THE state Labor government has reintroduced its legislation to change the structure of Victoria’s firefighting services, and Liberal and National MPs in western Victoria are directly lobbying two crossbench MPs based in the Geelong region to vote against it.
The Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2019 will create a new agency, Fire Rescue Victoria, which will cover existing Metropolitan Fire Brigade boundaries and serve metropolitan Melbourne, outer urban areas and larger regional centres across Victoria.
It will also alter the boundaries between the respective services and provide presumptive rights to cancer compensation for career and volunteer firefighters (depending on cancer type and length of service).
“Our firefighters are the best in the world and as our population grows, we’re making sure that they and the Victorian community have the modern fire service that they deserve,” Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville said.
In a joint media release, lower house MPs Richard Riordan (Polwarth), Roma Britnell (South West Coast), Emma Kealy (Lowan), Louise Staley (Ripon) and Member for Western Region Beverley McArthur urged Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party MP Stuart Grimley to vote against the bill in the upper house, claiming it would discriminate between volunteer and paid firefighters.
Mr Riordan said his seat of Polwarth had some of the highest bushfire and grassfire districts.
“From the volcanic plains to the wild Otway Ranges, it is entirely serviced by volunteer CFA brigades who have put their lives on the line for decades.
“All political representatives are duty bound to support the thousands of volunteers and their families that our communities rely on to keep them safe.”
This week, Mr Grimley said he understood how important the issue was to many people, but “at this point, I am still meeting with various stakeholders involved in the Fire Services debate to ensure I understand the entirety of the issue before casting my vote”.
Mr Meddick has previously made similar comments.