Disability (National Disability Insurance Scheme Transition) Amendment Bill 2019
Victorian Parliament - 5 June 2019 - Ms KEALY (Lowan) (15:40:21): I speak in support of the suggestion put by the member for Rowville that we should, at the adjournment of this debate, be moving back onto the Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2019. This is a very, very important bill which will change the CFA as we know it. Now, as has been mentioned by the member for Rowville, I have not yet had the opportunity to consult with my local CFA brigades. I have not yet had the opportunity to speak on this bill, and that is not because we have not wanted to do so but because the time has been taken by other members who have equal reason and equal concern that they want to be able to put issues onto the record. Now, I understand that the next item that it is proposed that we go to is the take-note motion on the budget papers. It is a take-note motion. This can be debated at any time. In fact usually the take-note motion takes until about October to be fully cleared of everybody who wants to speak on it. So while I appreciate there are people who are very keen to do that, and I am one of those people who is keen to speak on the budget, there is only one opportunity that we have before the guillotine comes down on this bill to put our local people’s thoughts on record, and that is today. I do urge the government to reconsider what they are doing, because all we have seen from the Labor government is gagging debate and gagging the opportunities for CFA volunteers to have their say. This week has been an absolute travesty. We did not even get a bill briefing until 3.00 p.m. on Tuesday. A member interjected. Ms KEALY: It was 8.30 a.m. on Wednesday; I stand corrected. At 8.30 on Wednesday morning we were briefed on this bill. Now, the first time we actually saw the bill was 3.00 p.m. on Tuesday. I have 110 CFA brigades. That is more than any other electorate. These are volunteer-only brigades. They are deeply concerned about the impact of the elements of this bill and how it is outlined. They are deeply concerned that there is not fair and equal presumptive cancer legislation for volunteers. It is the same fires, it is the same smoke and it is the same cancer. We should see exactly the same equal and fair access to presumptive cancer legislation for volunteers as we see for career firefighters, and this bill does not deliver on that. There are also significant concerns that I have for other members of Parliament, on this side of the house in particular, who are country members and who have vast areas of their electorates which are extremely fire-prone regions. I have the Grampians National Park. We have got the Little Desert National Park, we have got Wyperfeld National Park and we have got vast numbers of state forests. We have big fires, and we rely on the surge capacity of other CFA volunteers around the state. This legislation will cripple volunteers and cripple that surge capacity. In fact we have already seen a downturn, a loss of 3500 volunteers, since this model was first proposed for Victoria. Our people are so concerned about what that means for our local region when there is a fire. If we continue to see that loss of CFA volunteers, we will not have that manpower to actually get out and fight these fires. It is going to result in enormous losses of people and of property, and I am deeply concerned about that, as are my volunteers. I deserve to have my say on this bill. Other members, particularly the country members, have to have an opportunity to put their people’s thoughts on this bill on the record. I think about the member for Ovens Valley. It is absolutely essential for that region that that member has an opportunity to speak on this bill. It is absolutely essential that the member for Gippsland East, another enormous electorate in the west of the state, which covers vast areas of mountain ranges and is extremely fire prone—his region will be extremely impacted by this bill—should be given an opportunity to contribute to the debate, and the fact that he is not, the fact that Labor is gagging debate, is absolutely unacceptable. It is unacceptable that you continue to gag debate and anyone who wants to speak out on this bill. You look back over time to Lucinda Nolan. What happened when she spoke out about this fix by Labor? She got sacked. Then there was Peter Rau. What happened when he spoke about it? Sacked, gagged. What happened when former minister Jane Garrett of the other house spoke about it? She was gagged, and she was sacked, even though Peter Marshall, the head of the United Firefighters Union, had threatened to put an axe through her head. This is an appalling thing to happen—the minister loses her job, and somebody who threatens to put an axe through a women’s head gets protected. You look at the CFA board. Were they gagged? Yes. As soon as they spoke out about this reform they were sacked. Time and time again we are seeing from the Andrews Labor government that anybody who speaks up against this reform is gagged, and we are seeing it again today. I urge the government to reconsider whether they move onto the take-note motion or move onto the Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2019.
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