Pressure on Purcell over CFA split

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria District Five

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria District Five

UPDATE: 3.10pm Upper House Member for Western Victoria James Purcell has denied he has already made up his mind to support the state government’s CFA split proposal.

Mr Purcell rejected speculation he had “sold” his vote to the government in return for its support for an upgrade of the Warrnambool hospital, the Warrnambool rail line and the construction of a new Warrnambool Special Development School.

“I have not and under no circumstances sell my vote,” Mr Purcell told The Standard.

Mr Purcell’s vote in the Upper House is expected to be crucial to the government’s success in getting the CFA split proposal passed by the parliament.

His comments were in response to speculation by south-west CFA volunteers representative Owen O’Keefe that the government would use the three proposed south-west projects as bargaining chips to secure Mr Purcell’s vote.

“The government has never ever asked for my vote on this issue,” he said.

“The government has never ever offered anything,” Mr Purcell said.

“He is 100 per cent wrong,” Mr Purcell said of Mr O’Keefe’s speculation.

He said he would be seeking a lot more information about the proposal before he made a decision about it.

Mr Purcell said if he had to vote on the proposal with the limited knowledge he currently had about it, “I would not support it.” 

There was a lot that “was not in the media release” about the proposal that concerned him, Mr Purcell said.

Those concerns included the prescriptive nature of the new Fire Rescue Victoria’s (for paid firefighters) right of veto over the new CFA (for volunteer firefighters).

Other concerns were how the new CFA would run without paid staff and how many CFA volunteers might be lost in the split, he said.

2pm: Upper House Member for Western Victoria James Purcell is likely to come under intense lobbying over the next few weeks over the state government’s plan to split the CFA into separate groups for paid and volunteer firefighters.

South-west CFA volunteers representative Owen O’Keefe of Winslow said Mr Purcell might have the casting vote on whether the government’s plan succeeds.

Mr O’Keefe fears the government will use proposals to upgrade Warrnambool hospital, the Warrnambool rail line and build a new Warrnambool Special Development School as bargaining chips to gain Mr Purcell’s vote.

“It is one scenario,” Mr O’Keefe said of the politicial machinations that might unfold on the issue over the coming weeks.

He feared the volunteers might become “collateral damage” in the state government’s bid to get a new enterprise bargaining agreement approved for paid firefighters.

Mr O’Keefe said one of the first priorities of his organisation, the Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV), would be to lobby Mr Purcell.

He said the VFBV had yet to see the details of the government’s proposal but he expected most volunteers would be “ropable” about it because it would diminish their role.

Mr Purcell said on Thursday he had made no decision on the government’s proposal but could see some merit in it.

United Firefighters Union Warrnambool delegate Troy Cleverley said he expected the government would not have made its announcement today unless it had secured Mr Purcell’s vote.