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Reform of the Fire Service Act 1979

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 9 August 2023

Tags: Bushfires, Fire Management

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, what a puerile, deliberately misleading and saccharine speech from the minister. He is clearly not reading the room. He is not listening. In fact, he is not even reading the motion we are debating today. He pretended to misunderstand what was being asked. It is clear that he does not understand that there is strong unity among the members who have spoken. If he does not listen he has a big problem coming his way.

Everyone agrees that the Fire Service Act needs to be updated. Everyone has been looking forward to the TFS and emergency services coming together. There are critical issues here about control of resourcing and the amount of resourcing available for that body.

The bottom line is how does the management of a huge volunteer fire fighting and emergency service organisation happen? This minister does not understand that a clear line of command already exists in relation to volunteer fire fighters. I spoke with John Gledhill and Mike Brown after the Budget Estimates debacle, where the minister debased himself, he demeaned the office of a minister of the Crown by publicly attacking and smearing the reputation of recent fire officer, Dermot Barry. Mr Barry is a man who gave a life of service to communities in emergency and fire fighting. The minister was so low as to attack him and smear his reputation.

I spoke to two long-standing past CFOs after that. Neither had been invited to give their views on what the minister is cooking up with his legislation. Between them they must have 70 years of responsibility for saving Tasmanian lives, yet he did not deign to have a conversation with them.

I believe after that Budget Estimates debacle he was forced to have a meeting. His response the whole way has been division and attack. He is not listening. I do not know where he thinks this is going to go, but it does not take a genius to read the crystal ball we are all looking into, and it is going to end in tears. Unless this minister changes what he is doing and listens to career and volunteer fire fighters, unless he listens to people in urban and rural areas, unless he listens to SES and TFS professionals and volunteers. He will not achieve the legislative outcome he wants. We have to have commitment to a sustainable funding model that is wholly within the control of a TFS that is an independent statutory authority.

It does not matter what the minister tries to pretend. Everyone else in this room understands that the model he is proposing would lead the new commission to go through the secretary of the department to get to the minister. There is absolutely no way that the fire and emergency services can support having the police commissioner, who under the State Service Act is the secretary of the department, in charge of their resourcing and their operational and volunteer management. The problem is that Tasmania Police is, necessarily, an autocratic hierarchical structure. There is a difference when you are managing volunteers between an acute emergency management and in between the operational management. Volunteers cannot be run with the same approach as people who are sworn members of the police force. It will not work. It will put our state in more danger, it is disrespectful and a flawed idea for the minister to continue down this path.

What Ms O'Byrne and Mr Tucker have said is that we are all on the same page here, pleading with the minister to read the room and understand that he has to engage on these key issues. Stop pretending that we are talking about something else. We are all in agreement about wanting to have an updated service. We disagree with the characterisation he has made of the fire service as basically being a failed state as it is.

We support the motion.