Rallying Vic firefighters claim cuts

Rallying Vic firefighters claim cuts

25 March 2014

published by www.perthnow.com.au

Australia — RESIDENTS from the fire-affected Victorian township of Morwell have joined firefighters to protest against fire service cuts, but the government denies slashing funds.

Hundreds of firefighters marched to Parliament House on Tuesday, waving placards and chanting “no ifs, no buts, no fire service cuts”.

The United Firefighters Union (UFU) accuses the government of slashing $66 million from the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) operating budgets.

But the government says the budgets are both more than when the coalition came into power in 2010, by $47 million and $30 million respectively.

“There’s been more funding for fire fighting under a coalition government, not less,” Premier Denis Napthine told reporters.

The union also says firefighter safety was put at risk during the Morwell coal mine fire when crews went in without breathing apparatus.

Dr Napthine said that issue was fixed immediately once it came to the attention of CFA and MFB management.

The independent inquiry into the fire would address any issues raised, he said.

As the fire was finally put out after sparking into the coal mine on February 9, the government came under fire during Tuesday’s question time over high pressure hoses for Morwell residents.

The hoses were offered to residents last week as part of a $2 million clean-up package but withdrawn amid fears they could dislodge asbestos.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the hoses were withdrawn in secret, with references to them removed from the government’s media release and no public warnings about their dangers.

Energy Minster Russell Northe said the hoses were withdrawn temporarily on Friday after concerns were raised.

“Asbestos is a very serious issue. We’ve got to make sure we do the right thing,” he told parliament.

UFU state secretary Peter Marshall said the union is looking forward to the Morwell inquiry, saying fire crews had to come from interstate to plug shortages.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said resources were not an issue.

“Over the whole summer period, we have had no question about the lack of resources,” he told reporters.

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