Concession on fire reform bill

June 27, 2017

Hanging in the balance, the CFA could be split up if the United Firefighters Union gets its way.

Victoria’s controversial fire service reforms could be amended after Premier Daniel Andrews agreed to work with concerned crossbenchers.

The bill has stalled in the upper house, with the Andrews Labor Government unable to get crossbench support for it ahead of parliament rising for the winter break.

The five upper house independents are concerned about the level of consultation with volunteer-only CFA stations in the bush.

The government has now agreed to a Coalition motion to establish a new parliamentary committee to examine the bill.

The concession comes at the same time a new Galaxy poll published in the Herald Sun and commissioned by an anonymous national organisation shows Labor has slipped behind the Coalition 47-53 on a two-party-preferred basis.

Mr Andrews said he had ‘‘absolutely no comment to make on that poll’’, but did say the government would be open to considering changes to its fire services bill based on the select committee’s findings.

‘‘We’re talking with the crossbench; we’ll continue to do that. We’ll look at any report that comes back in good faith,’’ Mr Andrews said last week.

State Member for Euroa and Nationals Deputy Leader Steph Ryan said the outcome was a win for volunteers from across the region.

‘‘This whole saga has had an enormous toll on volunteers from across the Euroa electorate who have been fighting to stop the bill,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘We owe a lot to the tireless efforts volunteers from districts 12, 22 and 23 have put in to raising concerns about Daniel Andrews’ proposal to split the fire services.

‘‘The government did its best to ram the legislation through without consultation with CFA volunteers but in the end, thanks to pressure from The Nationals, Liberals and crossbench MPs, Labor realised it didn’t have enough votes to pass the bill.’’

Ms Ryan said she had met with fire brigades across the electorate and had many conversations with individual volunteers in recent weeks about the bill.

‘‘Many are deeply concerned that the government has broken the CFA volunteers charter through its refusal to consult with them on the legislation before it was introduced,’’ she said.

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