In yet another chapter in the convoluted case of the CFA dispute, Premier Daniel Andrews has released a long opinion piece attempting to clarify his government’s position about the contentious issue.
Released on Sunday morning, the statement addresses what Mr Andrews calls “the three worst lies” in “the destructive scare campaign.” It does not attribute the scare campaign to any party, nor address the removal of the CFA board, or the resignation of Lucinda Nolan, the CFA chief executive.
The CFA dispute has arisen out of varying interpretations of the enterprise bargaining agreement lodged with Fair Work Australia by the United Firefighters Union. Some volunteer firefighters fear the EBA conditions may affect relations between career and volunteer members, and destroy the ethos of volunteering in the state.
Mr Andrews’s statement follows.
CFA Op-Ed from Hon Daniel Andrews MP, Premier of Victoria
I grew up in the country, so I know what local fire brigades mean to families and towns across Victoria.
But this firefighters’ dispute has dragged on for three years now – well over 1000 days, and we can’t face another fire season with it still unresolved. That’s why we’ve taken action to find a fair and balanced solution. We simply couldn’t have it go on for another 1000 days.
Under the proposed agreement, CFA volunteer fire stations will continue operating as they always have – with their own independence, their own special connections to the community, and their own unique knowledge of their local area.
The role of volunteer firefighters in this state is sacrosanct.
At no stage has our Government questioned it or jeopardised it.
Anything that says otherwise is a lie.
And a lot of lies have emerged during this destructive scare campaign. Here’s the three worst.
Lie 1: CFA firefighters won’t be allowed to do a thing until seven career firefighters arrive at an incident.
Fact: First of all, the requirement is that seven career firefighters simply be dispatched. If the fire is under control, the second truck can be cancelled.
Secondly, this requirement is limited only to 34 ‘integrated’ CFA stations in highly-populated areas, like Frankston and Geelong.
Having more firefighters in these 34 fast-growing and highly-populated areas is a good thing, not a bad thing. We’re providing more police and paramedics, too.
But this won’t apply at the other almost 1,200 CFA stations across Victoria – that’s 97 per cent of them.
Lie 2: The United Firefighters Union will have veto power over the decisions of the CFA.
Fact: There is no veto in this agreement.
Like most workplaces, there will be consultation on issues that affect the employment of career firefighters, such as the recognition of prior learning. If they don’t reach agreement, it goes to an independent umpire.
Lie 3: This new agreement will destroy the CFA.
Fact: That’s just an insult to the commitment and dedication of volunteer and career firefighters everywhere.
It’s the most irresponsible lie of all, because it’s made people unnecessarily concerned about their homes, businesses and livestock. And that’s scare campaigning 101. At Wye River for example, we had a volunteer incident controller and that will not change under this agreement.
I promise you this: by the time the next fire season rolls around, the CFA will be stronger than ever before.
The long-running dispute will be behind us all and more career firefighters will be on the ground in 34 highly-populated areas to support the volunteer effort.
We’ve appointed Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley to oversee the implementation of the agreement and make sure the role of volunteers is protected.
We’ve also invested in new trucks, stations and training facilities for volunteer brigades across the state, and we’ll deliver presumptive rights to cancer compensation for both volunteer and career firefighters.
As we end this dispute, the most important thing is this: the CFA will be stronger than ever, and so will be the dedicated volunteers who have protected our state for so many years.
In the meantime, the Emergency Services Minister James Merlino and I will be visiting volunteer and career firefighters across Victoria to explain the agreement, to listen to local brigades and to honour the work done by volunteer and career firefighters to keep our state safe.
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