Opposition wants state to go back to 'square one' on CFA

Brad Battin

Brad Battin

With the proposal to split the state’s fire services in limbo, the state government needs to “go back to square one” and develop a new fire services delivery model, opposition emergency services spokesman Brad Battin says.

Mr Battin said community safety should be the first priority of any new fire services model and “the government should work backwards from there.”

He said the government’s lapsed proposal to create a new organisation for paid firefighters and make the CFA a volunteer-only organisation had been “a payback to hand more power to the United Firefighters Union”  over the way fire services were operated.

But he said the opposition believed the current integrated model, where paid firefighters and volunteers work together in many regional stations, could still be improved.

However it was seeking the views of people across the state to inform its position, Mr Battin said. 

He held a drop-in session for both volunteer and paid firefighters at the Koroit Bowls Club on Thursday night to gather local opinions.

Mr Battin said the state government still needed to deliver on its promise to provide another 450 firefighters throughout the state regardless of the failure of its proposed reforms to fire services.

The extra firefighters should be allocated on a case by case basis that considered response times and community safety, he said.

“It also must be done in consultation with volunteers,” Mr Battin said.

The government’s plan to separate CFA volunteers and paid firefighters into two organisations lapsed this year after failing to gain the support of Western Victorian MP James Purcell.

Mr Battin, who is also the opposition’s building industry spokesman, also met with Port Fairy builder Michael Hearn last week to discuss his concerns about the stage at which residential codes were addressed in the planning process.

Mr Hearn said he was concerned that the time to get approval for residential projects was sometimes extended because the codes were not addressed until the building permit stage near the end of the approval process. If the residential codes were addressed earlier, it could speed up approvals, he said.