in relation to that. Hopefully that is acceptable to all parties, given that the opposition have requested a more definitive time line rather than the language of ‘as soon as practicable’.

The second amendment, on clause 74, requires Triple Zero Victoria’s annual report to include a summary of the advice provided by the operational committee on how Triple Zero Victoria and the emergency services organisations have supported each other in their respective functions. This amendment is directed towards the intention of the opposition’s new clause 71A amendment, which calls for the board of Triple Zero Victoria to provide an annual report on the advice it has received from the operational committee. Again, it is not necessarily too controversial. Our amendment makes it a little more workable, because the opposition’s amendment is a little more duplicative and therefore unnecessary, as an annual report is already part of the requirements of the Triple Zero Victoria entity. So the amendment that we are proposing is more workable and more implementable by the organisation.

The third amendment, on clause 83, requires data relating to agreed performance standards to be published on Triple Zero Victoria’s website annually or at an interval set by the emergency management commissioner. This amendment relates to a couple of the amendments proposed by the opposition regarding the frequency of data publication on the website. Although this amendment does not address the time line of quarterly, as proposed by the opposition, what it does do is give the emergency management commissioner the discretion to set the appropriate reporting time lines based on the performance standards that will be set following the passage of the bill.

We received amendments from the opposition on Monday, and we certainly acknowledge the intent ‍– it is about transparency, it is about accountability and it is about information being available to this chamber but also to the public, and that is something that I support – but in working through whether we could accept those amendments or not, we spoke at length with the department and ESTA in relation to what was workable, which is why we have come up with counter amendments which have a similar intent but will be more easily implemented. We are hoping that people take stock of the fact that we want the same outcome, but we do not want overlapping, burdensome imposts on an organisation. The advice I have on the opposition’s amendments is that they would swamp Triple Zero Victoria, they would create too much bureaucracy and they would take dozens of staff off regular duties to compile the figures that have been requested.

Of course there are people that collect data, and I guess I will give you an example of why I am imploring members to support the government’s position and not the opposition’s amendments. At the height of the call-taking pressures, when I first became minister I desperately wanted data; I desperately wanted to know each and every minute what was happening in that organisation. But I also was very conscious of the fact that my continual intervention and asking for information was potentially holding them back from actually getting on and doing what they needed to do to improve the call-taking experience for those that were contacting 000. So it is a balance between ensuring that an organisation can operate effectively and not frustrating its work by continually demanding that it document everything that it does. I guess if you consider a bit of a comparison, you do not have the Crime Statistics Agency work being performed by Victoria Police. You have a separate agency that do that, because they are a data collection agency; Victoria Police are not. I would put the proposition that Triple Zero Victoria, or ESTA as it is now, is not a data collection agency; it is an emergency services organisation. With that, I do want to have as much publicly available information as possible, and we think that the amendments that we have proposed provide a good, balanced approach in relation to meeting that objective.

To conclude, I would like to just again express my gratitude to the staff at what will soon be Triple Zero Victoria. I have been on the floor with many of them over the past two years, and Victorians could not be better served when they are in need of emergency assistance. Passing this bill will allow Triple Zero Victoria to continue to grow and improve and offer an even better service to the people of Victoria.

Motion agreed to.

Read second time.



Clause 1 (16:54)

Georgie CROZIER: Minister, Triple Zero Victoria is set to be directly funded by the state government rather than through contributions. What future budget allocations have been made to secure funding for the agency?

Jaclyn SYMES: ESTA, or Triple Zero Victoria, will continue to go through the normal processes of budget allocation, so therefore that is not set at this point in time as a fixed amount.

Georgie CROZIER: Another similar budgetary question: the inspector-general for emergency management (IGEM) and the Ashton report highlighted significant IT issues at ESTA. How and when will funding be provided to upgrade IT in 000, or could you provide an update as to that upgrade that I think we have asked about previously? You said the work was ongoing.

Jaclyn SYMES: Indeed there have been many millions of dollars over several years that have continued to be invested in the IT systems. Obviously, as you would appreciate, the call-taking and dispatch system relies heavily on an IT system, known as the call-and-dispatch system. The last budget allocated a significant amount of money to go out to tender for a new CAD system, so that is in the process of being procured. I can report that, in really good news, it has attracted a lot of interest – probably more than I would have expected – which is a good sign. It means that there is high interest from IT companies to develop and deliver the new CAD system. For commercial-in-confidence reasons, the amount was not disclosed in the budget. However, I am advised that in terms of the interest that they have had, they are confident that the amount that was allocated will be able to secure a contract. Once that tender process has been completed and procured and a company can be announced, we will be able to disclose the financials in relation to that as well as time lines and give bit of an indication about what that project will look like.

Georgie CROZIER: I was going to ask about time lines, but you just answered that in your response about that work and the further time lines there will be once that tender process is completed.

Jaclyn SYMES: Yes, it is not too far off.

Georgie CROZIER: Minister, I just want to go to the ESTA capability and service review final report. It had some pretty damning and alarming points that it made about the failures within the system. I mentioned in my speech earlier some of these issues. I am just wanting to try to get a bit of an understanding about the improvements in it. I referred to the capacity to deliver consistent call-taking and dispatch services, and that:

… CTD service has experienced challenges with recruitment and retention of staff and fixed-term funding for CTD staff. As a result, the capacity and capability of this service has eroded.

It is really around the recruitment and retention of staff. I know that you are funded for additional staff. But in terms of those retention and attrition rates, what are the attrition rates with staffing, and is the service satisfied with the capacity and experience of the staff?

Jaclyn SYMES: As you would appreciate, Ms Crozier, this is a little bit outside the scope of the bill, but I am very happy to give you some commentary in relation to it because these are the types of questions I ask when I visit ESTA: how is your staff going, and how are you going with your recruitment and interest in the organisation? Because obviously we invested a lot for additional recruitment, above the existing base personnel – an additional 400 people. What always strikes me at ESTA when I visit, but also at their service awards, is the length of service of so many staff. I go around and I say, ‘Hi. What’s your name? What do you do here, and how long have you been here?’ It is not rare to have people say they have been there seven, eight, 15, 20 years. There are so many long-term staff of that organisation. What they report to me is that it is an awesome, amazing place to work, particularly now. They had really challenging years, and they say that that was really hard, but there were so many people that rallied together. The workplace and the leadership and the cultural change just in the two years that I have been in the role are very stark. There is greater investment in team leaders, so you have got less people working with new staff, which is rewarding for those long-term staff, and the new staff are getting better access to mentoring. We have also invested heavily in mental health support so there is a capacity to debrief after a difficult call without delay and the like.

In terms of attrition, I do not have the figures on me, but it is not something that you or I need to be concerned about. There are no spikes or unusual departures in this organisation. When I was last at Ballarat a couple of weeks ago, they had just had an open day where they asked people from the community to come in and see if they were interested in working at ESTA, and there was quite an interest in that. I have got to put on record: it is not for everyone. It is a very difficult job. I guess one of the best examples of how good this organisation is is that the biggest referral pathway for new staff at ESTA is from existing staff – it is the friends and family of existing staff, which I think goes to show what a great workplace it is.

Georgie CROZIER: I have spoken to staff, and they are very committed to the work that they do. They want the best outcomes for those patients that they are dealing with – not just patients but also other emergency services, whether it is fire or ambulance or police. I do understand that. I just want to go to an article from 1 October this year where Danny Hill basically criticised ESTA and said that there are unnecessary 000 calls. We do know that there are people who ring 000 for ridiculous ailments, or not even that. They are wasting everyone’s time, and those numbers are not insignificant. We all accept that. It is quite extraordinary how some people think it is appropriate to ring 000, an emergency service, in such situations. One of the issues raised in the article is:

… call-takers at the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority were very good at their jobs, but were constrained by a system that was not fit for purpose.

“The call-takers often know that the case is not an emergency but the program they use doesn’t allow them to make a judgment call …

It is referring to a case just a few weeks prior where there was a 25-year-old who called 000 with a sore, blocked ear, which was classified as a code 1 chest pain. There is a clear mismatch there, and Mr Hill’s point is that something is not going right in terms of the interpretation of the severity of cases. Can you provide the committee with a bit more information about how to address his concerns and about how the system is improving?

Jaclyn SYMES: Again we are outside the bill, but I do like the topic because I love the workforce and I love the work they do, so I will entertain the line of questioning for a little bit longer. When it comes to how calls are classified and the like – Danny Hill has been a really good supporter of ESTA. He has a lot of his own members in there, and we have paramedics on the floor who give clinical advice to call takers. ESTA uses a triage system called ProQA – the same as other jurisdictions – and that is a system that is informed by AV. So what happens is there are programs and there are scripts, and they are agreed to by Ambulance Victoria and they are implemented by the call takers and dispatchers. Where information is perhaps not clear or they need more information, you will often receive a call back from a paramedic who has clinical training to get a little more understanding about the emergency and what is required.

The article refers to a specific case about an ambulance arriving for someone who had a blocked ear, which had been recorded as a code 1 chest pain. What we do not know from that article is what information the call taker was given by the person who made that call. Call takers are effectively blind; they can only rely on the information that is verbally provided to them by the call maker. That call maker could be a child. That call maker is obviously, in many situations, scared, traumatised and panicking. Call takers are very skilled in being empathetic and calm and trying to extract the information they need to put into their system which best classifies what is required for that emergency, but because you are relying on information from non-experts – they are doing the best that they can, and from all reports and from my experience it is very regularly spot-on – what we do see is that quite often Ambulance Victoria are responding to calls that are, when they get there, ‘Hey, actually you’ve got indigestion; you’re not having a heart attack.’ But it is very difficult to determine on the other end of the phone whether someone’s chest pain is minor or major, and you do not want to take the risk of questioning somebody’s description of symptoms. So it is not a precise science, taking a call and coding it, but that is why we want to invest in computer-aided dispatch. That is why we have clinical professionals on the ground. We have ambulance paramedics, we have sworn police on the floor and we have firefighters on the floor, so that when you have call takers and dispatchers that are making decisions based on the information they have got, they are supported by additional expertise from the emergency services themselves.

That is kind of an explanation of what is going on, but in terms of what is going to go on in the future, this bill does allow for better performance measures to be set by the emergency management commissioner, something that I am particularly interested in. I have spent the last two years talking about the benchmark of answering 90 per cent of calls within 5 seconds. It does not really tell anyone that much except that the call got answered. It does not really tell the community what the outcome was. So in terms of having a system, having a governance arrangement and having operational committees that can feed into continual improvement, we are going to take this organisation that is now meeting its call-taking benchmarks and have a look at what we want the performance measures to say and what is a measure of success. Some of that will come down to the appropriate coding, and I want to make sure that we can see that data. I know that the first part of the operational committee’s work will be issues such as this, in conjunction with the emergency management commissioner, which will then be overseen by IGEM. So this is a good framework to start the next stage of ensuring that we can demonstrate to the community how amazing this organisation is, identifying any gaps and making sure that we have got a system that is best placed to ensure that any improvements that can be made will be.

Georgie CROZIER: I take the comments and your points and the issue around judgement calls, and clearly I have spoken to paramedics. In fact I think it was Danny Hill who said to me, ‘If they get called out for chest pain, you’ve got to assume it is a heart attack; in fact it’s indigestion, but they’re still taking them into emergency departments.’ So there are issues along the system, I accept. But you mentioned just then performance measures. You want to see that data, and you want to see performance measures that will improve the system or identify the gaps. So what sorts of performance measures are you referring to in terms of what you want to see that will show improvements?

Jaclyn SYMES: Again, this framework allows the emergency management commissioner to come up with better performance measures. He will be setting those because, as we know, we do not necessarily get the full picture just from arbitrary benchmarks that refer to time lines alone. I think that performance standards could measure appropriately how a caller needing an ambulance is coded. I think that we can start to think about how we can do that better. But also there are different ways that we should be introducing improvements in training and in awareness. These will be matters for the operational committee and the emergency management commissioner, not necessarily me, but I have asked some more questions to get you an idea of what can we expect and what should we be looking at – for example, a call taker having additional training and knowledge about the different capabilities of particular assets. Who has a defibrillator? Where does that sit? What is a particular piece of equipment on a fire truck that would be best deployed to a particular emergency? Having a greater understanding of what is out there in the community and what is the appropriate response could indeed provide a better, more appropriate response to each emergency. How does that look in practice? And if you are going to do it, what does a performance measure look like to demonstrate that that investment or that training is producing a better community outcome? They are the sorts of things that we have been thinking about in relation to what we can measure to demonstrate continual improvement in an organisation that is certainly up for it.

Georgie CROZIER: I understand what you are saying in terms of equipment and how that can better assist with what is happening on the ground. But I suppose a performance measure is about timely assistance to somebody in need, whether they need –

Jaclyn SYMES: But the right assistance.

Georgie CROZIER: Yes, the right assistance, but I suppose what I am trying to ask is: if we have got another situation – God forbid – of COVID hitting and you have got a big demand on ambulance services while there is not a high demand on our fire services, is there an ability for the fire service ESTA call takers to come over and assist with the ambulance ESTA call takers?

Jaclyn SYMES: Again, we are way off the bill.

Georgie CROZIER: It is all part of the operations.

Jaclyn SYMES: Well, yes. Look, interoperability is something that is held up as something that will fix everything, and when I first stepped into the role I thought that too. I thought, ‘Well, why can’t somebody who’s sitting over there answer the phone over here?’ and it is certainly not that simple. There are many experienced call takers, particularly those that have come up the ranks and are now team leaders, who are multiskilled in relation to being able to deal with call and dispatch across the different services, but they are really, really different. Somebody who requires an ambulance – you ring, it gets patched through to the ambulance, they fill it out, it goes through to dispatch and an ambulance goes out, and you kind of hear the call and they take all the information. You sit on a police call – I have done it several times, and I still cannot follow what they are doing – and they have got pedals and they are talking to the cars out there on the road and they are sharing information, and the expertise and skill and the speed at which they do it are just phenomenal. It is a completely different skill set – similar but a completely different role – to dispatching an ambulance.

And then you have got fire. Particularly in a campaign fire you are talking and communicating with the intelligence on the ground where fires are moving. It is in the one building, but they are doing different roles, and you need to be experienced and skilled in each role to be able to do it. There are quite a few people that can do several roles, but to expect a trainee or expect someone that has been trained in ambulance and has been on the floor for six months to be able to flip over into something else is not something that should be expected of that workforce. Cross-training will be a focus of ESTA leadership in relation to new recruits and things, but it is not as straightforward as what I originally thought and as what most people probably think it is. It is something that the organisation is looking at, but I would not want to see it as a compulsory part of recruitment, because it is very, very hard to be skilled across the board.

Georgie CROZIER: I accept that response, and I understand what you are saying in terms of the different skill sets and the ability to assess those emergencies as they come in. But just because there was such a lack of staff, I made that example in terms of if we did have some very large catastrophe – God forbid that that occurs – and we needed more staff in these emergency services. That was the reason for my question.

Jaclyn SYMES: I want to add to that. First of all, a lot of new recruits are interested in being cross-trained and things like that, but it does take time to be proficient in it. But what I would add to that is that with the examples that you are pointing to – surge incidents, busy nights, unprecedented demand and the like – what we know through the experience of COVID is that we were not prepared for that. We did not have the backup staff, particularly when people were furloughed.

What we have now is a much better risk framework. Their rostering is better, they are more flexible, their overtime allows for people to come in. In terms of when they know they are going to have a busy night – whether they have got advice that it could be a thunderstorm asthma evening or indeed New Year’s Eve or the footy grand final; they know when their busy nights are going to be – they document that and they have got modelling and things like that that allow them to bring in more staff when they are needed, and they have got more staff because of the investment. The ability to respond to large events is much better than what it has been in the past. The industrial partners have been really great to work with in relation to that, in having MOUs and freeing up people and making sure that when people are needed they can be available.

Georgie CROZIER: Thanks, Minister, for that reassurance. It is a good thing that there is that planning that has gone on after what we have gone through in the last few years. My last question on clause 1 relates to what I said on the sentinel event report. I know that there are cases that are under investigation by the coroner; I am not asking for that. I just want to know, of the 240 sentinel events that have been notified in this report, which relates to why you have done what you have done after the failures, how many of those 240 sentinel events involved 000 failures and children that were caught up at that terrible time?

Jaclyn SYMES: Again, we are outside the bill, but I want to be as helpful as possible. In relation to the IGEM’s report and the findings of that report, after the release of that report it was provided to the coroner. The coroner was provided with a lot more information than is available publicly for obvious reasons in relation to identifying material and the like. The coroner has conducted a few directions hearings in relation to some of those matters, and I understand that more substantive hearings will commence next year.

Clause agreed to; clauses 2 to 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 (17:18)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I invite the minister to move her amendment 1, which is identical to Ms Crozier’s amendment 1.

Jaclyn SYMES: I move:

1. Clause 17, line 17, omit “As soon as practicable” and insert “Within 14 days”.

I went through the rationale for our house amendment to replace the term ‘as soon as practicable’ with the term ‘within 14 days’ to respond to the opposition’s concerns that ‘as soon as practicable’ was not definitive enough.

Georgie CROZIER: The government – ‘the government’; I wish I was the government – the opposition will be supporting the government’s amendment as it is what we were proposing.

Sarah MANSFIELD: I just wanted to put on the record that the Greens will be supporting these amendments, and we thank you, Attorney, and your office for working with us and taking on some of the concerns we had. It was great to be able to work with you in good faith. We believe that the timely reporting is really important for ensuring accountability and transparency across all parts of government, and this bill with the addition of this amendment I think will really strengthen it.

Amendment agreed to; amended clause agreed to; clauses 18 to 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 (17:21)

Georgie CROZIER: Clause 30 talks about the disclosure of pecuniary interests of members or delegates to the board, and ‘conflict of interest’ is defined in this clause to include:

… a direct or indirect pecuniary interest … held by a member or delegate of the Board in a matter being considered, or about to be considered, by the Board.

Subclause (5) provides that a delegate may be present during any deliberation of the board despite having a conflict of interest in a matter being considered, because delegates are not entitled to vote in relation to matters being considered by the board under clause 32(4).

I am just trying to understand here: if there is a conflict of interest but they are delegates and they are providing advice to the board, as is my understanding, why are they exempt from this particular part of the bill where there is a conflict of interest if it directly affects them?

Jaclyn SYMES: Ms Crozier, the delegates are put in place by the minister for a particular purpose. If something arises where you do not think you have quite covered off the expertise on the board and they would benefit from a person being added for information, that is the main purpose of that, and it exists in other boards. I would not appoint someone that had a conflict of interest. If they are there for their expertise in a particular interest – I would not appoint them if they had a conflict of interest unless the conflict of interest was relevant. For example, if their expertise was IT but they had previously worked with a tender company in relation to improvements at ESTA, in fact even that conflict might benefit the information of the board, because they could draw on past experiences of their work with a company that they might be considering. As long as they were not inappropriately acting and securing a financial benefit or something, which would be beyond conflict of interest and would contravene, probably, the law, sometimes their conflict of interest would be relevant. And they do not have voting rights anyway.

So that is why they have been excluded from – have I butchered this a little bit? There are sometimes benefits to a conflict of interest, because they are there for their knowledge of a particular thing that the board needs their expertise on. That is why we do not want to knock them out, necessarily, because of their conflict of interest; however, if it is a conflict of interest that is problematic, hopefully that would come up and become apparent to me in appointing them. There is also the ability for me to cease the delegate’s role if a conflict of interest is not a beneficial conflict of interest.

Clause agreed to; clause 31 agreed to.

Clause 32 (17:25)

Georgie CROZIER: This relates to the appointment of delegates to the board, and we have just had that discussion around the conflict of interest. But in clause 23 it outlines the process for removing a member from office and then it goes on in subclause (3) –

Jaclyn SYMES: Where are we? Thirty-three, are we?

Georgie CROZIER: Sorry, 23, I have gone back. I am talking about clause 32 but I am referring to clause 23(2), which states:

The Minister must recommend the removal of a member of the Board from office if the Minister is satisfied that the member –

has been convicted of an indictable offence …

has engaged in misconduct …

becomes an insolvent …

blah, blah, blah. There is a list of issues that you would quite rightly expect the minister to act upon. Does that apply to the delegates – those same criteria?

Jaclyn SYMES: No, not really. Ms Crozier, in practice in terms of the legislative framework, the requirements of a board are very different to the requirements of a delegate. The board – if I was to have a reason to remove it, it is good that it is set out in legislation. It has got to go to the Governor and all that kind of thing. I think you understand and accept all of that. The reason it does not flip over in a formal way to a delegate is that I appoint them for a particular purpose, and I also have discretion to remove them. You would probably draw on similar things to what is in the legislation, but because I have full discretion at any time I do not need a legislative basis to point to to show the Governor why I would seek their removal. A delegate is a discretionary position for a particular purpose, and if they are not up to it you can just remove them. If they did something that if they were a board member would not be appropriate, you would see that that would be cause for removal as well. But there is no need for a legislative instrument to do that.

Georgie CROZIER: Thank you, Minister, for that clarification. In relation to that, you have that power to appoint, and then obviously in a situation, as I have outlined, then to dismiss those delegates. Is there an oversight process for their work? I mean, who is overseeing the delegates? Is that you as the minister, or does the board provide feedback to you on the advice given to them?

Jaclyn SYMES: Yes. Well, in practice it would be more likely the information you would receive from the board or the CEO that would determine the effectiveness of the delegate. I do not sit in board meetings. The whole purpose of the delegate is to assist the board, and if they are not assisting the board and they are causing frustration, or they have exhausted their usefulness – I am assuming these are going to be pretty good people that we go and find for a particular purpose. I do not know how many are going to go rogue, but if they do, I reckon I will hear about it.

Clause agreed to; clauses 33 to 38 agreed to.

Clause 39 (17:30)

Georgie CROZIER: Clause 39 relates to the functions of the CEO. Does the CEO have any control over the industrial relations awards, terms and conditions of their workforce, or will they remain with the individual emergency services?

Jaclyn SYMES: I am a little bit confused by your question.

Georgie CROZIER: I think I am asking: does the CEO have any control if the work is in relation to the ESTA 000 call takers and their EBAs and industrial-related matters? So if it is firefighters, do they stay with the firefighters’ agency, or if it is police – are they related to those different industrial unions?

Jaclyn SYMES: Okay. I think I know what you are saying.

Georgie CROZIER: And does the CEO have any oversight of that?

Jaclyn SYMES: I think a lot of people have talked about the creation of ESTA and how it came to be and the fact that it was organisations that used to do their own call taking coming together and the like, so, as you would appreciate, there are several industrial partners that work with ESTA in relation to the EBA. I think there are five. As an employee of ESTA you have got a choice of union representation depending on your role or who you might feel most connected to. There is the communications union, which is the overarching, I guess, generic –

Georgie Crozier interjected.

Jaclyn SYMES: Well, yes, but all unions are at the table in relation to being a partner to the EBA, so they would all sign up to the EBA and negotiate collectively. In my past I did the VicRoads EBA for the Australian Services Union, but we had four other unions at the table negotiating that agreement. There are other workplaces that have several unions that represent the same workforce, and they are all industrial partners for the agreement. But fundamentally, yes, the CEO oversees anybody that is subject to the ESTA EBA or the Triple Zero Victoria EBA.

Georgie CROZIER: So those workers can then choose whether they have the communications union or the police union, for instance. Can they choose, as you just described in your own example?

Jaclyn SYMES: I do not want to get too involved in the demarcation of the unions, but there are members of both ambulance unions. There are members of the Police Association Victoria. There are members of the United Firefighters Union. There are members of the communications union.

Georgie Crozier interjected.

Jaclyn SYMES: You can ask the next question. It is not uncommon for one workplace to have several industrial bodies that represent the workforce, and the workforce generally have some choices in which union they join. They would generally join the one that represents their interests and their particular role as closely as possible. But the fundamental call-taking task would be with the communications union.

Georgie CROZIER: I think you have answered that question. They would not be getting different conditions because they belong to different unions, as you explained. They would not be getting different conditions.

Jaclyn SYMES: No.

Georgie CROZIER: You would be organising that in a collective sense through those union delegates – through the union discussions, I should say.

Jaclyn SYMES: The EBA covers the entire workforce. The Communications Workers Union – sorry, I was calling it the communications union – and the others are all signatories to the EBA, but the EBA applies equally across the workforce.

Georgie CROZIER: Okay. While we are on those conditions, what employment conditions will staff necessary for the performance of its function be employed under? That would all be decided through the EBA process. There would not be any decision made, I mean, by the CEO. Obviously, they have got to have a function and they have got to be working towards what their duties require, but in terms of those employment conditions, that would all be decided through that EBA process. There are no specific conditions. Or will the CEO, like in a normal organisation, have full oversight of what their workers can do? You are looking a bit perplexed.

Jaclyn SYMES: I am a little bit. Pay and conditions would be negotiated through an enterprise bargaining agreement. The functions of particular staff can attract claims of additional allowances and additional wages and bonuses and things through negotiated outcomes, but that is part of the EBA. The operation of the workforce is the responsibility of the CEO in relation to the execution of the functions of a particular role. It sits ultimately with the CEO and would extend down the chain in terms of managers at the different sites and team leaders and the like. Doing your job and being rewarded for your job are probably two different things. I think that is where you are going.

Clause agreed to; clauses 40 to 69 agreed to.

Clause 70 (17:36)

Georgie CROZIER: I move:

2. Clause 70, line 4, before “Triple” insert “(1)”.

3. Clause 70, after line 12 insert –

“(2) Triple Zero Victoria must ensure reports made under subsection (1) are –

(a) recorded and collated in a written document; and

(b) published quarterly on Triple Zero Victoria’s website.”.

Clause 70 requires Triple Zero Victoria to report to the operational committee any risks identified that may impact the performance of an emergency services organisation’s functions or those of a related service organisation’s functions. This clause further requires Triple Zero Victoria to identify how the risk could be managed and mitigated. What we are asking is that in line with that reporting and transparency Triple Zero Victoria must ensure the reports made under subsection 1 are (a) recorded and collated in a written document and (b) published quarterly on Triple Zero Victoria’s website. The reason for that, as I have stated, is in terms of the transparency, and I understand the minister has said that they do not necessarily want duplication in terms of reporting and data. But we do think that having that recorded and collated and being able to publish it quarterly will give greater transparency and ensure that there is trust from the public so that they can understand exactly how Triple Zero is performing.

Jaclyn SYMES: I went through this in my summing-up. The government has indeed taken on board the views of the opposition. We do not object to transparency and publication of data. It is just what is achievable and not burdensome on an organisation. Triple Zero Victoria recording and collating in a written document for publication quarterly is not something that we want to enshrine in legislation in relation to those reports to the operational committee on risks identified by Triple Zero Victoria. There are a few reasons for that. I think you do not want to be too prescriptive on exactly detailing and reporting on the partnerships between Triple Zero Victoria and emergency service agencies, because you want to encourage open dialogue between those organisations and you do not want barriers or concerns that might provide an excuse for them to operate in a risk-averse culture when it comes to sharing information. So we would be a little a bit concerned about that. But we also think that the amendment is overly prescriptive. It is not necessary to do effectively a second report when there is already a requirement to do an annual report. We think it would be duplication.

As I indicated in my summing-up, we do have a compromise, and that is to add into clause 74 a summary of any advice that the board has received from the operational committee about their functions set out in clause 55(2)(f) and (g). We are coming some way to meeting what we think the opposition are seeking to do, but we want to do it in a way that is workable whilst also demonstrating transparency and the operations of the organisation so that people get a sense of the benefit that committee is offering to the organisation. But as prescribed, we are not in a position to support that.

Sarah MANSFIELD: The Greens will not be supporting these amendments. We are in agreement with the comments made by the Attorney and are satisfied that the other amendments that have been made to address transparency and timeliness of reporting are satisfactory.

Council divided on amendments:

Ayes (16): Matthew Bach, Melina Bath, Jeff Bourman, Gaelle Broad, Georgie Crozier, David Davis, Renee Heath, Ann-Marie Hermans, David Limbrick, Wendy Lovell, Trung Luu, Bev McArthur, Joe McCracken, Nicholas McGowan, Evan Mulholland, Rikkie-Lee Tyrrell

Noes (22): Ryan Batchelor, John Berger, Lizzie Blandthorn, Katherine Copsey, Enver Erdogan, Jacinta Ermacora, David Ettershank, Michael Galea, Shaun Leane, Sarah Mansfield, Tom McIntosh, Rachel Payne, Aiv Puglielli, Georgie Purcell, Samantha Ratnam, Harriet Shing, Ingrid Stitt, Jaclyn Symes, Lee Tarlamis, Sonja Terpstra, Gayle Tierney, Sheena Watt

Amendments negatived.

Clause agreed to; clause 71 agreed to.

New clauses (17:47)

Georgie CROZIER: I move:

4. Insert the following New Clauses to follow clause 71 –

“71A Board to report to Parliament about performance of Triple Zero Victoria

(1) The Board must prepare a written report for each financial year in respect of any advice it has received from the Operational Committee in relation to a matter specified in section 55(2)(f) and (g).

(2) The Board must give to the clerk of each House of Parliament the report prepared under subsection (1) for a financial year as soon as practicable after it has been prepared.

71B Tabling of report received under section 71A

(1) The clerk of each House of Parliament must table a report received under section 71A in the House on the day on which it is received or on the next sitting day of the House.

(2) If the Board proposes to give a copy of the report on a day when neither House is sitting, the Board must –

(a) give at least one business day’s notice of intention to do so to the clerk of each House; and

(b) give the report to the clerk of each House on the day indicated in the notice; and

(c) publish the report on Triple Zero Victoria’s website as soon as practicable after giving it to the clerk of each House.

(3) The clerk of each House must –

(a) notify each member of the House of the receipt of the notice under subsection (2)(a) on the same day that the clerk receives that notice; and

(b) give a copy of the report to each member of the House as soon as practicable after the report is received under subsection (2)(b); and

(c) table the report in the House on the next sitting day of the House.”.

As clause 71 highlights, it requires the board to provide a written report to the minister and the justice secretary about matters in relation to Triple Zero. We are concerned about the ability around transparency and data, and we think there needs to be some significant robust reporting. In the last clause what we were asking for is no different to the data that is collected through other health services that the Victorian Agency for Health Information collects. So what we are asking with this is for the board to report to the Parliament about the performance of Triple Zero Victoria and that they prepare a written report for each financial year in respect to any advice that they have received from the operational committee in relation to their performance and the various aspects that Triple Zero are responsible for. We think that this, again, goes to greater transparency, greater accountability and a greater ability for trust within the system after the last few years. It really does go to those mechanisms about proper reporting to the Parliament and to the people of Victoria.

Jaclyn SYMES: I will just draw your attention to clause 74, which already requires an annual report to be prepared and tabled in Parliament in accordance with the Financial Management Act 1994. So in effect your amendment is asking the board to prepare two annual reports on two different matters, which we think is unnecessary and duplicative. But we have come up with a counter amendment, which we will deal with in a moment, which combines, I think, the intent of your request. Our amendment would propose to ensure that in the annual report there is included a summary of any advice that the board has received from the operational committee. We think that this is a better use of the board’s time to truncate effectively what you are seeking to achieve. Again, I concur: transparency is something that I support – and we think that we can get there by asking for a summary of that advice to be in an annual report rather than requiring the board to effectively do it twice.

Council divided on new clauses:

Ayes (17): Matthew Bach, Melina Bath, Jeff Bourman, Gaelle Broad, Georgie Crozier, David Davis, Moira Deeming, Renee Heath, Ann-Marie Hermans, David Limbrick, Wendy Lovell, Trung Luu, Bev McArthur, Joe McCracken, Nicholas McGowan, Evan Mulholland, Rikkie-Lee Tyrrell

Noes (22): Ryan Batchelor, John Berger, Lizzie Blandthorn, Katherine Copsey, Enver Erdogan, Jacinta Ermacora, David Ettershank, Michael Galea, Shaun Leane, Sarah Mansfield, Tom McIntosh, Rachel Payne, Aiv Puglielli, Georgie Purcell, Samantha Ratnam, Harriet Shing, Ingrid Stitt, Jaclyn Symes, Lee Tarlamis, Sonja Terpstra, Gayle Tierney, Sheena Watt

New clauses negatived.

Clause 72 (17:53)

Georgie CROZIER: I move:

5. Clause 72, page 53, after line (2) insert –

“(4) A copy of a report prepared under subsection (1) must be published on Triple Zero Victoria’s website within 14 days after it has been given to the Justice Secretary and the Inspector-General for Emergency Management.”.

Again this goes to the question about greater transparency. It is about providing the information to the Victorian Parliament and the Victorian public, so we think it is reasonable to have those reports published on Triple Zero Victoria’s website within 14 days after they have been provided to the justice secretary and the inspector-general for emergency management.

Jaclyn SYMES: The intention of the bill is to bring the Triple Zero Victoria entity closer to government. This was a recommendation of the independent review into ESTA. The bill asks for the CEO to report to the minister as well as the justice secretary and the IGEM in relation to significant issues of public concern, including potential actual risks of harm to the community, a significant risk affecting Triple Zero Victoria and the commencement and status of any inquiry into the performance of Triple Zero Victoria. The disclosure of some of that information or the requirement to put that on their website might actually impede transparency. I do not want a CEO to feel concerned about disclosing information that should be acted on by the department, me or the IGEM by virtue of having to make it public. Public reporting on what might be a police response could result in operational risks and jeopardise or prejudice legal proceedings. It could also compromise the independence of the IGEM statutory monitoring and assurance functions by making that information provided to the IGEM public in advance of the IGEM undertaking their legislated functions. Again, I support transparency but there is a role for the IGEM. It is important that information is not impeded by concerns about unintended consequences of having to put that on a website.

Council divided on amendment:

Ayes (17): Matthew Bach, Melina Bath, Jeff Bourman, Gaelle Broad, Georgie Crozier, David Davis, Moira Deeming, Renee Heath, Ann-Marie Hermans, David Limbrick, Wendy Lovell, Trung Luu, Bev McArthur, Joe McCracken, Nicholas McGowan, Evan Mulholland, Rikkie-Lee Tyrrell

Noes (22): Ryan Batchelor, John Berger, Lizzie Blandthorn, Katherine Copsey, Enver Erdogan, Jacinta Ermacora, David Ettershank, Michael Galea, Shaun Leane, Sarah Mansfield, Tom McIntosh, Rachel Payne, Aiv Puglielli, Georgie Purcell, Samantha Ratnam, Harriet Shing, Ingrid Stitt, Jaclyn Symes, Lee Tarlamis, Sonja Terpstra, Gayle Tierney, Sheena Watt

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to; clause 73 agreed to.

New clause (17:58)

Georgie CROZIER: I move:

6. Insert the following New Clause to follow clause 73 –

“73A Triple Zero Victoria to publish monthly reports

In respect of every month, Triple Zero Victoria must publish a report on the matters specified in Schedule 1 –

(a) within 14 days after the end of each month; and

(b) on Triple Zero Victoria’s website.”.

This goes to the same argument about greater transparency and greater accountability in relation to reporting requirements. This new clause will enable Triple Zero Victoria to publish monthly reports, and those reports relate to matters specified in proposed schedule 1. The issues that are to be included in those monthly reports are data related because we want to see exactly what is going on and understand the issues. I know that the government will argue that that is a very time-consuming exercise, and I do appreciate that it could be, but I think it is important that we understand exactly what is going on within Triple Zero Victoria. It is the:

1 Number of calls received by Triple Zero Victoria each day.

2 Number of calls not answered within 10 seconds of connecting.

3 The number of calls received each day in respect of the following –

(a) an emergency requiring an ambulance service;

(b) a fire or environment related emergency requiring an appliance;

(c) a matter requiring Victoria Police assistance;

(d) an emergency requiring the Victoria State Emergency Service;

(e) a matter in respect of which emergency assistance is not required.

4 Any disruption to call taking and dispatch services caused by equipment failure or similar.

5 Length of time between taking call and the dispatch of an emergency vehicle.

These are specific criteria related to data that needs to be collected so that we can understand exactly if the system is working or not, and it will provide greater transparency and greater accountability for the performance of the new Triple Zero Victoria agency that the government will establish.

Jaclyn SYMES: The government cannot support these amendments. I went through this in my summing-up. They would be a significant administrative burden, and it fails to recognise the role of the IGEM. It seems to me that the opposition want to be the IGEM. As I indicated, I would personally like to have more people picking up the phone, dispatching ambulances and performing those really important welfare roles. As I pointed to, Triple Zero Victoria going forward is an emergency services organisation. It is not a data collection service, much like Victoria Police do not run the Crime Statistics Agency. That is a data collection agency that serves a particular purpose. An emergency services organisation certainly has responsibilities to collect data, but to require them to be as prescriptive as what the opposition are asking them to do is a fundamental deviation from the purpose of that organisation. We are interested in patient outcomes. We are interested in ensuring that we report appropriately, but the prescriptiveness and the level that you are seeking to have that organisation do would involve having to basically set up a data agency in its own right within the organisation.

Sarah MANSFIELD: The Greens will not be supporting these amendments. Further to the comments made by the Attorney, it is widely agreed that we need to be moving away from performance metrics that do not actually relate to patient outcomes. That was a recommendation in the Ashton review, and we are pleased that the government is taking this on. The very prescriptive metrics here can incentivise behaviours that really drive box-ticking rather than delivering better care. They can drive a focus on actions that are measured rather than those that are not, and it can lead to gaming and workarounds. We have seen that across all sectors, not just health care. We are really pleased to see this shift to a focus on patient outcomes as opposed to metrics that are not necessarily linked to what happens to a patient at the end.

Jaclyn SYMES: Dr Mansfield makes some really good points, and she got a few interjections there, but I just want to support the comments that she made, not by virtue of what I say but by virtue of what the Graham Ashton review said. The amendment that the opposition are proposing is in stark contrast to the recommendations that he made, the recommendations that you supported the government in agreeing to implement. His review found that metrics alone do not adequately measure patient outcomes and that they promote an inflexible model with an emphasis on time-based targets being the primary goal. Of course the government is not shying away from accountability. We added the existing call-taking and dispatch metrics as a budget paper 3 measure because we believe it is important the community can have confidence in its 000 service. As recommended by the Ashton review, clause 79 of the bill requires the emergency management commissioner to create outcome-based performance standards, and we should not pre-empt that.

Members interjecting.

Jaclyn SYMES: Ms Crozier, you were really quite nice to me during most of the exchange, and I thought it was quite respectful, but your contribution in the second-reading debate was pretty appalling. I just want to take up the interjection, because I think I should put on the record: you have continually said that someone should take responsibility – and in your mind I should have resigned, and that would have been the way to respond to this. If I had thought that producing a good outcome for 000 would have been achieved by me resigning, I would have done it. I would have. This was an organisation that I wanted to help fix. I want to support the workforce, and it would have been pretty easy to walk away and resign, because that would have been a lot easier than the job that I took on. I was not abandoning this workforce. I was not abandoning Victorians. I was up for the job of making sure that we could deliver the improvements, and that is why I did not resign, because I took responsibility.

Georgie CROZIER: I do not want to get into a debate, but in relation to exactly what we are talking about, it is all about patient outcomes. There were dozens of Victorians that died under this minister’s watch, under this government’s failures. That is why I called on the minister to resign months and months ago. Not one of your ministers has taken any responsibility for any of the failures, and that is what is disappointing to so many Victorians.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: The question is that Ms Crozier’s amendment 6, which inserts a new clause and tests her amendment 10, be agreed to.

Council divided on new clause:

Ayes (17): Matthew Bach, Melina Bath, Jeff Bourman, Gaelle Broad, Georgie Crozier, David Davis, Moira Deeming, Renee Heath, Ann-Marie Hermans, David Limbrick, Wendy Lovell, Trung Luu, Bev McArthur, Joe McCracken, Nicholas McGowan, Evan Mulholland, Rikkie-Lee Tyrrell

Noes (22): Ryan Batchelor, John Berger, Lizzie Blandthorn, Katherine Copsey, Enver Erdogan, Jacinta Ermacora, David Ettershank, Michael Galea, Shaun Leane, Sarah Mansfield, Tom McIntosh, Rachel Payne, Aiv Puglielli, Georgie Purcell, Samantha Ratnam, Harriet Shing, Ingrid Stitt, Jaclyn Symes, Lee Tarlamis, Sonja Terpstra, Gayle Tierney, Sheena Watt

New clause negatived.

Clause 74 (18:08)

Jaclyn SYMES: I move:

2. Clause 74, after line 13 insert –

“(1A) The Chief Executive Officer must ensure the annual report includes a summary of any advice the Board has received from the Operational Committee in relation to a matter specified in section 55(2)(f) and (g).”.

This clause is about ensuring that the CEO ensures that the annual report includes a summary of any advice the board has received from the operational committee in relation to a matter specified in section 55(2)(f) and (g). We have canvassed extensively the rationale for this amendment.

Georgie CROZIER: The opposition will be supporting this. I go to the point that the government is coming some way to improving transparency, but not as far as we would like. Nevertheless, we will be supporting it.

Amendment agreed to; amended clause agreed to; clauses 75 to 82 agreed to.

Clause 83 (18:10)

Jaclyn SYMES: I move:

3. Clause 83, line 15, before “Subject” insert “(1)”.

4. Clause 83, lines 19 and 20, omit “on Triple Zero Victoria’s website” and insert “in accordance with subsection (2)”.

5. Clause 83, after line 20, insert –

“(2) Data referred to in subjection (1) must be published on Triple Zero Victoria’s website annually or at intervals set by the Emergency Management Commissioner.”.

We have certainly spoken about this amendment as well in relation to the government’s position on providing for the publication of material on the Triple Zero Victoria website annually or at intervals set by the emergency management commissioner, which again hopefully Ms Crozier acknowledges is in some way coming towards the level of transparency that the opposition have sought. We think this is a more appropriate way to indeed ensure the information is out there without being as prescriptive on the organisation and the emergency management commissioner, particularly when we are yet to develop those additional performance measures.

Georgie CROZIER: Quite correctly the minister has pre-empted my thoughts, and I thank her for that. We will be supporting the government’s amendments. They are an improvement to the bill.

Amendments agreed to; amended clause agreed to; clauses 84 to 105 agreed to.

Reported to house with amendments.

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (18:12): I move:

That the report be now adopted.

Motion agreed to.

Report adopted.

Third reading

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (18:12): I move:

That the bill be now read a third time.

Motion agreed to.

Read third time.

The PRESIDENT: Pursuant to standing order 14.28, a message will be sent to the Assembly that the bill has been agreed to with amendments.

Just a public announcement: it is Sheena Watt’s birthday today.