Has the AVBFB changed its position on the Rural Fire Division? (V1.0 New)
Unfortunately, there has been some misinformation distributed claiming the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades (AVBFB) has changed its position on the government’s recent announcements regarding the Rural Fire Division and other associated decisions.
We have not.
Since the government announced its decisions on 13 April, the AVBFB has consistently:
- provided public comment in support of the new focus on mitigation,
- publicly acknowledged our appreciation for the Minister and Commissioner for being accessible,
- said the announcement was not ideal but a step in the right direction, and
- explained that we were not able to provide a more thorough analysis until we had more detail.
The AVBFB then invested hundreds of hours over the next four weeks trying to work collaboratively with government to obtain more detail and resolve points of difference in the most positive and productive way possible. We hope the following facts help bring clarity to any stakeholders that may have been confused by some recent media reports.
For the record
- The AVBFB distributed this media statement 20 minutes after the government announcement on 13 April 2018 that included the following quotes:
“…although there is still a lot of detail to be confirmed, [the] Association is very supportive of the apparent direction the government has taken.”
“Based on what we know so far, the AVBFB is pleased with today’s announcement”
“a very positive step forward in what will inevitably be a long journey of repairing the damage of the past.”
- The very next business day, we asked for meetings to learn more of the details and offer our assistance in delivering the project. The first opportunity that was available was the morning of Friday 20 April, when we met with Commissioner Klemm and the new Executive Director of the Rural Fire Division, Murray Carter.
- The AVBFB published “An open letter to Members regarding the Rural Fire Division” on 21 April that included the following paragraphs:
“Although we understand and accept the need for secrecy in some government decisions, it is regrettable that we weren’t able to provide input on a draft structure before the Rural Fire Division was announced by Premier Mark McGowan last Friday. We said on the day (and in the days since) that there were many details yet to be provided and a sub-department of DFES was not ideal, but the heavy focus on mitigation and commitment to make the allocation of ESL more transparent were excellent steps forward.”
“The association had its first series of in-depth meetings with senior DFES staff yesterday to discuss some of the details of the Rural Dire Division (RFD). Although we still need a lot more detail before we will make a full judgement, it is already clear that many volunteers will be disappointed by what is currently planned.”
- The Esperance Express published an article on 16 April titled “Rural Fire Division, Cascade Scaddan report author expresses concern despite praise for increased mitigation funds” in which local volunteers raise concerns about the Rural Fire Division model the government has delivered.
- The Collie Mail published an article on 19 April 2018 titled “New fire division concerns” in which it was reported a local volunteer openly criticised the plan directly to the Minister on Sunday 15 April then walked out of the meeting.
- The AVBFB has verifiable records of many telephone conversations, emails and meetings with Minister Logan’s Office, the Premier’s Office, the Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Services, the Executive Director of the Rural Fire Division and other senior DFES staff in which the Association shared concerns about aspects of the 12 April announcements and offered help to fix problems.
- The Minister told Parliament on 8 May 2018:
“I have been out on the road over the last two weeks, and I have spoken to 29 shires and cities and 153 brigades through the south west, the great southern and the wheatbelt. Every single one of them applauds what we have done.“
- In response to the assertion that the AVBFB is disappointed that the RFD is not autonomous as the Ferguson Report recommended, the Minister told ABC Radio on 16 May 2018:
“I’ve made that clear to the 150 brigades I’ve spoken to in the last 3 weeks and in 30 towns and cities across Western Australia and no one opposed me when I raised that issue. No one opposed me.“
- GWN TV reported on 19 May that the Minister says he was “blindsided” by news that the AVBFB is unhappy with parts of the government’s announcements regarding Emergency Services.
- The AVBFB has received many and emails from volunteers expressing concern about what has been delivered, explaining that they did not raise their concerns directly with the Minister during his road trips because they were not given enough notice and could not attend the meeting, there was not enough time to think about what the Minister had said before he left the meeting and/or they were not given enough detail at the time to even know what to ask.
- The AVBFB has chosen to make public comment now for the following reasons:
- As the peak body for the incredible 26,000+ women and men of the State’s largest emergency service, the Association has a duty to provide as much information to the members of the Volunteer Bush Fire Service as soon as it can be provided with confidence.
- Despite the AVBFB very clearly and repeatedly articulating its concerns directly to the Office of the Premier, Minister, FES Commissioner and RFD Executive Director over the past four weeks, a number of public statements have been made inaccurately suggesting that there is universal support for the decisions the government made regarding the Rural Fire Division.
- We are of the view that we have exhausted all opportunities to improve the decisions that have been taken and it is important to ensure our members are fully briefed on where the situation currently stands.