The clash between the state Labor government and many of Victoria’s CFA volunteers will continue well past the federal election.
But in the short term Emergency Services Minister James Merlino said it would not have an effect on the federal election despite CFA volunteers manning pre-poll centres for the Liberal Party.
“I think Victorians can absolutely tell the difference between what are federal issues and what are state issues,” he said.
“And they can also see through what’s a pretty base political stunt by Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party.”
Mr Merlino said the controversial EBA was with the new CFA board.
Fairfax Media has reported internal Liberal Party polling has shown voters in Ballarat and surrounding marginal seats are thinking about the dispute when considering who to back in Saturday’s election.
In an apparent attempt to pull CFA volunteers from the middle of election battlegrounds, chief officer Joe Buffone said in a communique on Friday volunteers should “respect the uniform”.
“We've seen an increasing number of events where CFA members have been involved in promoting political positions,” he said.
“On several of these occasions, members have worn CFA uniform including personal protective clothing (PPC) to identify themselves as firefighters and their affiliation with CFA. CFA members engaging in these activities are not to wear any CFA uniform or PPC items.”
“These activities are not authorised by CFA and therefore any member choosing to participate must not be identifiable as a CFA member. I ask all members to continue to respect the uniform that they wear.”
The Courier understands volunteers have turned out for the Liberal Party and career firefighters have backed the ALP at early voting centres in Ballarat.
Mr Merlino said he would leave it up to the CFA to police that rule.
“Those are operational matters for the CFA. It’s appropriate for me to leave that with the CFA management,” he said.
Ballarat Liberal MLC Joshua Morris has been contacted for comment.
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