Volunteers say a new deal for paid firefighters forces fire chiefs to need an agreement with the union to allocate resources. Andre Haermeyer, a former Labor politician and a supporter of Mr Andrews, said it risks alienating volunteers critical to Victoria’s firefighting.
“I’m not wanting to cause undue alarm, but these things do affect public safety,” he said.
“It’s that sort of 15,000 or so highly motivated, highly trained volunteers we have in the urban regions of Melbourne.
Mr Haermeyer said under the current rules, volunteer firefighters can be prevented from taking immediate action in emergency situations.
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“Say for example, the security services become aware of a terrorist threat,” he said.
“That requires a certain degree of confidentiality, because you’re not wanting to blow the lid on an operation, but at the same time it requires some allocation of resources [and] some decisions to be made by fire services.
“Under the existing industrial relations infrastructure in Victoria, that can’t happen without the union effectively being called in to agree to that redeployment of resources to a particular location and being told why.”
Government should admit a mistake: former minister
According to Mr Haermeyer, instability caused by the firefighters union is the common factor, and something he experienced during his time as a minister.
“It’s sort of an all-or-nothing approach, and it can become very menacing and intimidating at times when you’re taking phone calls at 2:00am or 3:00am in the morning,” he said.
“The whole demeanour and the whole tone and the whole tenor of it is not pleasant.”
But he said in this case, the Government should admit a mistake and change strategy.
“You’ve had countless senior management and operational personnel across numbers of fire services walk out,” Mr Haermeyer said.
Premier rules out legal challenge to federal intervention
The Victorian Government has tried to force the deal through in order to end a three-year dispute before the summer bushfire season.
The Federal Government has sided with volunteers, and this week secured crossbench support to pass a legislative intervention.
Industrial law experts said they believed it could breach the constitution, and be vulnerable to a High Court challenge.
Mr Andrews today appeared to rule out a legal challenge.
“We have no plans to do that at this stage,” he said.
“If we have more to add to that, comments to make on that, we will.
“But I’m still waiting for [Prime Minister] Mr [Malcolm] Turnbull, [Employment] Minister [Michaelia] Cash and others to explain the problem they’re trying to fix and how their laws fix it.” The controversial deal is on hold while a Supreme Court challenge from volunteers plays out.