The Economic Regulation Authority’s (ERA) draft review into the emergency services levy (ESL) published today has reinforced a number of issues consistently raised by the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades (AVBFB) on behalf of its members in recent years.
AVBFB President Dave Gossage said the very first line of the ERA’s media statement declaring a need for “greater transparency about how the money is spent on emergency services,” is a fantastic start.
“The AVBFB has listened to its tens of thousands of members and argued for years that the ESL should not be managed by DFES – the organisation that also receives the vast majority of ESL grants,” Mr Gossage said.
“We are very pleased that the ERA has finally understood the difficulties this situation causes and recommended that ‘responsibility for the oversight of the ESL transfers from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services to an independent Office of Emergency Management’.
Mr Gossage also said his association has been vindicated in lobbying for WA’s new Rural Fire Service (RFS) to be a conversion of the current Volunteer Bush Fire Service rather than making it an extension of the Fire Rescue Department.
“The ERA has exploded the myth being propagated by the United Firefighters Union and others that fixing the current flaws in the DFES model would cost the State too much. The draft review clearly says what we have been arguing all along – properly resourcing WA’s existing 580 volunteer brigades is the most cost-effective solution.”
“I can’t help but think about the irony of the UFU arguing against creating a RFS because of cost when the ERA has now proven that the $500 million being touted is actually how much it would cost if it was done through the expansion of the unionised Fire Rescue department.”
“The ERA’s draft review is refreshingly open about many issues the AVBFB has been raising in what seemed like a vacuum for years.”
“However, we know the government has inherited a number of serious challenges and will continue to work with Minister Logan and Premier McGowan to undo the mistakes of the Barnett Government and deliver an efficient volunteer-based Rural Fire Service at the lowest cost possible,” Mr Gossage said.