STATE Opposition Leader Matthew Guy came out swinging against the government’s controversial CFA proposals during a visit to Heyfield, repeatedly saying it would tear the organisation apart.
However, despite frustration with the proposed legislation, Heyfield captain Phil Graham said he didn’t think “the changes would affect us greatly”.
“Generally speaking, most volunteers are pretty disappointed in the current events surrounding this legislation the government’s carrying on with,” Mr Graham said.
“It won’t affect us on the fire ground, we’ll still turn out, at the end of the day we’ll still be here.”
Mr Guy spoke to the brigade before taking media questions with Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull and Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien.
He said comments from Jack Rush QC, who headed the Black Saturday Royal Commission, were scathing.
“The government and (United Firefighters) union can only spin so much before the facts come out, and Jack Rush has brought those facts to a head,” he said.
“I hope all parties see sense and oppose these changes because they’re destructive changes.
“The locals in Heyfield are saying what people across the state are saying to the Liberal-Nationals — why would you do that?
“Local CFA volunteers will tell you, should this legislation pass, there’ll be massive change and massive uncertainty; there’ll be a dual chain of command, which royal commissions have warned against.”
The proposed legislation would separate paid and volunteer firefighters, making the CFA and the new Fire Rescue Victoria independent.
More money for equipment, training, and facilities was also promised, while presumptive cancer legislation was also included, an aspect Mr Guy described as “quite a low act”.
“Why is Daniel Andrews going out of his way to destroy Australia’s greatest volunteer firefighter organisation?” he said.
Mr Guy also answered questions about the opposition’s decentralisation policy, promising more would be done for regional education facilities.
“We’re about to release our population taskforce interim report, and the taskforce makes some recommendations around regionalisation of government functions,” he said.
“It is a good question, whether you just transfer Melbourne workers to the country, or hire in the country — our preference is you have a mix of both.
“My view is that you can have a considerable amount of local employees simply in office establishment, but then ongoing office jobs that would be able to be employed from regional TAFEs.”
Regarding the proposed offshore wind farm near Port Albert, Mr Guy said it was an idea that government should fully investigate and apply the same process it would to onshore wind farms.
Mr Guy deflected questions about the Australian Sustainable Hardwoods timber mill to Mr Bull, who again asked Premier Daniel Andrews to deliver on his promise to visit the mill.