Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (14:13): I am pleased to rise to throw my support behind the motion moved by Mr Davis in terms of the 000 issues and the compounding flaws in the ESTA call centre. It is funny, we just heard a member of the Labor Party, an MP, speak on this, and she spent a considerable amount of time stating that we were grandstanding on this issue and then her last words were, ‘But of course we want to send our condolences to the families that have been significantly affected’—that is, those who lost loved ones through the flaws in the system.

It is the community’s expectation when you pick up the phone and dial 000 that somebody is there in a timely manner and that there are time lines set for this to occur, but far too many Victorians are left hanging on that line. The inspector-general for emergency management only last week came out with an in-depth report that confirmed that at least 33 Victorians have died due to 000 failures. They are names and faces and loved ones that have been lost. So I find it disingenuous that the minister and members on the other side of this house would come and say, ‘It’s all grandstanding’, when there are people at the end of these 33 statistics, Victorians at the end of these 33 numbers.

I also have raised in this house over the past couple of years issues that have affected constituents in my Eastern Victoria Region, and there have been a number from the Latrobe Valley, from the Bass Coast shire and from South Gippsland, where constituents frustrated beyond belief have rung and said that their experience was they were hanging on the line waiting for that call centre uptake. Then there can be a compounding interest, we will say, on their distress when the ambulance takes a long, long, long time to arrive. And then there can be that occurrence, even though some of those patients, those people, have been asked by their GP to contact the ambulance if X and Y happens, that then they have said, ‘Look, we’ve got to go to another call; find your own way in’—and they are left in the driveway. Just these few occurrences show the flaws in the system.

These flaws have been there for some time. Indeed, back in 2016 we had the then CEO speaking about the underfunding and the need for increased funding, the need for more resources. When the Liberals and Nationals put through a freedom-of-information request, we saw that during peak times ESTA tested its new software back in 2020, and the board minutes show that the CEO reported that despite the delays they were confident in the quality of the software. However, move to November 2020 and May 2021, when the bungled upgrade of ESTA’s computer-aided dispatch system, the computer aided dispatch, caused it to shut down at least five times. And there are other demonstrable reports and minutes to say that when the CAD system is under great stress they end up using pen and paper. Now, this is a modern society. We have got people ringing up and having an expectation. Their expectations are not being met, their stress levels are considerable, they are watching family members in dire situations and yet ‘We’re giving it a go’ and ‘We’re still using pen and paper where we have to’.

The Nationals and the Liberals have committed to an increase to fix that CAD system—$125 million to increase that funding to fix the CAD system—and, as a priority, not to be looking at corporate positions or consultative positions but to actually refocus funding for staff recruitment on the front line, to support those fantastic people who are there working in very stressful situations, to support them for there to be more of them and for there to be a more fluid situation so that they do not feel so stressed by the level and volume of these calls. For those on the government benches to say that we are being disingenuous—people contact my office and say, ‘I want you to raise this on my behalf’, and I have done so in the past.

I will not continue on too much longer other than to say that this government, the Labor government, has been at the control wheels of this dispatch system for 19 out of 23 years. The blame here is at the feet of Daniel Andrews, and it needs to be fixed. It is unfair that people continually have lost confidence in the ESTA dispatch system. A Guy and Walsh Liberals and Nationals government will provide that additional $125 million to top up the $300 million allocated in the 2022–23 budget to fix it, upgrading the CAD system to facilitate multiple-service training of 50 per cent of all call-taking and dispatch staff so you can have that cross-referenced training to refocus on the frontline people, to support those people, to add to them and to give ongoing and sustainable funding to this very important service to our community. With that I say I fully support the motion moved by Mr Davis.