Emergency Medical Response program
02 September 2015
MS RYAN (Euroa) — My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Emergency Services. The action I seek is that she expand the eligibility criteria for the Emergency Medical Response (EMR) program to include all Country Fire Authority (CFA) brigades. The current eligibility criteria for the EMR program is restricted to brigades that are deemed 'integrated' and consist of career and volunteer firefighters. This is yet another example of the Andrews Labor government placing the needs of career firefighters over those of volunteers. This restriction means that rural brigades, such as the brigade at Thoona, are not eligible to apply for the program, even though their members have indicated to CFA district 23 and Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria their preparedness to commit themselves to providing an EMR service to Thoona and surrounding communities. In fact none of the 951 rural fire brigades across Victoria are eligible for this program.
Whether there are career firefighters at a fire station should not be the criteria for selecting where additional EMR services are provided. Rather, the EMR service should be available to communities where there is demonstrated need. More appropriate criteria for selecting which CFA brigades are eligible to provide EMR services could include locations with an identified ambulance response time issue and brigades, whether they be integrated or solely volunteer, which are committed to providing emergency medical response to their community.
Ambulance response times across the Benalla rural city are worse than the state average, and with just 50 to 60 per cent of calls answered in under 15 minutes, this program has never been more important. The EMR program should be based on community need, not whether a fire station is integrated or volunteer. Simply making stations integrated so that they fit the requirements is not a solution either. The government's decision to hike the fire services levy by an average of 7.2 per cent is a clear broken promise that does not support volunteers but rather undermines them. The additional revenue being ripped out of the pockets of property owners is being used by this government to employ an additional 350 career staff. Volunteers fear that this is simply a Trojan Horse to unionise the CFA and further undermine its important role. Instead of career staff supporting volunteers, this government wants volunteers to support paid firefighters. Volunteers simply want to be valued by this government. They are anxious about the decisions this government is making, and I can understand why.
I therefore urge the minister to show her support for volunteers in my electorate by amending the eligibility criteria for the EMR program to enable brigades such as the Thoona CFA brigade to be included in this program.