Fire Services - Integrated Stations

CRISP (Mildura) — I raise a matter for the Minister for Emergency Services. The action I seek is for the minister to provide information on how remote integrated stations will function under the legislation to reform the Country Fire Authority (CFA).

The legislation before the house is not clear on the future of volunteers at integrated stations. Taking Mildura as an example, will the Mildura volunteer brigade have to rent space at the Mildura fire station from Fire Rescue Victoria? Will the volunteers at an integrated station retain their captain? It would be a slap in the face to volunteers if that were not the case, even before we get to the division of assets. How will the assets be divided up and how will those assets be stored in a manner that is accessible to the volunteers? In the past paid firefighters have taken possession of equipment from nearby volunteer stations. With two separate organisations, how will this be managed?

Under the legislation Fire Rescue Victoria will have zone boundaries adjoining those of the CFA. As two separate organisations, how will volunteers and paid firefighters be protected as and when they need to cross those boundaries? I think we get a bit of an indication about how this may progress in a letter sent to me by Mr Stephen Fankhauser, who is a leading firefighter based at Mildura. He states amongst many other things:

Our regular initial response area is anywhere within … 40 kilometres of Mildura and frequently up to 100 kilometres —

which is well outside their existing boundaries —

and it is not uncommon to arrive on scene three up and be the only ones there. The next nearest guaranteed response is 4 hours away at Bendigo.

My estimation is there would be hundreds of brigades within 4 hours of Mildura, so this, too, tells us that the situation requires clarification from the minister. For this and 100 other reasons this legislation should not proceed without consultation and consideration of all the outcomes.

Respecting volunteers and protecting our community should not be left to policy and regulation on the run. The minister needs to stop and think about the impact and the ramifications of railroading this legislation through the Parliament. The community of Victoria has had a little over two weeks to absorb the proposed changes and less than two weeks to study the legislation. The minister is responsible for shattering the CFA and casting the fragments into an unknown sea. Everybody is a loser in these circumstances. The questions that are being asked run to the very heart of community safety and the very heart of our community's respect. Any government should be better than this.

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