Fire services bill interim report handed down

THE first results of an inquiry into proposed changes to Victoria’s fire services have been tabled in parliament, with a final report containing recommendations due out in mid-August.

An interim report released Tuesday revealed close to 1700 submissions were received by the inquiry, which was in part prompted by Port Fairy-based MP James Purcell’s decision not to support a state government bill in the upper house.

The bill, which would see an overhaul of fire services with the creation of a Fire Rescue Victoria, was referred to a committee for consultation and improvements. Proposed changes include presumptive cancer compensation rights for both career and volunteer firefighters.

Committee chairman Gordon Rich-Phillips said it was grateful for the large number of submissions received from people across the state.

“The inquiry has involved a number of contentious issues and the committee is working through the extensive evidence it has received,” Mr Rich-Phillips said.

Submissions and transcripts from seven public hearings are available online.

Horsham captain John St Clair told a hearing in Hamilton he was concerned at the lack of consultation with authority volunteers about the proposed bill.

He said another concern was the effect the proposed change would have on access for Horsham volunteers to trainers and training grounds.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) representative Owen O’Keefe said the inquiry had been a “rushed process” without the opportunity for volunteers to have a meaningful contribution.

He said it was likely the passage of the bill would rely on Mr Purcell’s vote again.

“We volunteers are waiting with bated breath to see what direction the independent members of parliament take on this issue,” he said.

We volunteers are waiting with bated breath... - Owen O’Keefe

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