THE Nationals Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, said the appointment of Jack Rush QC as chairman of the party’s CFA advisory committee confirms it is determined to rebuild the volunteer firefighting force.
Mr Walsh said few people understand the issue better than Mr Rush, who was counsel assisting the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
He said Mr Rush will be joined on the committee by Craig Lapsley (former Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner), John Peberdy (former member and acting-chair of the CFA Board), Ev Duke (former member of the SES board) and Adam Barnett (chief executive of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria).
“This is the ultimate A team to rescue the CFA and its thousands of regionally based volunteers and restore their independence,” Mr Walsh said.
“The Victorian government has literally pulled apart generations of regional commitment as a sop to its union cronies in the Melbourne-centric United Firefighters Union,” he said.
“The committee will play a critical role in helping shape the CFA as a truly independent, volunteer-based organisation.
“It will seek and review CFA volunteer and key stakeholder feedback, before ultimately providing recommendations to us on the CFA’s redevelopment.”
Mr Walsh added the formation of the committee is built on the consultation he has already started with CFA brigades and volunteers through the Rebuild the CFA website, where volunteers have the opportunity to provide direct feedback on the reforms.
Mr Rush said the process provided “a critical opportunity to promote the interests of a most precious resource, volunteer firefighters; and to ensure the future of the state’s largest fire agency – the CFA.”
Mr Walsh said a prime example of why the CFA needs to be rescued is the Victorian government’s total disinterest in spending money on regional services.
He said the CFA fleet of pumpers and tankers will now get even older after the government’s 2020 State Budget fell short of meeting their replacement target.
“Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria management has showed the CFA needs to replace almost 120 trucks a year – every year – to ensure no vehicle in the CFA’s fleet of 2406 tankers and pumpers is more than 20 years old,” Mr Walsh explained.
“But many, too many, are already beyond their use-by date with no sign they will be replaced any time soon. The government’s Melbourne-first, Melbourne-always thinking might not understand it; but bushfires are called that for a reason – they start in the bush.
“And it will be the CFA, not the unions, who will be putting their lives on the line – with substandard equipment. There are tankers out there now going into their fourth decade on the frontline and that’s inexcusable.
The Weekly Times has reported that earlier this year, then CFA chief officer Steve Warrington called on the Government for an extra $200 million to upgrade the CFA tanker fleet.
Victoria, like other states, once had a 20-year CFA truck replacement policy.
The Weekly Times also said the shortfall in CFA truck funding sits in stark contrast to the government’s investment in the newly formed career-only Fire Rescue Victoria Service, set to cost Victorian taxpayers more than $1 billion a year to run.