Emergency services organisations have rejected a takeover bid by the WA Government.
In submissions to the Review of Emergency Services Acts, they claim the Department of Fire and Emergency Services doesn’t understand volunteer organisations and say “insensitive” language and a lack of training support has eroded trust.
The submissions, by the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades and the SES Volunteer Association, are confidential but both groups provided an overview to The Sunday Times. The DFES received more than 5300 comments on the review from 214 individuals and groups.
The review proposes giving the DFES control over responses to all natural disaster, including taking over floods and storms from the SES.
It also recommends bringing all emergency service volunteers under the “direct control” of the Fire Commissioner.
Local Governments would also have the option of “handing back” control of bush fire brigades.
There are 26,000 volunteer firefighters and 2,000 SES volunteers statewide. The review acknowledges that some might quit if their autonomy is taken away.
SES Volunteer Association president Gordon Hall said its strength was in its strong ties to the community, which would be diminished if it was centrally controlled.
Opposition emergency services spokeswoman Margaret Quirk said the submissions clearly raised significant concerns. She called on DFES to make all submissions publicly available.
The West Australian Local Government Organisation, in its submission also released to The Sunday Times, said the proposed changes increased the risk local governments could be sued, leaving them liable for damage caused by bushfire mitigation strategies gone astray.
[by Calla Wahlquist, The Sunday Times 24/08/2014]