Coali­tion calls for cross­bench sup­port

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

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.

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