James Purcell is set to spike state government's CFA bill

Decision time: Member for Western Victoria James Purcell will controversially vote against the state government's bill to restructure fire services. Picture: Amy Paton
Decision time: Member for Western Victoria James Purcell will controversially vote against the state government's bill to restructure fire services. Picture: Amy Paton

Port Fairy-based MP James Purcell has declared he will not support the state government’s bill to split the CFA, effectively blocking it.

The Vote 1 Jobs MP’s vote in the upper house was crucial for the bill, which has passed the lower house, to become law.

Mr Purcell revealed his decision after a series of meetings with volunteer firefighters across the south-west in the past two weeks.

“We won’t be supporting the legislation on the basis that all of the community groups that we’ve met with have said that the lack of consultation really was a concern for them,” he said.

“There are 1200 brigades in the state, and I think the ones that I’ve met with will be representative of the 1200. I think if I’d met with all of the 1200 they’d all be saying the same thing – that the legislation has been developed and put forward without any consultation and without their best interests at heart.”

The proposal would see paid and volunteer firefighters split, creating a new Fire Rescue Victoria. It also included presumptive cancer compensation rights for both career and volunteer firefighters.

Greens upper house MPs have indicated they would support the changes, while Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and Democratic Labour representatives were likely to vote against them. The Sex Party’s Fiona Patten said she was still deciding.

Mr Purcell will today meet Emergency Services Minister James Merlino and Premier Daniel Andrews to inform them of his decision.

“The government were willing to consider changes that we put up, but there were a lot of changes and the belief that they would need to go back and do some real consultation,” Mr Purcell said.

“Otherwise they will destroy the CFA if they ram it through.”

Mr Purcell said in his position as a key cross-bencher, it would have been easy for him to vote for the legislation in return for support for key projects in the region.

“It’s been presented that I’ve actually sold my vote,” he said. “I could have sold it and got a lot of local assets and infrastructure for it.”

The bill is due to be considered in the upper house this week.

“I think it either sits there without a resolution or the government will go back and start doing the consultation,” Mr Purcell said. “I don’t think there’s another answer to it.”