Letters to the editor | June 19, 2017

Volunteers speak out

THE state government’s fire services restructure is to go to the Upper House of Parliament for consideration.

However, there are many things about the restructure that need to be better understood before politicians can make an informed decision.

The 4000 volunteers from the 85 brigades in our District 17 provide a vital service to our many communities and we owe it to them to ensure that any change in the fire services is done for the right reasons and will provide a better level of long term volunteer support and increase community safety to all Victorians.

The detail needs to be known around many things like future service delivery implications, long-term funding, split fire services functionality, initial then long term costs, and many others.

Importantly, any restructure needs to enhance the essential ethic of volunteerism in our communities as volunteering provides many social benefits, particularly to regional and remote communities.

It is fundamental that our politicians insist on an inquiry of the proposed fire services restructure before it goes further through Parliament.

A key aspect of an inquiry will be to formally engage with our state’s volunteers and listen to what they have to say.

It is a legal requirement of government to do this, but it has not happened to date.

It is requested that all politicians ensure that a proper and transparent inquiry of the intended restructure occurs now as part of parliamentary assessment.

Ian Plumridge, District 17 secretary, Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria

Support our firefighters

OUR state's 60,000 CFA volunteers are highly trained and generously give to the community when it is needed the most.

Like the volunteers in Districts 16 and 17, they are available around the clock and regularly fight fires across the state at the drop of a hat – sometimes for days at a time. 

The government has recently proposed a restructure of Victoria's fire services and this is currently going through parliament. 

It feels like there is a rush to get it through as despite there being a requirement in the CFA act and volunteer charter for our volunteers to be consulted by the government when faced with major reform such as this, it has not happened. This needs to be rectified immediately so our volunteer's knowledgeable opinions are heard. 

While CFA hierarchy chief officer Steve Warrington, chief executive Frances Diver, chairman Greg Smith from Melbourne have been visiting select places across the state, our volunteers don't feel this level of engagement is adequate to constitute the engagement required to get the opinions of all that the restructure will impact. This includes CFA volunteers from Melbourne metropolitan brigades, right across to the smallest brigades in regional Victoria. 

Now is the key time that our senior CFA leaders need to insist on impartial and robust scrutiny of what is being proposed by the government to drive the best results for Victoria and our volunteer and paid fire fighters. To aid this, it is critical that the government slow the process through parliament to enable transparent assessment of what is proposed via a parliamentary comittee of inquiry. 

This wil allow everyone, including our communities, to better understand how the proposed changes will impact Victoria, and our fire fighters. 

Politicians Jaala Pulford, Danielle Green and Jill Hennessy who regularly visit our area with funding announcements, have a critical say to make sure that proper scrutiny and consultation occurs of the restructure before it is considered further by parliament. 

I call on our politicians to ensure this happens.

Mick Nunweek, Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria board member, Stawell

Business milestone

MAY I use this public forum to correct an error in a recent publication. 

In 1987 Wayne Falting and Russell Ellis opened Horsham Tyre and Battery Service. 

Marjorie (Wayne's wife) and Jennifer (Russell's wife) ran the office. The business started in a garage in Sloss Street. 

Wayne and Marjorie sold their interest in the partnership to Russell and Jennifer in 1994 and moved to Queensland. 

Wayne and Russell put in an enormous amount of work and time to get make it a successful business. 

I'm very pleased that Brendan has continued to run the business that his dad and Wayne Falting started. 

I was distressed to read that Wayne, who passed away six years ago, hasn't been given the acknowledgement he is entitled to as the original owner and instigator of a very successful enterprise.

Marjorie Falting, Gordon Park

Opportunity lost

DANIEL Andrews has squandered a chance to add $60 million to our state’s infrastructure budget.

When Rural Finance Corporation was sold in 2014, Victoria became eligible for a $60 million bonus from the Commonwealth Government’s Asset Recycling Initiative. This was to be a $60 million bonus on top of the sale proceeds of $400 milllion.

Shamefully, Daniel Andrews failed to finalise the deal with Canberra before the ARI’s June 30, 2016 deadline and it’s now confirmed that Victoria has missed out. That’s $60 million that should have gone toward fixing our crumbling country roads or our ageing regional rail services.

It is outrageous that Daniel Andrews had 18 months to finish the paperwork and still failed to secure this substantial bonus funding. But then, this is the same Premier who spent $1.2 billion not to build a road.

Peter Walsh, Shadow Minister for Regional Development