Fire Services Bill Select Committee Final Report

18 August

The Fire Services Bill Select Committee Final Report has been tabled in Parliament after the committee heard extensive and overwhelming evidence of the challenges confronting Victoria’s fire services and the need for reform.

The Final Report contains both a majority and a minority report which are clearly drawn across party lines. It’s important to note that the committee was split equally. The Majority Report was backed by three Coalition MPs and one Shooter and Fishers MP, and was considered a majority after the committee chair and Liberal Party MP Gordon Rich-Phillips gave his casting vote. The Minority Report came from three Labor and one Green committee members.

Unsurprisingly the Liberal National Party (LNP) report called for the withdrawal of the Bill, in stark contrast to the Labor (ALP) and Greens report, which recommended the Bill be passed.

We are extremely disappointed that the Liberal National Party members of the committee decided to disregard the facts and instead used the committee to push their political agenda.

The LNP Report was not based on fact - it dismissed the overwhelming evidence of the need for reform and instead seeks to delay reform, in doing so risking community and firefighter safety.

However, we are encouraged by the minority report from the Government and the Greens members of the committee, which highlights the serious deficiencies with the fire services system that go to the very heart of the need for reform. This report recommended the Fire Services Bill be passed with some amendments, saying:

“The Select Committee received response time data from the CFA. The data shows that class 4 and 5 CFA brigades are not meeting the 90% response time target for urban fires. For volunteer brigades this target was met 56% of the time in 2016-17.

When it comes to other first responders, including paramedics and police, Victorians would never accept this level of inconsistency or failure to meet agree standards - it should not be the case with our fire services.

Given this evidence, we recommend that the Bill be passed. It provides a framework for a modern fire services that will be able to adapt to change and keep Victorians safe into the future.”

The LNP report fails to address the overwhelming evidence provided to the committee in support of the reform. It fails to address the issue of response times, and community safety, and recommended that a crucial part of the bill - providing presumptive rights compensation for firefighters suffering from cancer - should be re-submitted and supported as a separate piece of legislation. It provides no proposal for a way forward, the majority of witnesses acknowledging the significant problems faced by Victoria’s fire services and the need for reform.

The ALP/Greens report agreed in principle with seven recommendations in the LNP report, focused on issues like consultation, implementation, funding and secondment. It said greater transparency prior to the introduction of the Bill would have alleviated the concerns of some volunteers. It also made further recommendations that fire services performance measures be made public on a regular basis, saying the issues raised around response times in the Inquiry pointed to the need for greater transparency in the fire services. But most importantly, it recommended the Fire Services Bill be passed.

We know the need for reform is beyond doubt. It is a great disappointment that the LNP Report dismissed the overwhelming evidence presented to the committee, particularly from hundreds of frontline firefighters, experts and leaders in the fire services.

However, we will not be disheartened. The Inquiry has made public overwhelming evidence, including for the first time, performance data that shows the people of Victoria why this reform is crucial. We will continue to raise awareness about the need for reform - we need your help more than ever to do so. The safety of our communities and firefighters who protect them depend on it.

Please send an automated email to your MLC here, asking for them to vote yes for reform, and a modern, safe system.