MEMBER for Ripon Louise Staley has welcomed a parliamentary report that recommended the state government withdraw an attempt to restructure the Country Fire Authority.
The Fire Services Bill Select Committee, made up of members of parliament from multiple parties, handed down its final report on Friday.
“Due to the lack of implementation, operational and funding certainty; failure to undertake consultation; and consequential polarisation of fire services volunteers and staff, the Bill should be withdrawn. If not withdrawn, the Legislative Council should reject the Bill,” the report stated
The committee also recommended that legislation to enable firefighters with cancer to have easier access to compensation “should be reintroduced to Parliament as a stand-alone Bill to be considered on its merits”.
Member for Ripon Louise Staley said Ararat, Stawell and Grampians region volunteer firefighters had been unfairly treated.
“Our Country Fire Authority brigades should be focused on preparing for the fire season, not Premier Daniel Andrews’ plans to tear our fire services apart.” Ms Staley said.
“Mr Andrews is playing politics with the safety of Victorians.
“The Liberal Nationals will protect those who protect us.”
The state government had proposed to turn the Country Fire Authority into a volunteer-only organisation with all paid staff joining Melbourne’s MFB in a new entity called ‘Fire Rescue Victoria’.
The government claimed the proposal was needed to modernise the ‘1950s-era’ Country Fire Authority structure.
The opposition and Volunteers Fire Brigades Victoria said the split was simply designed to circumvent federal legislation brought in by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The federal legisaltion was in response to claims the United Firefighters Union would be able to get veto powers of Country Fire Authority decisions under a proposed Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.
The Fire Services Bill Select Committee accepted almost 1,900 submissions and public hearings were held in Melbourne and across regional Victoria.
Victorian Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino said nearly three quarters of written submissions to the inquiry support reform and the need to modernise Victoria’s fire services system was raised repeatedly throughout the hearings.
“The committee makes a number of recommendations that we will closely consider in coming days,” Mr Merlino said.
“These reforms will modernise our fire services, provide more support for volunteers and – most importantly – keep Victorian safe.
“I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the inquiry, particularly our firefighters and other emergency services personnel who work every single day to help keep Victorians safe.”
Mr Merlino and Country Fire Authority Chief Officer Steve Warrington visited Ararat and Willaura volunteers in June to promote and explain the proposed structure changes.
The Select Committee has also recommended that the Government undertake meaningful and balanced consultation with Emergency Management Victoria, the Country Fire Authority, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, staff and volunteer representatives prior to proposing any further reform of the fire services.