Emergency Management Legislation Amendment Bill 2018

I am delighted to join the debate on the Emergency Management Legislation Amendment Bill 2018. Contrary to what the opposition lead speaker would have you believe, this bill is not about an enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA). It is not about shafting volunteers. It has come about because we have taken responsibility as a government to address the concerns and to address the findings of the inquiry into the Hazelwood mine fire. That was the primary initiation of this. Those opposite would want to paper over their appalling response and lack of oversight to that fire and that major health risk in the Latrobe Valley. You had ministers going down there and offering vacuum cleaners and mops and completely underestimating the breadth of the problem. This was a problem that impacted on the whole community as well as our first responders, which included volunteers and career staff.

I am pleased that the opposition said they would not oppose this bill, but if they were actually courageous and if they actually wanted to front up and acknowledge that we need better responses and better planning for events like the Hazelwood mine fire, they would have stood up and said that they are supporting this bill. There has been broad consultation. Even if they did not want to acknowledge their own failings, they could actually get up and support the bill and say, ‘Do this better’, but instead they want to continue the war that they are fanning and promoting — the political war within our fire services.

This bill replaces the outdated emergency management planning arrangements in the Emergency Management Act 1986 and the Emergency Management Act 2013 with a new integrated framework to strengthen Victoria’s emergency preparedness.

One of the criticisms that the opposition lead speaker has made about the EBAs is that they are way too prescriptive, that they will impede volunteers’ involvement and that they will impede the chief officer’s powers. Given the sorts of proposals that were coming from the lead speaker from the opposition, his proposals and his prescriptions would be unworkable for this emergency management framework. It will continue that local government will lead local planning. This side of politics actually respects local government as an independent tier of government, and Labor federally actually wanted to change the constitution to recognise it in that way. Local government will continue to lead those planning committees, so it is a complete furphy and a complete misrepresentation for the member for Gembrook to try to present that volunteers would be shut out from those planning committees. What a load of rot. I see he has walked out because he does not want to listen to the facts.

In the areas that I represent — the Shire of Nillumbik, the City of Whittlesea and the Shire of Mitchell — and with other management plans that exist in the area, such as the Plenty Gorge fire prevention committee, I see that there would be no reason why volunteers would be excluded by those local governments. The truth is that they would not be. In terms of regional areas of the state and in the many small shires, it just beggars belief that the member for Gembrook spent a long period of his time saying that farmers would be shut out of these committees because career staff from some evil fire organisation or a member of an evil union would stop farmers being involved in their own municipal planning committee by having the meetings during the day. What a load of rot.

It is just a continued nonsense that has come from the other side and a disrespect to volunteer firefighters and to career firefighters. I am sure that the volunteer brigades that I have been a member of — the Diamond Creek brigade and the Doreen brigade — will still be requested by the City of Whittlesea and by the Shire of Nillumbik, as will Diamond Creek be asked by the City of Banyule, to provide representation on municipal emergency management committees. I think that along with staff from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and Parks Victoria in my local area their expertise will continue to be requested.

I did not hear all of the member for Gembrook’s contribution, but I do not believe that he said much about giving greater independence to the important role of the inspector-general for emergency management. Is he seriously trying to say that if the inspector-general for emergency management has greater independence, that is going to lead to the inspector-general for emergency management being the one that would exclude volunteers? I think that that is just a ridiculous proposition.

And I do not believe that he mentioned the clarification for statutory compensation arrangements for Victoria State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers. These volunteers need to have a fair system so that they can be recognised if they suffer injury when they are undertaking their duties across the state. I apologise to the member for Gembrook if he did mention it, but certainly in the last 20-odd minutes of his contribution I did not hear it once.

I think that that is consistent with the actions of those opposite — their inaction — in responding to the Fiskville crisis. They were left wanting in that they did not respond and did not take action for those volunteers and community members that were terribly exposed in the poisoning there, along with career staff. The member for Gembrook could not even remain on the parliamentary committee to investigate what had occurred to career staff, to volunteers and indeed to members of the community, including children.

There is a smaller aspect of the bill that facilitates the proposed relocation of the Broadmeadows SES unit, whose current site has been sold by the local council. I really wanted to give a shout-out to the Broadmeadows SES. I was really pleased when a previous minister, Tim Holding, and the following minister, Bob Cameron, assisted me in establishing for the first time an SES unit in the growing municipality of the City of Whittlesea. I do not believe those opposite set up any units in new communities.

I really want to thank the Broadmeadows SES unit, who mentored, trained and partnered with the Whittlesea SES volunteers based in Mernda. Gary Doorbar, the controller, and the fantastic volunteers there do a really good job. I want to give a shout-out to one of their youngest members, Emilia Sterjova, who also contributes to her community as the local ward councillor in the north. I want to congratulate her as well because she stood up to the previous council in the City of Whittlesea when they cut ongoing funding to the Whittlesea SES unit despite the fact that they protect and respond to emergencies dealing with a whole lot of municipal assets.

Thank you so much to the Whittlesea SES unit. Thank you to the Broadmeadows SES unit for the great work that you have done in supporting that new unit. Thank you to those who provide other support — the Nillumbik SES unit, the Kinglake SES unit and the Kilmore SES unit — to communities within the Yan Yean electorate. I am really glad that this bill will provide additional compensation and protection for those volunteers when they are doing the difficult work that they do. I commend the bill to the house.