Neville says volunteers safe

By Country News

CFA volunteers would continue to be welcome at fire stations such as Shepparton, Victorian Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said in Shepparton last week.

Speculation has been rife that, under Victorian Government changes to be introduced to fire services, volunteers will be pushed out.

The government is pushing a bill through parliament that would create Fire Rescue Victoria, replacing the CFA in larger country stations such as Shepparton.

Ms Neville visited the Shepparton Fire Station on Thursday to reassure volunteers they could continue to serve the community.

‘‘We are absolutely committed to keeping integrated stations,’’ Ms Neville said.

‘‘I want our CFA volunteers to stay and keep working side by side with career firefighters as they do now.’’

She said communities would continue to see volunteer firefighters turning out to fires along with paid firefighters.

She said under the new bill, the integrated stations must recognise the important role volunteers played and they must be called out to fires.

‘‘So if there is a need for fire suppression, then volunteers must be called out as well,’’ Ms Neville said.

The legislation, if passed, would abolish the MFB and career CFA services and establish Fire Rescue Victoria to serve metropolitan Melbourne, the outer urban fringe and large regional centres.

The new model is expected to come into effect by mid next year.

The government went to November’s election with a mandate to bring in the changes, which are also tied to presumptive cancer compensation rights for firefighters in the same bill.

The compensation scheme will be administered through WorkSafe and be backdated to June 1, 2016, for eligible firefighters.

The state Opposition still opposes the changes and accuses Labor of once again going to war with CFA volunteers to stack stations with United Firefighters Union members.

Opposition emergency services spokesman Brad Battin said he would try to have the compensation part of the bill separated from the rest of the reforms.

‘‘Victorian volunteers continue to tell us they don’t endorse this legislation, they want to see legislation that’s about community safety,’’ Mr Battin said.

He said the fire services did not need to be changed for improvements to be made.