Member for Morwell Russell Northe has used Question Time in State Parliament today, to flag a number of concerns to the Minister for Emergency Services that have been highlighted by local Country Fire Authority (CFA) personnel in regards to the proposed structural changes to fire services in Victoria.
“For a period of months now, I have been contacted by various persons within the CFA family who have been extremely concerned about elements of the merging of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and CFA to form Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV)”, Mr Northe said from Spring Street this afternoon. “This amalgamation will occur on 1 July and unfortunately, it appears a number of fears expressed by CFA personnel will come to realisation”.
“Regardless of whether one is a career fire-fighter, volunteer fire-fighter, operational or non-operational, the men and women of the CFA deserve to be treated with the utmost of respect, but given the feedback I have received this has not been happening despite previous assurances from the Government, Mr Northe said.
Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria in their most recent newsletter, outlined the concerns of members of their organisation including expressing their disappointment that a number of commitments had indeed been broken.
The CFA and its people have been the backbone of our community for decades and their dedication and sacrifices well understood. But at this important juncture there is much uncertainty at many levels including what happens with the use of 4 x 4 tankers, what happens with breathing apparatus vans, what happens with CFA stations – will they be integrated or not, and most importantly what happens with the people who have dedicated themselves to the CFA and our community?
“Indeed, I have previously asked many of these same questions in Parliament” Mr Northe said.
“Despite guarantees that no jobs would be lost in the fire service reforms, in State Parliament today I raised with the Minister that at least one local position seems to have been abolished during the restructure and that is the CFA’s District 27 Commander Critical Infrastructure and Major Hazards role”, Mr Northe continued.
“This role was introduced following the Hazelwood Mine Fire in 2014 and provides necessary emergency service oversight and support to major industry and fire management services including the Latrobe Valley’s open cut mine and pine plantation sector”.
“Whilst the Minister gave an assurance in Question Time that no job would be lost, she was unable to state categorically that no local roles would be abolished, or that employees would be asked or forced to relocate to a new position”, Mr Northe said.
“We all want to see a strong and cohesive fire service, which has served Victorian communities so well for decades and decades including in the Gippsland region whereby career and volunteer fire-fighters have often gone over and beyond the call of duty. These brave men and women are supported by dedicated operational and non-operational personnel who also deserve the utmost of respect for the people and communities to whom they support”, Mr Northe said.
“The State Government has responsibility to ensure that their fire services reform were handled in a consultative manner and with regard for each person within the CFA organisation however; evidence shows otherwise and that’s incredibly disappointing”, Mr Northe concluded.
You can read Mr Northe’s question and the Ministers response here.