The following Question without Notice (QwN) was asked by the Member for Murray-Wellington Robyn Clarke and answered by the Minister for Emergency Services Hon Francis Logan in Parliament yesterday.
For the record, the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades (AVBFB) knows there is a lot of horseplay during question time in Parliament and because of that Members and Ministers sometimes do not get a chance to say everything they need or want to say. However, based on what was actually said yesterday, we thought it was very important to provide the following statement to ensure our members are absolutely clear about where the Association stands on the Rural Fire Division as of today:
The AVBFB is not entirely happy with the RFD. We have indeed applauded the Government for taking a step forward, especially with regard to its focus on mitigation. However, the Rural Fire Division is a long way from what the Association was hoping for and quite some way from what the Ferguson Inquiry recommended. We have informed the offices of the Minister, Premier and FES Commissioner and continue to offer suggestions and practical assistance to improve on what has been announced.
FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES — RURAL FIRE DIVISION
Mrs R. CLARKE to the Minister for Emergency Services:
I refer to the McGowan Labor government’s unprecedented $128 million investment into critical fire and emergency services and the decisive action taken to establish a rural fire division. Can the minister outline to the house what this will mean for bushfire management in Western Australia, including communities like mine?
Mr F. LOGAN replied:
I thank the member for Murray–Wellington for the question, and also for attending some of the briefings that we have given to the brigades around Western Australia after the announcement of the establishment of the rural fire division.
Just a minute ago, the Nationals WA were apparently clearly arguing about the failure of our government to put money into the bush. The announcement made by the Premier and me on 13 April about the establishment of a rural fire division is a complete contradiction to what the Nationals have been saying in this house only today. If we look at what we have done, we have achieved in one year what the former Liberal–National government struggled with for a number of years; that is, we have delivered on the contentious issue of a rural fire service, which was recommendation 15 of the Ferguson report. It recommended that an independent rural fire service be established and it also recommended a sub-department of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services if that could not be achieved as an independent service. We have delivered that in one year. The Nationals struggled with it for two years. In doing so, we have invested a record $80 million into rural and regional Western Australia to keep communities in regional Western Australia safe.
We have put an unprecedented $50 million into bushfire mitigation. No other government in Western Australian history has done that. Apparently, according to the Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner, no other government in Australia has done that.
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. We have also had support from the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia, the Western Australian Local Government Association, the Western Australian Farmers Federation, the United Firefighters Union of WA, the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades, the Emergency Services Volunteers Association, the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services Association of WA and the State Emergency Service. We also have support from the member for Roe and the National Party, and I thank them for that support for what we have done in keeping rural and regional communities safe. This is very well accepted.
The only issue I have—I will be briefing him very shortly—is with Hon Dr Steve Thomas, a member of the upper house, who has a bit of a problem with the rural fire division, particularly with its funding, which he thinks should come out of consolidated revenue, which would add to net debt, a major problem that the now opposition has created for us. He just does not understand that it comes out of the emergency services levy.
Nevertheless, I say to the Leader of the Opposition that I will be briefing Dr Thomas and the Nationals. I will run them through exactly what the rural fire division is all about and how it is funded.
Let us make one thing very clear: only Labor delivered on the Ferguson report and only Labor invested in the bush to keep rural and rural communities safe from bushfire.