It is a bit like groundhog day, isn’t it, returning to some of this stuff put forward by Mr Davis. It seems to be a recurring theme on a Wednesday. But I do rise to speak on Mr Davis’s ESTA docs motion, and I want to just begin by talking a little bit about the reviews which we have reported to this house and reported to the people of Victoria that are going on with ESTA. Whilst our focus remains on the current circumstances, we have reported that we have asked Mr Graham Ashton, a very esteemed Victorian who held high office in Victoria Police, as well as the inspector-general for emergency management (IGEM) to take a deeper look at ESTA. They have the assistance today of Mr Stephen Leane and Deb Abbott from Emergency Management Victoria, so we have got four very well equipped and senior public figures—well versed in emergency management, first responders et cetera—looking into this.
The recurring theme that I refer to in this place is Mr Davis jumping up and slighting individuals from the public sector—people who are well credentialled, well qualified to do the work that they do and to do the work that they have been asked to do. They will provide a very, very important body of work for the government to review and to act upon. The IGEM—I remember I have said in this place before that I worked as a senior adviser to the then emergency services minister, and I am well acquainted with the work of the inspector-general for emergency management—routinely and forensically, I have got to say, does a deep dive into all manner of operations and logistics of our emergency services right across the board and has done so for many years.
Mr Ashton, as I talked about, is the former Chief Commissioner of Police and is very, very, very highly regarded for the work that he did over many, many years in that role and the service that he has provided to the community. These are eminent Victorians who have been asked to do this body of work, yet Mr Davis continually uses this place and these people to further his political stunts. To call into question Mr Ashton or our hardworking call takers themselves is nothing more than a political slight on the part of Mr Davis, and he should not do it. He does it again and again and again and again.
The minister has been forthright and she has been transparent. She has outlined some of the initiatives and steps that we have taken just in recent times to respond to the circumstances. Let us be very, very clear: we will not rest until all of our emergency services, be they ESTA or any other emergency services, are operating at their optimum, doing the best that they possibly can, and people go into work every single day. I do not know whether Mr Davis or anybody else in this place has ever had a conversation with an ESTA call taker. I certainly did in my role as an adviser to government a few years ago. The people performing these jobs take their roles very, very, very seriously, and it is not a matter where they can at the end of the day just take off the headset, go home and put the workday behind them.
They are hearing and listening to and making judgements on a variety of different emergencies every time that phone rings. They do a mighty job, and they have our thanks and our gratitude. Mr Davis ought to be very careful when he comes in here and uses these people and these services as his own political football, but he does it continually and repeatedly and frankly, I think, mendaciously.
Earlier this month our government announced a $115.6 million package to manage increased demand, improve service delivery and support staff at ESTA. We are acutely aware that during the pandemic the number of calls received by ESTA has skyrocketed. That is a fact. The minister has put that on table. She has been open about that; she has been transparent about that. We have heard a variety of people across our emergency services plead with the public to use those ESTA services—that 000 number—appropriately, and we know that particularly with the strain on our health system people have relied more heavily on 000 where perhaps in what you might call normal circumstances they otherwise would not have. We are aware of that, and we ask people to be mindful of the circumstances and to use 000 when they need it, absolutely. Do not hesitate if you need 000; if you need emergency assistance, then you should ring 000.
We are in the middle of a global pandemic—the world is still battling it. I think Minister Pulford said earlier during question time that we are now into our third year of this pandemic. Wind the clock back to the beginning of 2019 or the middle of 2019, and no-one would have imagined what we were about to confront over the ensuing three years. It has been a mighty effort from everybody in the health system, including our call takers at ESTA. Demand has gone up, and I know that too well. I have had a bit of interaction with the health system myself over the three years, and I have seen firsthand on many, many occasions the challenges that the health system has faced during the global pandemic and the additional demand put on its services. They have done a mighty job—everybody in the health sector. Whether it is a doctor, a nurse, an orderly, a paramedic—whoever it might be—an ESTA call taker, they have done a mighty job and they deserve our thanks. What they do not deserve is Mr Davis coming in here again and again and again using them as a political football to further his own arguments, to further his own agenda.
Ms Crozier: How about using paramedics as a political football back in 2014? How about that?
Mr GEPP: Well, Ms Crozier, I will take up that interjection, because if we want to go back to what occurred during 2010 and 2014 and have a debate, let us have a real debate about what occurred during that four-year period and the debacle that was the four years of government between 2010 and 2014 and the impacts on the health sector. What we know is that a Labor government has it is in its DNA to ensure that the health and wellbeing of our citizens is first and foremost. We will never resile from that. You will not see us imposing the cuts that you imposed. You are ashamed of your actions during that four-year period, and you should be.