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August 23, 2016

The only “sinister purpose” in relation to the current Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA) dispute is the Abbott-Turnbull Government opportunistically and dishonestly misleading Victorians, volunteer firefighters and the Parliament about its proposed CFA Legislation.

Today the Government has confirmed that this legislation will provide the right to challenge the proposed agreement between the CFA and the paid firefighters in the Fair Work Commission.

But the proposed agreement is already the subject of a legal challenge in the Supreme Court of Victoria, scheduled for 22 September, and the Enterprise Agreement cannot be signed until that case is concluded.

The CFA legislation should not be brought before the Parliament until that case is resolved and the Parliament can consider whether the legislation will have any effect at all on the CFA dispute.

The legislation released today is drafted in broad terms but the Government hasn’t thought about the implications other than to further its politically motivated intervention in this Victorian issue.

The Government has clearly had no regard to the interests of career firefighters in ensuring the safety of career and volunteer firefighters through the proposed agreement.

Labor is concerned that in its unseemly and unnecessary rush to play politics, the Government will ignore the unforeseen or undisclosed effects of this legislation on a range of organisations.

Labor is particularly worried given the fact that the Employment Minister does not seem to understand or to have read the Enterprise Agreement she is trying to decimate.

In an error-riddled opinion piece published today, Michaelia Cash:

  • Incorrectly asserted that volunteers can’t fight fires until seven paid firefighters are present, when the agreement only requires that seven firefighters be sent to the fire. She then pretended that it was only an – when the point is nothing stops volunteers from turning up and fighting the fire.“incorrect use of wording”

  • Incorrectly asserted that paid fire fighters report only to other paid firefighters, when incident controllers – whether paid or volunteer – will continue to direct paid firefighters.

  • Incorrectly asserting that the CFA must get the union’s approval for changes in policy, when consultation is already an integral part of such agreements, to ensure the safety of firefighters and the community.

These mistakes by the Minister weren’t off the cuff. They were carefully scripted and they are just plain wrong.

Is the Government deliberately dishonest, woefully incompetent, or both? However you cut it, it’s completely unacceptable.

Based on the evidence Malcolm Turnbull and Michaelia Cash can’t be trusted with this matter.