Mr NORTHE (Morwell) (12:31): My question is to the minister for emergency services. Minister, on 1 January 2021 I sent you an email to which I am yet to receive a reply. The matter was in relation to an urgent issue whereby Fire Rescue Victoria have ceased utilising local dry-cleaning services for FRV personnel based at the three Latrobe Valley integrated fire stations. As I understand it, the cleaning of FRV uniforms, including non-operational uniforms, is now being rendered by a Melbourne-based firm, much to the chagrin of Latrobe Valley based businesses and local drycleaners, who were informed just prior to Christmas that their services would be terminated come the new year. Given significant industry downturn in the Latrobe Valley and the economic impacts of COVID-19 being felt heavily in my community, do you support this decision to take away much-needed work from regional businesses in the Latrobe Valley?
Ms NEVILLE (Bellarine—Minister for Water, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (12:32): Can I thank the member for Morwell for his question. My apologies that he has not had a written response yet, and I will make sure he gets one after this. A decision has been taken by FRV to centralise all apparel services, and this is an end-to-end garment system. So it is not just about cleaning, it is from the procurement to the decontamination to the decommissioning of uniforms. It only applies to 38 FRV integrated stations. This was an arrangement that was undertaken by the CFA. It actually was not a particular contract they had with the Traralgon Dry Cleaners—I think that is the business that the member is talking about—but they had a local account with them and the CFA had that for about 10 years. The CFA can continue to contract however they like. This affects only the FRV, where there are three career stations, and they spent about $100 to $200 a month at that drycleaner. As I said, the CFA can continue to utilise that local drycleaner. I think that it is important to understand the reason for the decision. Firstly, we know that FRV firefighters particularly have primary responsibility, in those areas where they operate, for both hazmat and also for structure fires, and we know from evidence that structure fires and hazmat responses are very dangerous and have unknown chemicals that have contributed to cancers. I know that there is dispute by some opposite about that, but it is why we set up presumptive legislation. So on the basis of the science and on the basis of the risks associated, they sought a tender from a company that could deliver to the National Fire Protection Association standard—that is about how you clean your personal protective clothing, how you decommission it. A local drycleaner cannot meet that standard, because it also went to the issue of not just the quality of the clean and how you undertake that clean in terms of contaminated materials on your personal protective material, but it is also about how you go from end to end. This is a company, a Melbourne-based company, a Victorian company, that is delivering from end to end, so from manufacturing, as I said, to procurement and right through to the decontamination and decommissioning of those uniforms. I understand that locally it has had a significant impact on that drycleaner, but they can continue to have the contract with the CFA if the CFA makes that decision and gets that balance around safety and local support.
Mr NORTHE (Morwell) (12:35): Minister, will you now intervene and overturn this ridiculous decision and ensure that FRV dry-cleaning services are returned to local businesses in country Victoria, and further, will you make a commitment that no other goods, services and contracts are taken away from local regional businesses where FRV and CFA personnel are based? The SPEAKER: Order! I remind members only one question per question.
Ms NEVILLE (Bellarine—Minister for Water, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (12:36): What I make a commitment to is putting firefighters’ safety first. We know that these chemicals cause cancers; it is why we have got presumptive legislation. But what I will make a commitment to, and the member may not be aware of this, is we have put in a number of packages, stimulus packages and new CFA stations, that are all about driving jobs locally. I know the member has two of those stations in his area that are being rebuilt. But also there is money for new engine bay doors for his CFAs, cladding for his CFAs, painting—all of this is about driving jobs in the local community. But at the end of the day I have to trust the science and the advice from those who understand the risks associated with contamination of uniforms. That is what this decision is all about, and it also protects the community. These are very high standards that are set for a really good reason, and it is about protecting those who deal with these uniforms and clean these uniforms but also those who wear them.