The National Party is pressing the Victorian Government for a commitment that the Metropolitan Fire Brigades region will not be expanded to take over areas currently protected by the Country Fire Authority.
State Member for Euroa and Nationals Deputy Leader Steph Ryan tabled a petition in parliament recently which led to the Andrews Government refusing to rule out a potential expansion of the MFB region.
Premier Daniel Andrews was questioned by The Nationals and Liberals on whether he would guarantee no changes to the existing boundaries of the CFA and MFB, and Ms Ryan said Mr Andrews refused to respond.
‘‘Our local CFA volunteers are modern-day heroes, giving their time to protect our safety, yet Daniel Andrews refuses to answer legitimate questions in parliament about the government’s plans,’’ Ms Ryan said.
‘‘As premier, Daniel Andrews is supposed to govern for all Victorians but time and time again he fails to stand up for our CFA volunteers.’’
Ms Ryan said she was concerned about reports the premier was negotiating with the United Firefighters’ Union to extend the MFB’s coverage area to include outer metropolitan areas and major regional cities in order have his ‘‘destructive’’ enterprise bargaining agreement passed.
Victorian Emergency Services Minister James Merlino fired back, suggesting Ms Ryan was playing games.
‘‘This is simply Steph Ryan using our firefighters as political footballs,’’ Mr Merlino said.
‘‘There is not a single integrated fire station — featuring career and volunteer firefighters — in her entire electorate.
‘‘The government is focused on resolving this dispute which has gone on for far too long.’’
Ms Ryan said her petition called for Mr Andrews to keep his hands off the CFA and had been supported by 2000 people from across the Euroa electorate, with an extra 500 signatures coming in through her website.
‘‘My petition is still available to sign and I encourage people to consider writing a letter to Labor, Emergency Services Minister James Merlino and Premier Daniel Andrews expressing your concern,’’ she said.
Meanwhile, Volunteer Fire Brigade Victoria chief executive officer Andrew Ford said it was a non-issue.
‘‘Even the person on the street knows it would be reckless for any proposal that erodes Victoria’s volunteer fire and emergency service capacity to be contemplated, especially if this is driven by political or industrial motivation,’’ Mr Ford said.
‘‘On an encouraging note, despite the message being pedalled by some and the real speculation by many senior officers within the emergency management sector, both CFA chief officer and the emergency management commissioner have assured me that they are not involved in any discussions, plans or intent to restructure, carve up or dismantle the CFA volunteer based and integrated service model.’’