Vic farmers blast Government over new plan to split CFA

Friday 19 May 2017

FARMERS fear the Victorian Government risks gutting the Country Fire Authority to create a larger Metropolitan Fire Brigade under a radical new plan to solve the bitter industrial dispute engulfing the CFA and United Firefighters Union by splitting the rural fire service into two separate entities of only volunteers in one organisation and paid firefighters in a new Fire Rescue Brigade.

Victorian Farmers Federation President David Jochinke this morning told Treasurer Tim Pallas the farmer group had major concerns over the potential impact the plan would have on rural communities, including the slashing of CFA resources and a blow out in the Fire Services Property Levy.

“Farmers are worried that any split in the CFA would cripple the volunteer service, creating a second class organisation that is under-resourced and understaffed,” he said.

“While a slick, new MFB will have the benefit of paid full-time staff with union backing, there is a real risk the volunteer CFA will suffer from a lack of resourcing, staff training, equipment, recognition and coordination of different programs, ultimately impacting emergency response times.”

The Treasurer committed the Government to working with the VFF to ensure volunteer firefighters and rural communities weren’t impacted by the split, including committing $100 million to the volunteer fire service over the next four years, but Mr Jochinke said farmers were sceptical of the quick fix. 

“The UFU has been trying for years to gain control of the CFA, and the State Government cannot just roll over and strip the resources out of a vital volunteer organisation of 60,000 members, which would sacrifice its capacity to respond to emergency situations,” he said.

“Our communities want peace of mind and an end to this ugly industrial dispute, but most of all they want their CFA to be left alone.”

Mr Jochinke said the Government failed to openly consult with the rural sector leading up to today’s announcement, which left a lot of questions still to answer over the proposed new structure.

“The Government has been unclear on how they propose the relationship between any two new fire services will work, and we need to know if the Government plans for the MFB to be answerable to the CFA in shared regional areas, and how the long-term funding of the CFA will be maintained.”

Mr Jochinke said the VFF looked forward to working with the Treasurer and Premier Daniel Andrews to meet the Treasurer’s commitments that the plan wouldn’t undermine rural fire services. 

Media Contacts:
David Jochinke, VFF President: 0427 834 524
Ashley Mackinnon, VFF Public Affairs Officer: 0417 165 784