Country Fire Authority enterprise bargaining agreement (8.6.2016)

Written on the 9 June 2016

8 June 2016


GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)

Country Fire Authority enterprise bargaining agreement


I am very pleased to be able to speak to Mr O'Donohue's motion this afternoon.

I will not read through the motion in its entirety, but it notes the issue that is surrounding the 60 000 volunteers of the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and the Andrews government's stance on this particular issue, and the motion highlights various elements that have been discussed by other colleagues. I want to go to paragraph (2) of the motion:

(2)   the review by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission finding the proposed EBA discriminates against women and people with a disability

I note that the CFA board believes the enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) undermines volunteers and the CFA culture and that it allows the United Firefighters Union (UFU) operational and management control of the CFA, as well as being discriminatory. There have been a number of reports around this issue in recent days that have highlighted this fact.

If you go back to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission web page headed 'Know your rights' and look at the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, there are a number of aspects of this particular website I have found that discuss the Equal Opportunity Act. It states:


The objectives of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 are to:
  • encourage the identification and elimination of discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation
  • promote and facilitate the progressive realisation of equality.


The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 applies to a broad range of organisations. These can include:

  • state government departments and agencies
  • local government
  • private companies
  • not-for-profit organisations, whether or not they receive state government funding or are incorporated
  • some sporting and social clubs.


It also can apply to individuals. We have heard a lot about this from the Premier, who has talked about equality on a number of occasions. Only just recently, on 24 May, the Premier said about equality:

Here in Victoria, equality is not negotiable. Here you can be different from everybody else but still be treated the same as everybody else, because we believe in fairness.


On 4 August 2015, in answer to a question on notice, he said:

We're putting equality back on the agenda  . . . we strive for equity, fairness and decency our community.


Again this year, as was quoted in the Age, the Premier said

'Equality is not negotiable in Victoria.'


You can hear the Premier say these words, but one does have to question whether his sincerity is there in terms of what we are dealing with because of these concerns that have been highlighted, as I have mentioned, by the CFA board and others. I know it has been reported widely in the paper in various reports that have gone through this issue and really looked at it in detail and spoken about the 12 clauses of the union deal that would potentially be discriminatory towards women, parents, carers and people with disabilities. An article just recently in the Age I will just quote this, because it does go to this very point says:

It said there were eight instances where the agreement was not compliant with Victoria's Equal Opportunity Act. A further five clauses were deemed to be potentially non-compliant.

Among other things, the report found:

  • A requirement that firefighters undertake full-time training to progress in their careers was likely to result in discrimination against pregnant women, parents, carers, older people and people with disabilities.
  • A requirement that firefighters must work 'on shift' full time for their entire career was likely to discriminate against parents, carers and older people.
  • A requirement that to get part-time work an employee must get UFU approval could discriminate against non-union members.


These issues need to be highlighted. I was sitting in question time earlier today when these very same questions were asked to the Premier, and they were brushed off by the Premier very short, curt answers, I might add and then there was a whole lot about what the government was doing on equality.

The interjections from government members talked about how this was a report from five months ago.

Why on earth did they commission a report?

Why on earth did they get the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to undertake this report?

It was commissioned last year and completed at the end of last year, and of course it was held secret. That has been widely reported too. There were findings in it, and clearly this is coming out, so for the government to say that it is an old report of just five months is quite extraordinary. Why on earth would it get it done? I do not think that is a long period of time when we are talking about these very important issues.

I do have concerns about what the Premier has said on a number of occasions, as I have highlighted. I just want to go back to this report that was conducted by the human rights commission. On 16 December last year an article in the Age said that a secret report found a culture of bullying. It was being considered, as I said, and then it was kept secret because of the summer fire season. The article went on to say that the UFU was 'accused of bullying emergency services minister Jane Garrett, after members turned up at a photo shoot she was having with a group of female recruits'. This is from an article from the Age of around that time, and it goes on to speak about other aspects of this report and looks to the issue.

The then human rights commissioner, Ms Jenkins, obviously was asked to conduct a comprehensive review of workplace culture and diversity in the fire services. That she did. Ms Garrett in the same article is quoted as saying:

In 2015 it is just not acceptable that there are so few women in our fire services.

She also said that the government had gone on to set up a ministerial working group.

So clearly there are issues. But the point I want to make is about the hypocrisy of the government in saying that this is an old report of five months ago. There are issues. They are brushing this aside and they are ignoring the concerns of the CFA board, of the CEO of the CFA, Lucinda Nolan, and of course of their very own Minister for Emergency Services, Ms Garrett, with whom they are clearly at loggerheads. We can see that there is complete division amongst government members. They are in chaos. They are trying to stall this issue probably until after the election. It is an absolutely dreadful situation for the CFA volunteers.

There is just one other point I would like to make quickly. As I said, I was here during question time earlier today when there were lots of interjections about the coalition cutting funding to the CFA, which is completely

Mr Finn Nonsense.

Ms CROZIER It is complete nonsense, Mr Finn. Mr Peter Marshall has come out and claimed that the coalition is playing politics with this. Well, heavens, that is the pot calling the kettle black in terms of this issue, because it was the UFU and its members that were politicising this in the lead-up to the 2014 election, as we know.

I am just going to read out what the CFA funding actually was under the coalition government. It was higher in each and every year than at any time under the preceding Labor government. Let us not forget that the Labor government had 11 years to address the presumptive legislation and it also had a lot of time to give significant funding.

CFA funding in Labor's final budget in 201011 was $399 million. When the coalition came to government there was a $537 million commitment, but that included a special one-off funding increase to fund the implementation of recommendations of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. That funding reflected that implementation requirement. Then there was not a cut; it went back to significant funding of $416 million in 201212, $446 million in 201314 and $457 million in 201415. So it is a complete furphy that the union and the Labor government are putting out. That is the explanation of that funding commitment to the CFA.

I would again like to commend Mr O'Donohue's motion. It is extremely timely that it has been brought to the house and it is extremely important. We must support the CFA volunteers, the tens of thousands who do an extraordinary job across the state 24 hours of every single day. I call on the Premier and his government to get behind the CFA and the tens of thousands of volunteers.



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