Member for Euroa Steph Ryan says tying cancer compensation to restructure of CFA is a "dog act"

Not impressed: Bright CFA fire captain Paul Mansfield and member for Euroa Steph Ryan indicate their dissatisfaction with the CFA changes being pushed by the Victorian government.
Not impressed: Bright CFA fire captain Paul Mansfield and member for Euroa Steph Ryan indicate their dissatisfaction with the CFA changes being pushed by the Victorian government.

NORTH East CFA volunteers have quit after being “ground down in a war”, the member for Euroa says.

Steph Ryan was speaking to The Border Mail after expressing fury in parliament at the Victorian government’s legislation to break-up the fire service.

“I know of some (volunteers) who have walked away and I think people are really tired the government has ground people down for two years in a war that should never have happened and had no reason to happen,” Ms Ryan said.

“Not one of eight reviews have recommended this course of action.”

Her comments followed Black Saturday Royal Commission barrister Jack Rush saying the changes would weaken the CFA and potentially endanger lives.

Legislation which would see the CFA replaced with Fire Rescue Victoria for paid workers is now before the Upper House and may be voted on next week.

In debating the bill last week in the Legislative Assembly, Ms Ryan was irked it tied cancer compensation in with the structural shake-up.

“I am absolutely disgusted by Labor’s decision to tie compensation for firefighters with cancer to this bill,” Ms Ryan told the chamber.

“It is absolutely vile.

“They are playing politics with cancer sufferers, and I cannot think of more of a dog act — that is the only description I can think of.

“It is absolutely a dog act.

“It is political treachery.”

Ms Ryan said the Coalition had offered to have cancer rights voted upon separately, but it was rejected.

Emergency Services Minister James Merlino dismissed the criticism of the bill’s crafting.

"The bill before parliament include a package of reform all dedicated to improving our fire services and as is appropriate and normal procedure one bill with multiple changes has been put forth," Mr Merlino said.

"We do not take advice from the opposition about how a bill should be drafted."

Ms Ryan is also concerned volunteer firefighters would have to satisfy a panel of their attendance at incidents to access compensation, but paid members would face no such impediment.

Once the bill is enacted Fire Rescue Victoria would come into being and it is anticipated the new structure would be in place for the 2017-18 fire season.

Former NSW fire commissioner Greg Mullins is leading a committee due to oversee the switch to a fully-volunteer CFA and an FRV staffed by paid firefighters.