Volunteers Emergency Services | May 24, 2017
Country Fire Authority Volunteers
Victorian Parliament - 24 May 2017 - Ms KEALY - The treatment and handling of Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteers under the rule of the Andrews Labor government has been nothing less than appalling. We have seen vilification of volunteers and gutter politics by Labor MPs and the United Firefighters Union (UFU) to divide career and volunteer firefighters, and now there is a proposal to completely diminish and disregard the important role of our volunteer firefighters whom we rely on to protect our people and property.
The recent announcement to split CFA volunteers from paid staff will kill the CFA as we know it. The impact of this decision strikes well beyond Melbourne. This is a serious concern for everyone in rural and regional Victoria. One of the concerns that has been raised with me includes the diminished role of CFA volunteers in metropolitan areas. These are vital volunteers that are fully trained and there to help provide extra manpower, known as surge capacity, during bushfire events such as the recent fires in the Grampians, Little Desert, Big Desert and Wyperfeld national parks.
Without access to this manpower and with fewer resources, local fires will be harder to battle and more damage will result. The reporting structure has completely changed, so now complaints against volunteers will be heard by Fire Rescue Victoria and the UFU rather than the CFA and Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria, as is currently the case. There will be no‑one representing volunteers in the room. This does not offer a fair hearing or support for volunteers and is just wrong.
With the UFU right of veto still proposed to be in place it is no great leap to believe that funding decisions for buildings and appliances will be prioritised for areas where there are paid firefighters — UFU members over volunteer brigades. This is an appalling treatment of our volunteers, who offer their time and take great risks to protect our property and people, all due to their commitment to give back to the community.
On 15 June 2016 the Premier stated:
This dispute had to come to an end and I ended it.
Premier, you have shown complete and utter disrespect for local CFA volunteers. You have failed to consult with volunteers or listen to their concerns. This is just the beginning.