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Letters to the Editor

Broader focusHINDMARSH Mayor Debra Nelson seems to have a one-eyed outlook for support of youth in the shire.
Nanjing Night Net

I am sure our small communities need more support for groups seeking much neededfinancial and volunteer support to keep viablethan the need for a skate park.

Our roads, schools, nursing home, hospital, men’s outdoor group, Lions club, RSL andcommunity centre are some that I could name desperately needing support.

JUDITHNEAGLE

Dimboola

Too many electionsTHEfrustration caused by the number of by-elections because some politicians resign for frivolous reasons expressed by William McIlwain in his letter April 22 will strike a chord with many people.

It can be argued that we have too many elections so please do not inflict on us an election for the president of any republic that might emerge in the distant future.

His disappointment may be allayed by considering that some 80 per cent of the total cost of any election ultimately lands inthe bank accounts, wallets and purses of the people at the coal face including those who make the paper.

If these are law-abiding people, 30 per cent of iton average, will go back to the government in income tax. Of the remainder, about eightper cent will be sacrificed to government in goods and services tax.

Thus, government revenue overall is ‘out of pocket’only about half the initial outlay.

On the flipside, by-elections occur only in localised areas and are much less costly than general elections. Maybe, therefore, we should only haveby-elections with general elections every four, five or more years.

RON FISCHER

Horsham

Strength and commitmentINan overwhelming display of strength and commitment, a volunteer firefighter motorcade of 421 Country Fire Authority vehicles hit the streets of Melbourne on Saturday to show support for the authority and Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett.

The vehiclescame from all over the state including Melbourne’s outer suburbs, regional centres and throughout country Victoria.

Not since the mid-1980s, when tens of thousands of fire authority volunteers protested in Melbourne against a proposed amalgamation of the authority and Metropolitan Fire Brigade, has there been anything approaching the size of Saturday’s protest.

The motorcade to Melbourne took less than 24 hours to organise.

Volunteers want an end to political and industrial interference in the authority and its ability to service the community.

The authority is a volunteer-based fire and emergency service operating a fully integrated system of paid staff working with volunteers at a small number of urban brigades (just over 30 integrated brigades out of 1200 brigades across Victoria).

Volunteers make up over 97 per centof the authority’s workforce.

The authority’s integrated model of 60,000 volunteers working with 880 front line paid staff and a similar number of paid support staff results inone of the most effective fire and emergency services in the world.

We respond to local and major fires and emergencies from house fires and car accidents to multiple major bushfires like Black Saturday. We provide firecover for 60 per centof greater Melbourne’s suburbs and all of regional and rural Victoria.

But the firefighter’s industrial union, based in Fitzroy, is intent on dividing paid and volunteer staff, marginalising volunteers and flooding the authority with unneeded extra paid staff to replace thousands of urban volunteers from the suburbs and regional centres without increasing public safety.

Their instrument to achieve this is the proposed enterprise bargaining agreement which is reported to be the subject of a secret deal between the premier and the union’s secretary Peter Marshall, a deal done behind the minister’s back.

The deal gives the union virtually all that it wants including a minimum of seven paid firefighters at incidents before any firefighting can start (trained and qualified volunteer firefighters are not to be counted) and a ‘consultation’clause that requires union agreement before the authority can make operational and organisational changes.

In short, such a deal would progressively kill the authority’s integrated model of volunteers and paid staff working together and delivering consistently high levels of public safety.

This deal will come at an enormous cost to Victorians with large annual increases in the fire service levy on households and business year after year and a heavy draw on the state’s budget.

The public safety implications are particularly troubling.

If you undermine, deactivate and progressively push out volunteers, who will provide Victoria with the surge capacity to respond to major fires and emergencies?

And if you are substantially reliant on paid staff be prepared to pay overtime, penalty rates, extra shift allowances, meal allowances, accommodation costs and allowances as well as the wages that will be required to have sufficient paid staff available.

And remember wages and allowances for paid firefighters will be going up by 19 per centunder the Andrews-Marshall industrial deal.

Daniel Andrews either hasn’t thought this through or just doesn’t care.

Jane Garrett has demonstrated that she has thought this through, understands the detail of the issues and repeatedly demonstrated she does care.

ANDREW FORD

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.