Australia — ANGRY firefighters took to the streets of Ballarat yesterday in protest against funding cuts they claim are stopping them from doing their job.
About a dozen of off-duty career firefighters marched to the office of Member for Western Victoria Simon Ramsay in Lydiard Street South, voicing their fury at the slashing of $66 million in funding.
Blocking traffic in the middle of Lydiard Street for a brief period, the firefighters and unionists delivered an interim report card to Mr Ramsays office, as well as a letter pleading he raise the issue with Premier Ted Baillieu and Police and Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan.
Mr Ramsay was not in his office at the time.
Firefighters claim the people of Ballarat are bearing the full brunt of the funding cuts, with both volunteer and career firefighters unable to properly protect the city.
Career firefighter Anthony Pearce said the fight for better conditions was not about improving conditions for the firefighters – it was about Ballarat not having the protection in needed.
This isnt about a union fight, its about serving the community and we arent able to do that with things the way they are, he said.
As part of the union-collated report card named Winding Back the Clock, it says morale is at an all-time low across Victoria.
It said funding cuts were affecting operations across every platform of both the CFA and Metropolitan Fire Brigade, from major expenses right down to the smaller details.
They say the frontline service will not be impacted, but we have had so many instances of late where that obviously is not true, Mr Pearce said..
A spokesman for Police and Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan yesterday labelled the claims as reckless union scare-mongering.
This years CFA budget is the second largest in its history, exceeded only by last year’s budget. CFAs budget last year contained considerable additional funding to deliver initiatives stemming from the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
The spokesman said CFA chief executive officer Mick Bourkes final report as part of the VBRC said Victoria was better equipped to defend itself against bushfire than ever before. The failure was in the forest areas.Advertisement
Following a 10-year strategy, ACT fire managers have created a mosaic across the landscape of different fuel levels, burning at every opportunity.
But forests have been too wet to burn this spring and the past two summers.
A network of 500 fire trails and strategic burns along the north-west urban edge, heavy grazing and extra grass slashing will create a fortress for the territory which forecasters say faces a higher than average risk this summer.
After a fire-fuelled tornado in January 2003 killed four Canberrans and frightened thousands more, CSIRO fire expert Phil Cheney told the subsequent inquiry the fire’s penetration into urban areas under extreme conditions did not reflect a failure of fuel management on the urban interface.