CFA Environment Agriculture Local Issues

Matters of Public Importance - Country Fire Authority enterprise bargaining agreement

22 June 2016 -

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — I rise to support the matter of public importance submitted by the member for Bulleen, the Leader of the Opposition here in Victoria. It is interesting to be lectured to by the minister, the Deputy Premier, the person who thought protective services officers (PSOs) were plastic police. He had absolutely no respect for PSOs when he was in opposition, and he has got no respect for volunteers now that he is in government — absolutely no respect at all.

This very sad story of a lack of respect for volunteers by the government goes back to and starts before the 2014 election. I quote from Peter Marshall, who was reported in the Red Flag magazine of the Socialist Alternative. Peter Marshall bragged about the fact that he had 723 firefighters manning booths for the Labor Party at the last state election. He bragged about how the United Firefighters Union (UFU) members had doorknocked 43 000 homes on behalf of the Labor Party. So that is what this is all about. This is about political payback to the UFU, who doorknocked and who manned booths for the Labor Party at the last state election. This is all about political payback, and unfortunately the volunteers are collateral damage in the bullying of the Premier and the Minister for Emergency Services.

As the Leader of the Opposition quoted, you can go through quote after quote of people who have said that this enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) is illegal and discriminatory. All the experts are saying that, but the government will not take any notice of those particular people. If you go through some of the clauses in the EBA and look at 15.1 and 16.1, they are:

… requiring that changes to structure and roles in the brigade administrative and volunteer support services must be agreed by the UFU.

In my language and anyone else’s language, that is a veto that has been put into this particular EBA. That is most definitely a veto. I do not know how the Premier or the minister can say that that is not a veto.

If you go to 41.1, it is:

… requiring the CFA to hand over full access of its email system database to UFU, and providing the UFU with unrestricted use of it.

It is a breach of the privacy of all Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteers that their data is going to be handed across to the union. We know what will happen there. If someone disagrees with the UFU, they will be hounded, they will be punished, they will be victimised and they will no doubt be bullied and potentially physically assaulted. We know what happened at polling booths where there were UFU members. If people actually wanted to take a Liberal card, they were intimidating them. They were threatening them with violence. That is what happened at polling booths. And there have been official complaints about that. Those on the other side might want to put their heads in the sand and not realise that, but there have been official complaints about bullying at polling booths by UFU members.

Clause 45.15 is:

… providing that firefighters cannot move between specific types of trucks during a shift unless agreed by the UFU.

Again, how is that not a veto on management decisions by the CFA management? If it is not a veto, I do not know what is.

If you go through the EBA, there are somewhere between 50 and 60 clauses that effectively are a veto against management decisions as to how the CFA runs. The CFA is probably one of the world’s best volunteer organisations, and it is respected as probably the best firefighting agency anywhere in the world. That is all being put at risk for political payback to the UFU and to Peter Marshall for all those resources that were put into the election back in 2014.

If you go to clauses 51.3, 51.6.5 and so on, they say:

… the CFA cannot employ operational staff on a part‑time or casual basis unless the UFU agrees.

How can they run an organisation if they have got to rely on the UFU to make sure that they can actually do their job?

Clause 94.6 says:

Changes to amenities (including facilities for meals, refreshments, recreation, rest and recline) or access to communications must be agreed by the UFU.

So volunteers who have been out on the fireground and come back cannot go into those facilities unless the UFU agrees.

Recently I had an example from one of the volunteer firefighters I was talking to about this particular process. They were actually in Bendigo on Black Saturday. We know that there was a fire there and that there were fatalities in Bendigo with that fire. On their rest break they went back to the Bendigo fire station. They actually wanted to use the conveniences in the fire station. They were caught short, and they wanted to use the conveniences. They were told that that was the union toilet and that volunteers cannot use that particular toilet. That is the sort of thing that went on back in 2009, before we had this EBA. It will be worse after this EBA happens. You will not be allowed to use the toilets and you will not be allowed to use the lunchroom unless it is condoned. If you go to quite a few of the integrated stations, you will see there are demarcation lines in those stations as to where the volunteers can go, because the paid firefighters do not want those particular people.

Mr Nardella — What a lot of rot.

Mr WALSH — That is not rubbish. You go and have a look, Don.

Mr Nardella interjected.

Mr WALSH — You sit up the back there, bellowing all the time. You get out there and actually have a look at what happens out there, instead of bellowing up there all the time.

As I said, this is all about political payback. The Deputy Premier, the minister, is very keen to put some quotes on the record. Can I put a quote on the record from Lachlan Gales, who is a Wangaratta deputy group officer and volunteer? It is from the Border Mail on 20 June:

‘We’re appalled that a boy from Wangaratta —

the Premier —

would be at the heart of this problem, which is going to tear apart not only the fabric of our CFA, but impact our local communities’, he said.

‘There’s a big picture out there, there’s a game being played — we are all pawns in a greater game which Daniel Andrews hasn’t explained’.

I explained that earlier. That is about the fact that there were 723 UFU members manning polling booths in 2014. It is about the fact that the UFU doorknocked 43 000 homes in 2014. That is what Lachlan Gales in Wangaratta needs to understand, that this is just about political payback.

One of those people who has probably been very supportive of this government over the last nearly two years would be Peter Tuohey, the president of the Victorian Farmers Federation. If you go to today’s Weekly Times and to the story by Kath Sullivan, it starts off, ‘The dumbest thing possible’. It goes on to say:

‘The government has lost the respect of just about everyone in rural Victoria’, Mr Tuohey said. ‘I explained it was just about the dumbest thing they could have possibly done’, he said of the government’s decision to dismiss the board last Friday.

I actually agree with Peter Tuohey 100 per cent; it is the dumbest thing possible. If you look at this political payback and those people who have stood up to the Premier, who is an absolute bully, you will see a minister has lost her job, CEO Lucinda Nolan has lost her job and the board members have lost their jobs, sacked and out the door for not signing an EBA that all the experts said was illegal and actually discriminatory. You had a board that wanted to employ a new CEO, and the government was very proud to appoint Lucinda Nolan when she got that job. She was someone who wanted to bring changes, wanted to bring cultural diversity and wanted to get more women into the CFA. What happened to them? They were all bullied out of the job. They are gone.

What we are talking about in the matter of public importance today submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Bulleen, is an issue of political payback for a union that manned booths, doorknocked, intimidated people, bullied people and made sure the Labor Party actually won an election. Now those opposite are beholden to a union, and this is just the start. It will happen in other places in Australia. It will probably happen to other volunteer organisations in Victoria. There is a real risk that we are going to lose the ethos of volunteers in Victoria because of a Premier who is a bully and who does not want women in senior positions in those organisations.


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