Australia — Victorian firefighters delivered a headstrong message to the state government by leaving hundreds of firefighters’ helmets on the steps of parliament, as a dispute over bushfire resources flares up.
Firies from the United Firefighters Union covered the state parliament steps with 342 red helmets on Thursday to symbolise the government’s failure to deliver extra firefighters.
Then premier John Brumby had promised to provide the Country Fire Authority (CFA) with 342 extra firefighters in response to the 2009 Victorian Black Saturday Bushfires Royal Commission.
The union says the coalition government also agreed to bolster the CFA’s numbers when it took office in 2010, but had not followed through.
United Firefighters Union Victoria secretary Peter Marshall says the state government’s broken promise had jeopardised the safety of Victorians this bushfire season.
“The first thing this government did was to cut the funding of $66 million and freeze the recruiting program,” Mr Marshall said.
“Fire services are stretched. There are areas of Victoria that do not have fire cover.”
Emergency Services Minister Kim Wells rejected the union’s figures, claiming the CFA budget had increased by $47 million since the last Labor budget in 2009/10.
Mr Wells also cited the Bushfires Royal Commission Implementation Monitor, which states Victoria is better prepared to combat bushfires than at the time of Black Saturday in 2009.
The protest was part of a planned campaign by the firefighters union in the lead-up to the November 2014 state election.