CFA’s future still unknown as Parliamentary committee verdict delayed

LOOKING TO NEW FUTURE: Wangaratta firefighter Michael Cornish, pictured after rescuing a puppy in the past, is confident the Parliamentary inquiry will support reform of the fire service.

LOOKING TO NEW FUTURE: Wangaratta firefighter Michael Cornish, pictured after rescuing a puppy in the past, is confident the Parliamentary inquiry will support reform of the fire service.

The Parliamentary committee verdict on separating the CFA into two organisations has been delayed at least a week as members weigh up the wealth of evidence submitted.

A final report, which had been due by Tuesday, will now be handed down “in mid-August”.

Wangaratta firefighter Michael Cornish did not have any doubt about expecting the recommendations to support proposed reforms, based on what he called “emphatic submissions” from the CFA and MFB bosses.

“Their evidence was indisputable,” he said.

“The reforms are going to include a lot of things that are statewide … better access to training is going to make all the firegrounds safer.”

Mr Cornish said moving paid firefighters to their own organisation, to be called Fire Rescue Victoria, was about more than just how many trucks turn up – it was also about better recruitment and diversity and providing more capability to conduct road rescues.

The Parliamentary committee was considering submissions to the inquiry, as well as evidence at hearings across the state, including in Wangaratta.

The interim report stated issues raised included recruitment and changing demands of volunteers, impact on integrated brigades, impact of industrial relations disputes on morale, and the importance of response times.

Mr Cornish said he believed reforms would mean more autonomy for CFA volunteers, but the groups could continue working together and no firefighters would be any less involved than in the current arrangement.

“There won’t be any adverse effects for volunteer brigades,” he said.

“The relationships in Wangaratta are very good and I don’t see that changing as long as everyone remains respectful and keep focus on what we need to do.”

Chairman Gordon Rich-Phillips thanked the public for about 1500 submissions received by the committee.  

The relationships in Wangaratta are very good and I don’t see that changing as long as everyone remains respectful. - Firefighter Michael Cornish

“We also appreciate the time and effort that people took to attend public hearings in Melbourne and several regional centres,” he said. 

“The inquiry has involved a number of contentious issues and the committee is working through the extensive evidence it has received.”

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