Emergency Management Legislation Bill Amendment 2018

Mr WELLS (Rowville) (12:00:57) — I am speaking on the Emergency Management Legislation Amendment Bill 2018. I am not sure which bill the member for Oakleigh was speaking on when he was talking about saving chickens. I am just not sure what the point of all that was, and that is the problem when you have a metropolitan member of Parliament trying to talk about something to do with emergency services and the confusion around that. I just want to pick up on a couple of points by the member for Oakleigh —

Mr Dimopoulos — It is called an analogy, Kim.

Mr Nardella — Which country seat do you represent?

Mr WELLS — There we go. Which country seat do I represent, having grown up in the country — point number one — but where did you tell Parliament that you live? You told them you were living down in Ocean Grove —

Honourable members interjecting.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Spence) — Order! Member for Rowville, I ask you to direct your comments through the Chair. When you say ‘you’, you are speaking to me. So if you would please direct your comments through the chair, rather than taking up interjections.

Mr WELLS — The member for Melton is a crook.

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr WELLS — Well, here he is talking about country members —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Spence) — Order, member for Rowville!

Mr Nardella — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, I ask that the member withdraw.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Spence) — Member for Rowville, you have been asked to withdraw the comment. I ask you to withdraw.

Mr WELLS — You want me to withdraw the word ‘crook’?

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Spence) — Withdraw unconditionally.

Mr WELLS — I withdraw the word ‘crook’.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Spence) — No, that is not what I asked you to do. I asked you to withdraw the comment unconditionally.

Mr WELLS — I withdraw.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Spence) — Thank you. Continue.

Mr WELLS — It is interesting how all the Labor members were quick to defend him. I am just making the point. It was just fascinating that they were all very quick to get in and defend him. I just find it amazing.

The other issue I want to pick up by the member for Oakleigh —

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr WELLS — The only point I want to pick up from the member for Oakleigh is that the now Deputy Premier said that he would have presumptive legislation in here within 100 days. Within 100 days he would have proposed presumptive legislation. Where is it?

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr WELLS — Where is it? Within the first 100 days, the presumptive legislation —

Ms Hutchins — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, the member at the table is not even referring to the bill, and I ask you to bring him back.

Mr WELLS — On the point of order, Acting Speaker, I actually made it really clear that I was responding to comments made by the member for Oakleigh. I was responding directly to those comments when he mentioned the issue of presumptive legislation.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Spence) — I do not uphold the point of order. The member was responding to comments in the previous member’s contribution.

Mr Noonan — You buried the Monash report. That’s what you did. You did — you buried the Monash report on presumptive rights.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Spence) — Order, member for Williamstown!

Mr WELLS — It is interesting that the coalition went to the 2014 election promising presumptive legislation. We promised presumptive legislation. We made it very clear that we were promising that. It was part of our election platform, and we were wanting the Monash report to be released. To have the accusation, I love it how Labor —

Mr Noonan — Oh, come on — rewrite history. You’re rewriting history.

Mr WELLS — Rewrite history. They just love to rewrite history. But let us just make the point that the Deputy Premier said that he would have presumptive legislation in within 100 days. So if I could just talk about —

Mr Noonan — You are on record saying there was no leaking.

Mr WELLS — I will pick up the interjection again. We had it as an election commitment in 2014 that we would bring in presumptive legislation — very clear. So let me just go to the bill.

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr WELLS — I could say a few things, but I will hold back about you. I will hold back.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Spence) — Order! Member for Rowville, I have already asked you to direct your comments through the Chair. Again you are using the word ‘you’. I would ask you to not continue doing that and please direct your comments through the Chair.

Mr WELLS — In regard to the bill, can I start off by saying I want to thank all of our emergency services and our support services: Victoria Police (VicPol), the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), the Country Fire Authority (CFA), the Victoria State Emergency Service (SES), Life Saving Victoria, the Salvation Army, the Victorian Council of Churches for the amazing work they do in emergency services, Ambulance Victoria, the Red Cross and every single person who supports our emergency services.

Can I also thank Emergency Management Victoria (EMV). I make the point that it was actually the previous government that set up Emergency Management Victoria, and the reason we set it up was to coordinate all of the emergency services — the MFB, the CFA, the police, the SES and all these fantastic services — to make sure they were working in coordination, whether it be planning, attending fires or floods, or a health issue. It was actually the previous government that set up Emergency Management Victoria, so I found a bit odd that the member for Oakleigh would say that we did nothing when we actually set this up. The basis of this bill was mentioned by the Deputy Premier when he said that in 2014 the Victorian emergency management reform white paper, which is actually the basis for this bill, was put out by the previous government. The idea of putting out that white paper was to ensure that the coordination and the planning of all of our emergency services was going to be improved. We put this paper out to ensure that everyone in those country areas and every one of those agencies were talking and planning together on committees. That was the very basis for it.

But I do have a concern — and it was raised by the member for Gembrook — and it is the issue of who is actually going to be on these committees in those country areas. If you have an issue in Bruthen, Buchan or Omeo up in the East Gippsland area, we need to make sure that good, hardworking volunteers are part of that committee. In part 4 of the bill, on page 32, new section 54(1)(a)(iv) says:

(iv)  in the case of a region that includes part of the country area of Victoria (within the meaning of the Country Fire Authority Act 1958), a person, or the person holding a position or role for the time being, nominated by the Country Fire Authority …

Now, that could be, in theory, a person from Melbourne. A career firefighter from Melbourne could be nominated by the CFA, and to me that is wrong. It needs to be someone who has that local knowledge. Whether it be a planned burn, for example, or they are actually attending fires, there is no-one better than a local CFA volunteer in those far country areas to understand what needs to be done. The other issue that bothers me is, of course, is paragraph (iii) on the same page:

(iii)  in the case of a region that includes a metropolitan district or part of a metropolitan district (within the meaning of the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Act 1958), a person, or the person holding a position or role for the time being, nominated by the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board …

Now, the problem we have got is that with the latest enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA), which is going to go before a vote, that paragraph is actually contradicting the EBA. The EBA quite clearly allows the United Firefighters Union (UFU) to actually veto any role or position that has been put forward by the MFB board. It may be a position where, in the outer eastern areas or the outer western areas which are covered by the MFB, the chief fire officer may nominate a particular person and then that particular person is overruled by the UFU. They cannot abide by this legislation because it actually contradicts the EBA. That is just blatantly wrong.

So we would need to ensure, before this bill is signed off by the upper house and voted on, that we have clarity around part 4, ‘Regional level amendments’, and paragraphs (iii) and (iv) on page 32. We must have better clarity to ensure that the MFB chief fire officer has the right to appoint that person without any interference of the UFU and that we have CFA volunteers that can be appointed to these very important committees. Obviously the concern of the opposition coalition members is that we need those two positions clarified — that volunteers are going to be included as part of these committees, not excluded.