Coalition calls for crossbench support
Western Victorian Coalition MPS are strongly urging Upper House crossbench members to reject a bill designed to restructure fire-fighting services across the state.
Member for Lowan Emma Kealy and Member for Ripon Louise Staley joined Member for South West Coast Roma Britnell, Member for Polwarth Richard Riordan and upper-house Member for Western Victoria Beverley Mcarthur in making the call.
The Opposition believes little has changed since the upper house rejected a similar bill last year.
The bill involves the establishment of a new professional statewide fire-fighting agency called Fire Rescue Victoria, which includes turning the Country Fire Authority into an all-volunteer operation.
The Opposition believes the new system will place the United Firefighters Union in charge of rural volunteer brigades and in being unworkable, dismantle fire security across regional Victoria.
The bill also includes reforms to cancer-compensation rights for firefighters, which the Opposition believes will disadvantage volunteers.
The government believes the firefighting structure in Victoria is archaic and due for an overhaul to guarantee the safety of Victorians.
State Parliament passed the bill in the lower house last week and will go to the upper house in the next few weeks.
The Western Victorian Coalition group released a statement saying the 2019 version of the bill would ‘break apart the CFA’.
They said collectively: “Across western Victoria, almost all CFA brigades are 100 percent volunteers. This legislation makes them second-class citizens when it comes to cancer compensation.
“The legislation also transfers
all paid CFA staff, including the vital brigade support staff, out of the CFA.
“Ever since the government proposed this model – a model rejected by their then Minister Jane Garrett, the CFA board, the Volunteer Fire Brigades of Victoria, and the overwhelming majority of CFA volunteers – the government has failed to properly consult or listen. Nothing has changed.
“Liberal and National MPS across western Victoria reject this attack on the brigades and firefighters who have always formed the backbone of firefighting in this highly fire-prone region. We stand with the volunteers and the country communities they protect.
“Upper house crossbench MPS weren’t in the parliament last time, but it is imperative they support equal treatment of volunteer and career firefighters for cancer compensation.
“It’s also imperative they act to support the structure that volunteers support – which is not what is in this bill.”
Ms Kealy added that Lowan had some of the most fire-prone parts of state.
“This includes the Grampians, Little Desert and Wyperfeld national parks and many state parks,” she said.
“Our 110 volunteer only CFA brigades do an amazing job – they are always first on the scene and provide the vital surge capacity we rely on to keep our people and property safe.”
Ms Staley said Ripon had more than 90 all-volunteer brigades.
“Their firefighters must have access to the same cancer compensation as career firefighters,” she said.
“Upper house MPS Andy Meddick and Stuart Grimley need to support Ripon’s volunteer firefighters and the existing CFA structure.”
Stuart Grimley, representing the Justice Party, and Andy Meddick, Animal Justice Party, are two of the five members for Western Victoria in the Victorian Legislative Council.