By Jackson Russell
A new firefighting body could be established under Labor plans to reform the state’s firefighting services.
The Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2019, to be introduced into Parliament on Wednesday, provides rights to cancer compensation for career and volunteer firefighters and will make the CFA purely community volunteer-based.
It will also create a new organisation called ‘Fire Rescue Victoria’.
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan slammed the move and said Premier Daniel Andrews had clearly been waiting for the federal election to finish before Labor introduced the bill.
“This is a terribly sad day for CFA volunteers who have committed years to an organisation in service to the community,” she said.
“Daniel Andrews is hell bent on tearing the CFA apart to give the United Firefighters Union control of the organisation.”
Labor says the reforms will protect the CFA as a volunteer service under law and 1220 volunteer CFA brigades will be untouched, continuing to serve communities day-to-day.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville said the government were ensuring firefighters and the Victorian community had the modern fire service that they deserve.
“We made a commitment at the last election to reform our fire services and ensure our career and volunteer firefighters are supported in keeping the community safe – and that’s exactly what we’re delivering,” she said.
The new Fire Rescue Victoria will cover existing Metropolitan Fire Brigade boundaries and serve metropolitan Melbourne, outer urban areas and larger regional centres across Victoria.
While no Mitchell Shire stations will be directed affected, 38 integrated CFA stations will be merged with the MFB to form Fire Rescue Victoria including at Sunbury, Craigieburn and South Morang, and in regional areas such as Bendigo and Shepparton.
Boundaries will also be altered to reflect population growth across the state – a change the fire services have requested for a long time.
CFA volunteers currently serving at one of the state’s 38 integrated stations will be able to remain at that station if they choose to, co-locating with Fire Rescue Victoria services under the altered boundaries.
The new model will come into effect mid-2020, which will mean no change for the upcoming 2019/20 fire season.
CFA acting chief officer Gavin Freeman said the CFA saw the reforms as a great opportunity to improve fire services to the whole community.
“Safety is, and will remain, our number one priority. The implementation of the reforms will not disrupt the provision of vital services to the Victorian community,” he said.
“We are confident that these reforms present an opportunity for CFA to grow as a community-based volunteer organisation.”
By Jackson Russell