Australia — Victoria’s mostly volunteer Country Fire Authority is facing a $40 million budget cut next week, the state opposition claims.
Opposition spokeswoman for emergency services and bushfire response, Jacinta Allan, says leaked documents obtained by Labor show that local CFA group officers were briefed by CFA command on the Victorian government’s plans.
Ms Allan has called on Premier Denis Napthine to confirm or deny the massive cut ahead of next week’s state budget.
She said the CFA was already struggling under the pressures of last year’s $41 million budget cuts, on top of a broken election commitment of $136 million for support and training of the state’s fire services.
Advertisement She said the CFA battled through this year’s bushfire season with a shortage of uniforms, trucks and ration packs and a spate of technological failures.
“Further budget cuts by the Napthine government will have disastrous implications on bushfire preparedness and the government’s ability to implement key recommendations of the bushfire royal commission, which they committed to implement ‘lock, stock and barrel’,” Ms Allan said.
“If these budget cuts exist, Denis Napthine must come clean and provide a full explanation why an additional $40 million will be cut from the Country Fire Authority.”
While the government would not make any comment on the rumoured budget cuts, CFA chief Mick Bourke said he believed there had been a misunderstanding during his briefing with CFA captains.
He told ABC radio he had been referring to last year’s $40 million cut and its flow-on into 2013/14 in his conversation with the group captains.
“I am expecting that reduction in the budget to flow through into next year as a planning assumption,” Mr Bourke said.
He said he wouldn’t know how the CFA would be treated in next week’s budget until it had been delivered by the treasurer.
“There has been a misunderstanding between us and it’s something I will rectify as soon as I get the opportunity,” he said.