We must admit this media statement published under the name of Acting Emergency Services Minister Hon Bill Johnston on Monday caught the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades (AVBFB) a bit by surprise.
When a journalist called for comment we told her that it was surprising to see any media statement on this issue, let alone one being made by the Hon Bill Johnston while he acts for the actual Minister Hon Fran Logan who is on a short holiday.
Indeed, it is rare to see acting Ministers make any public comment about anything in the portfolios they are babysitting for two very good reasons:
- They don’t want to be seen to be undermining the substantive Minister and,
- They are typically so busy with their own portfolios the last thing they want to do is learn more about someone elses.
Of course, we have acting Ministers because occasionally something unexpected or unavoidable pops up that must be addressed but that is normally the only time you’ll see an acting Minister speak on behalf of their beach-going colleague. And that is why it was surprising to see Minister Bill Johnston put his name to what is very old news.
Here’s the first line of the Acting Minister’s media statement released at 9:05am on Monday 9 July 2018:
The McGowan Government has committed an additional $8.732 million to the rollout of the crew-cab protection program, extending the program’s reach beyond the initial four-year funding commitment.
And here’s a screenshot of a “Fact Sheet” the government published 2 months ago on 10 May 2018:
We really don’t know if something (yet to be made public) happened to make it important enough for the Acting Minister to pro-actively make the redundant statement, there’s internal “things” happening or if Minister Logan’s spin team simply has a calendar of announcements already scheduled to try to strengthen support for its 10% increase to the Emergency Services Levy (ESL).
It’s not our place to comment on the first two possibilities, but we really hope we will not see redundant media statements being pumped out to try to convince the public that their almost half a billion dollar per annum contribution to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) via the ESL is fixing the wrongs of the past.
If that is the case, we make this heartfelt plea: more openness, collaboration and consultation is the solution – not more spin.
In this specific case, of course the Association supports resources being directed toward fire crew protection, just as we did when the decision was announced two months ago.
But we have also long argued for more resources to be directed toward purpose-built vehicles.
If that message had been heard and heeded, we would eventually not need to be undertaking the expensive, inefficient retro-fitting of safety devices like ill-fitting fire curtains to what is effectively a fleet of delivery trucks with water tanks bolted on.
To be very clear, the AVBFB supports resources for the protection of our crew in the case of a burn-over, but urge the government to consider our consistent argument that the best protection is to buy vehicles that aren’t as likely to ever get stuck in that situation in the first place.