Liberal MP claims paid firefighters didn’t fight black saturday for five hours

Liberal MP claims paid firefighters didn’t fight black saturday for five hours

14 May 2017

published by

Australia –   A senior member of Matthew Guy’s frontbench has infuriated firefighters after telling Parliament that paid firefighters did not respond for the first 5½ hours on Black Saturday, the nation’s worst bushfire tragedy.

Shadow emergency services minister Brad Battin​ last week spoke out against speculated plans by the Andrews government to overhaul the state’s fire services and create a wholly volunteer service and a separate paid force for built-up areas.

“When we go back to February 2009, the minister should be able to tell us how many career firefighters were on the firefighting ground on 7 February for the first 5½ hours of Black Saturday. I can tell the house that it was zero,” Mr Battin told Parliament.

The comments have infuriated firefighters who see the false accusations as part of an ongoing campaign by the volunteers association and the state opposition to demonise career firefighters.

Mr Battin told Fairfax Media he made a mistake with the comments, which were wrong, saying he took “full responsibility” for the comments he made on Wednesday. He posted an apology on his Facebook page on Sunday.

“It was my stuff-up, I apologise,” he said.

He has been inundated with angry emails and said he personally responded to complainants to apologise personally.

The Coalition has campaigned strongly against a workplace agreement for the hundreds of paid CFA staff, saying the union and government-backed enterprise bargaining agreement would undermine the role of the tens of thousands of volunteers.

Morale among firefighters has plummeted due to the ongoing dispute and deep divisions have emerged between career and volunteers in some places.

CFA Dandenong leading firefighter Stuart Radley said he and his colleagues were disgusted and deeply offended.

“I’m disgusted that Black Saturday has been dragged into this; it is more attacks on firefighters,” Mr Radley said.

He said using Australia’s worst bushfire “in an attempt to demonise firefighters for political gain was a disgrace”.

He said the toll on firefighters, and their families, had been rising due to attacks by some media and the state opposition.

Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley​ said career firefighters from MFB, CFA, Parks Victoria and the department were deployed in multiple roles to multiple bushfires across the state during Black Saturday.

“Working together is a must and we won’t compromise community safety by allowing any division between our paid or volunteer firefighters. Working together on the ground is the only way to work and is a must now and into the future,” he said.

Emergency Services Minister James Merlino​ said Mr Battin “should be ashamed of himself; there is no limit to his disgraceful comments when it comes to our hardworking firefighters”.

“He has clearly misled the Parliament and must apologise not only to the Assembly but also to the firefighters who saved lives during Australia’s worst ever bushfire,” Mr Merlino said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien