Fire and Emergency Services (Volunteer Charters) Amendment Bill
Thursday, 7 May 2015
Mr GOLDSWORTHY (Kavel) (10:43): I am pleased to make some comments in support of the legislation that the member for Morphett has brought to the house in relation to the fire and emergency services volunteer charter. If there was ever a need for this, it is now. We all know the crucially valuable role that every CFS volunteer plays in this State, so if there was ever a need for this formal recognition in the act, it is now, and I will expand on the reasons for that.
No doubt, the member for Morphett highlighted this in his contribution. He has been working away on this issue very well, and the member for Schubert also made a strong contribution in relation to this. This is focused absolutely at the appalling and abysmal manner in which the minister has been dealing with the emergency services sector, particularly the volunteer sector in the CFS and the SES. As the member for Schubert pointed out, the PSA moved and successfully voted a no-confidence motion in the minister, as has the SES. If there is ever an indication of the lack of confidence that the sector has in the minister, there it is.
I do not think the minister understands what he is doing in relation to this. Again, the member for Schubert spoke about this: the minister is destroying any goodwill that volunteers in the CFS and SES have towards this government and the role that they play in the community. We witnessed their work during the Sampson Flat fires in January. There were some fires in the Hills on Monday afternoon; one was out the back of our property out towards Gorge Road. Quite a number of CFS units were patrolling the neighbouring paddocks to put this fire out, around in the gully that heads down to Gorge Road in Castambul from the back of our property.
Everybody in this place, particularly those who have rural electorates, understands the key role that CFS volunteers play in our community. They keep our communities safe and secure. They protect people's property and they save human life. I do not know what greater benefit a volunteer (or anybody in the community, whether paid or unpaid) has in society than to save a life. That is why we so greatly value the skills of our medical profession, and that is why they are paid at the level they are paid for the skill and expertise they bring to their profession.
I do not mind sharing this with the house: my father has just been in hospital for quite a period of time, where he was receiving treatment from medical specialists. I think that if the care was not as good as it was, we might be faced with a different situation; we may have been having a condolence motion in the house. I think the care and the skill level of the medical profession actually kept him alive, and he is now recovering. Anyway, that is a digression, I know, but that is just an illustration of the value that we place on human life and the medical profession, and as a comparison, the value that we place on our CFS, because they do save lives and protect property.
The way the minister has treated the CFS and SES in the supposed restructure has been appalling. It is actually a lesson in how not to go about reform and restructure. As I said, if there has ever been a need for legislative requirement, this is it. The bill talks about parliamentary recognition of the SA CFS Volunteer Charter and the SA SES Volunteer Charter, and there are a number of clauses in the bill which outline that. We cannot get away from the fact that there are other influences affecting the reason for this restructure. The member for Morphett has spoken about this before: it is the influence of the UFU in this whole business. I am aware, and others are aware, that the UFU are keen on this restructure. They are keen on this restructure because—and I may be wrong, but this is my take—it gives them the opportunity to increase their membership or it starts the process to work along a line that enables them to increase their membership.
We know that that is what some of the union bosses are very keen on. They are keen on increasing their membership because it means more money in the union coffers for them to do what they want to do with the union funds. And we have seen what they use the union funds for: they use them for election campaigns for ALP candidates. We do not really have to be geniuses to join the dots in what the motivation could be in relation to this.
I also want to touch on the minister's involvement in relation to some issues concerning the Mount Barker CFS Brigade. He is very sensitive about this matter. The member for Morphett raises issues from time to time concerning the Mount Barker brigade and I have had discussions with the minister about what the brigade is trying to achieve in meeting the demands and the needs of the local community. There is significant expansion of the residential area in and around Mount Barker, and the brigade is concerned that it has not had the resources and the training to deal with incidents.
That is the level of representation I have made, but the minister tries to legitimise his responses to the issues that the member for Morphett raises by saying to the media, 'Well, the member for Kavel and the member for Heysen have made representation.' Somehow, he is trying to link in my conversations with him about meeting the needs of the brigade with MFS trucks—I have not mentioned anything to him about MFS trucks or anything like that. That is something that he and, supposedly, SAFECOM and the bureaucratic structure have worked through. Until he advised me of it, and until I had spoken to the brigade about it, I have not made any representation about MFS trucks.
With that contribution, I am certainly pleased to support the bill that the member for Morphett has brought to the house.