CFA Fiskville

Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Committee: Country Fire Authority Fiskville training college

09 August 2017

Ms RYAN (Euroa) — The committee report I would like to speak to today is the Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Committee's Inquiry into the CFA Training College at Fiskville. I note in that report the committee made the observation that:

The CFA is not simply a uniform organisation or corporation. It is made up of hundreds of individual brigades, over 60 000 volunteer firefighters and a smaller number of paid firefighters, whose skills and service Victoria cannot do without.

The committee, as the house well knows, was chaired at the time by the member for Thomastown and included the members for Eltham and Mordialloc. The report recognised, a little over a year ago, the intrinsic value of the current structure of the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and the importance of retaining our volunteer firefighting capacity. In the opening statement of the report the committee also said:

Firefighters and other operational members have been exemplary in carrying out their responsibilities to protect communities, recently battling some of the biggest fires in Victoria's history …

So you have to ask: what has changed in just over a year since this report was tabled? How have those same volunteers suddenly gone from being exemplary in their responsibilities to, according to the government, unable to keep Victorians safe or unable to meet targets? Why do the government MPs who were involved in this inquiry, some of whom are in the house and who lauded the efforts of the grassroots CFA in that report, now back the Premier's plan to smash up the fire services?

I believe that in an effort to justify the reforms that the government is seeking to make it has stooped to unimaginable lows, like providing data to the select committee that has been formed in the upper house to inquire into the government's bill, which claims there have been, and I quote from the Victorian government's submission:

… briefings and engagement sessions, at which over 730 brigades were represented, conducted across the state by the regional leadership of CFA. These provided the opportunity for over 35 000 volunteers to engage with the proposed reforms.

The document included a detailed map of the location of the brigades represented at the briefings and a detailed list of the brigades, including the number of members at each brigade who were apparently engaged and had the opportunity to have their say on these reforms. But the figures, as we now know, were wildly manipulated. They were arrived at by assuming that briefings occurred at group meetings, and then that was extrapolated so that the assumption was that each of the brigades in the group was briefed. The number of volunteers, supposedly members of each of those brigades that been briefed, was then arrived at.

The Benalla, Mansfield and Wangaratta groups cottoned on to this deliberate fabrication of figures and called the government out on it. I would like to seek leave to table a letter from the Mansfield group which expresses their concerns about the fabrication of this data. It also outlines that at many of the meetings at which the government claimed they were in fact briefed about Labor's proposed changes to the fire services those reforms were not even discussed.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — The member for Euroa can make the document available to the house.

Ms RYAN — I seek leave that it be tabled and incorporated into Hansard.

Mr Nardella interjected.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — We cannot do that during committee reports.

Ms RYAN — Then I would like that document made available to the house, but I will also read excerpts.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — The document will be made available to the house.

Ms RYAN — I am happy to provide a copy of it for the house shortly, but I would like to point out that in that letter they questioned how extensive the fabrication of data had been. They knew that the numbers across their own group had been falsified, but they also believed that they had been falsified across other parts of the state, so I decided to audit some of my own brigades and speak to some of the captains to see whether they believed that the numbers stacked up for them.

I spoke to the captain of the Avenel brigade — and these are brigades that are outside district 13. They were horrified; they were stunned. There were no meetings held and no briefings. The captain of the Seymour brigade said exactly the same thing. These were blatant lies put forward by the government.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member's time has expired.

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