The AVBFB was contacted by the media recently to publicly critique Commissioner Gregson’s “Transfer of command” ceremony planned for this Friday. As we do with all media appearances, we considered this carefully and decided to decline the request because we did not believe it was in the interests of the volunteer bush fire service or government to draw public attention to the event.
Regardless of our attempt to not draw attention to it, a story suggesting Commissioner Gregson’s “Transfer of Command” ceremony is a waste of money ran in the media this morning.
Given these circumstances, it is now important to ensure all of our members and stakeholders understand the background and why the AVBFB will not be officially represented at Commissioner Gregson’s farewell on Friday.
Our carefully considered decision is based on two significant issues:
- The Department of Fire and Emergency Services is almost entirely funded from the Emergency Services Levy. For the 2016/17 financial year, The total cost of DFES services was $397 million, with more than a third of a billion dollars of that money being from tax payers via local government through the ESL. We do not know how much the event will cost in staff time and actual cash for catering etc, but since many Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades have been refused ESL funding on the premise that there is not enough to go around, we can not, in all good conscience, support any expenditure that isn’t helpful to the “front line”.
- The AVBFB has a great deal of documentation to prove that it has been trying to work with DFES to change the police-like, “command and control” culture that started to develop 5 years ago. In that correspondence, we have specifically named the transparency of the ESL allocation process as well as increasing red tape, rigid administrative structures and focus on military style levels of authority as some of the big issues that impact on attracting and retaining volunteers in our service. The government’s Keelty and Ferguson reviews of major incidents have also highlighted the growing discontent and potential for serious problems caused by diverging cultures. This ultimately resulted in the government agreeing to create a rural fire service. It is therefore quite difficult to understand how supporting a military-style parade called a “Transfer of COMMAND” ceremony would achieve anything other than solidify the stark differences between the cultures of the services.
As stated above, the AVBFB had no plans to make public comment regarding this issue, despite Commissioner Gregson’s aggressive and unhelpful parting shots at the Volunteer Conference on the weekend. However, because the issue was publicly aired this morning, we thought it was best to make this statement to ensure our members and stakeholders fully understood the position we have been forced to take.
We will not be making further public comment on Commissioner Gregson’s parade and sincerely wish him and his family well in his retirement.