Victorian Coalition Royal Commission proposal: volunteers uncertain about need

File photo.
File photo.

WIMMERA politicians have backed a Royal Commission into Victoria’s fire services, however volunteers are unsure if it is warranted.

Opposition leader Matthew Guy and Nationals leader Peter Walsh this week announced they would initiate a Royal Commission if the Coalition won the 2018 state election.

The proposed commission would investigate the effectiveness and implications of past, current and proposed Enterprise Bargaining Agreements for the Country Fire Authority and Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

Member for Lowan Emma Kealy said the move was vital to remove politics from a long-running dispute about fire services reform in Victoria.

“In the past year both the authority and brigade boards have been replaced, resulting in more than 100 years of experience being lost and raising concerns about operational effectiveness,” she said.

“There have been a number of previous attempts at reform, as well as attempts to fix cultural and operational problems, but nothing has worked.

“A Royal Commission will critically examine the issues our fire services are facing and come up with evidence-based solutions.”

Member for Western Victoria Simon Ramsay also supports a commission, and said the government had created crisis within the state’s fire services.

However Horsham-based Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria state councillor Maurice Dumesny said he was uncertain about the Coalition’s pledge.

“I think it’s a little bit of grandstanding on their part,” he said.

“But it will bring all the issues out, so in one way it's perhaps a good thing.

“That said, I would hope everything with the reform is sorted well before the next election.”

Mr Dumesny said he had not received any further information about reform progress since the government tabled its response to a Select Committee Inquiry in September.

The government accepted nine of the inquiry’s 12 recommendations for the proposed Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2017, and proposed a range of amendments.

“I haven’t heard any more amendments they might be planning to introduce; the government is holding its cards pretty close to its chest at the moment,” Mr Dumesny said.

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