Country Fire Authority enterprise bargaining agreement (4.05.2016)

Written on the 18 May 2016


4 May 2016


GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)


It is my pleasure to be able to rise and make a brief contribution to this excellent motion of Mr O'Donohue's.

I want to just read the motion again to remind the chamber of what Mr O'Donohue has given notice of:

That this house

(1)   acknowledges the selfless and courageous work of the brave men and women of the Victorian CFA, one of the most remarkable volunteer organisations in the world; and

(2)   calls on the government to reject any United Firefighters Union (UFU) EBA claim that

(a)    allows the UFU to direct or impede CFA activities;

(b)   undermines the autonomy of CFA volunteer firefighters;

(c)    impacts upon the rights of CFA volunteer firefighters, including through the volunteers charter; and

(d)   leads to a reduction in surge capacity of the CFA to respond to major events.

As we have heard throughout today, there have been some excellent contributions by members on this side of house really expressing the great concern that they are hearing from many, many members within their communities who are indeed Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteers. I am someone who represents a metropolitan seat that does not have a CFA branch in it, and I am someone who grew up in country Victoria and moved to Melbourne. Like many, many other people in metropolitan Melbourne, I have a connection to country Victoria and I have family and friends who are CFA volunteers.

The CFA is a voluntary organisation in a firefighting capacity that is the envy of other firefighting units in the world. As I said, it is an extraordinary volunteer organisation, and to have it undermined in the way it has been and to have threats by a dominant union come in over the top of so many volunteers is quite extraordinary.

My family has a long history of serving with the CFA decades of service to the CFA. My father was a member for many, many years before he retired to the coast. One of my brothers has been a 45-year member. He is an active member of the CFA. He works with the CFA on his days off when he returns from his work in the States. He is well known throughout the CFA community, so much so that when I was on the pre-poll booth at Bentleigh with the United Firefighters Union members, whoever they were, getting up there campaigning for the Labor Party, they all knew about the work he had done as a CFA member, as a CFA volunteer and as somebody who has fought in every single major fire in this state since the 1970s, including of course the ones that we all have heard about today: Ash Wednesday, the fires during the 2000s and Black Saturday. As I said, my family has a history of fighting fires in country Victoria, such as the 1939 fires, which my father recalls so terribly well, with friends whose properties were lost in that fire; the Ash Wednesday fires with friends' properties lost in that fire; and Black Saturday where so many properties and lives were lost.

This organisation that we are speaking about in this motion that we are debating here in the house today is incredibly important to many members of the community. What is extraordinary is that interference by government in this agency is completely unheard of in this state. That is why CFA volunteers are very concerned about the government's actions and they are very concerned about the union's actions in terms of what they are proposing to do in their enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA). I will not go into the details of that, but I want to put on the record that everybody admires the work of the CFA, of our volunteers and of the many volunteer organisations across the state. The value that those volunteers give to those organisations is immense. You cannot put a value on that, whether it is the Red Cross, the CFA or the State Emergency Service. The absolute notion of having union domination and interference in this organisation is something that all Victorians are as I think they are very, very concerned about given the EBA terms proposed by the union.

As I said, the unions did a very good job in bringing the government to power in 2014. They were in the sandbelt seats, where unfortunately we lost and how we lost government. They did a very good job of scaring a lot of people at those pre-poll booths. I was there; I listened to them. I had to listen to them, and quite frankly the messages on fire trucks were completely unnecessary and unfounded, and completely out of order, if you like. I am very pleased that the report that was handed down yesterday on the inquiry into the conduct of the 2014 Victorian state election actually makes mention of the conduct of some of these people who were at the polling booths on polling day. I do not want to confuse that issue with what we are talking about here, but I make the point that union domination of firefighters is not wanted within the CFA.

Minister Garrett is standing up for the volunteers, and I commend her for that. What I think is quite fascinating is the direct contrast with how the Premier has reacted. I watched him in question time a few weeks ago when this issue was put to Minister Garrett and clearly he was not happy with the minister's answers and conduct. I will be very fascinated to see how that plays out in days to come.

In conclusion, I commend again Mr O'Donohue for bringing this very important motion to the house. This is an extremely important issue and I, like many members, support our CFA volunteers. I want to commend them for the work they do, day in and day out, protecting Victorians right across the state.


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