Contentious reforms of labor fire services pass the law



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Firemen who filled the gallery to watch the debate applauded when the final vote was read: 21 votes to 18.

Green leader Samantha Ratnam, leader of the Reason Party, Fiona Patten, Animal Justice Party member Andy Meddick, and Western Metropolitan Independent Catherine Cumming voted with the government.

A late attempt by the Coalition and some offenders to divide the project into two parts, so that the presumed rights to cancer compensation for firefighters could become law without touching the Field Fire Authority, were rejected.

Victorian MP MP Fiona Patten was one of four support groups that supported the state government fire services law.

Victorian MP MP Fiona Patten was one of four support groups that supported the state government fire services law.Credit:James Brickwood

The legislative victory means that the Field Fire Authority will be transferred to an organization only for volunteers, maintaining its 1220 brigades of volunteers.

A new agency just for professionals called Fire Rescue Victoria will run metropolitan fire services, replacing the Metropolitan Fire Board. It will take control of the 38 "integrated" stations that are currently shared by professional firefighters MFB and CFA and CFA volunteers.

The boundaries of the state fire services will be changed, bringing the outlying suburban areas of Melbourne that are served by the CFA under the control of Fire Rescue Victoria.

The model will take effect in mid-2020, which means that there will be no change in the status quo until after the 2019-20 fire season.

Among the 21 MPs who voted in favor of legislation was Jane Garrett, the Labor Party's Emergency Services Minister, when the debate over fire-fighting reform was fiercer but now a House of Representatives legislature.

Jane Garrett, who resigned as project minister in the last parliament, voted him as a House of Representatives legislator.

Jane Garrett, who resigned as project minister in the last parliament, voted him as a House of Representatives legislator.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

Garrett sacrificed his ministerial career in 2016, refusing to support Premier Daniel Andrews' decision to join the United Firemen's Union in his industrial dispute with the CFA.

Garrett resigned sensationally as Minister of Emergency Services in 2016, taking sides with the CFA and the volunteers and against the preferential agreement of the United Firemen's Union, which represents professional firefighters.

Garrett was not the only opponent of the deal to resign or be fired.

Several CFA chiefs have left their roles, including Lucinda Nolan, the authority's first female head, and fire chief Joe Buffone.

The entire CFA board was fired by the Andrews government in 2016.

Attempts to clarify cultural problems with firefighters were also blocked.

A report by the Victorian Commission on Equal Opportunities and Human Rights that investigated complaints of workplace discrimination and bullying in the state's metropolitan and regional fire services has been completed but has never been published.

Hundreds of firefighters participated in the review, although a directive of the United Firemen's Union did not.

Prime Minister Daniel Andrews and Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings.

Prime Minister Daniel Andrews and Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings.Credit:Chris Hopkins

But the union successfully resorted to a decision in the Victorian High Court that should be published, overcoming a technical issue.

The federal government also tried to block the Metropolitan Fire Brigade's work contract at the Fair Work Commission, arguing that it was discriminatory because it did not allow staff to work part-time.

The Victorian Coalition overturned the Labor Party's attempt to break fire services last year but had to annul years of a parliamentary convention to do so.

The Coalition ambushes the Labor Party at the end of a debate in the marathon's upper house last year to defeat the project.

Two liberal deputies, Craig Ondarchie and Bernie Finn, were awarded a couple on Good Friday for religious reasons only to return to the chamber minutes before the vote.

Labor lawmakers Jaala Pulford and Philip Dalidakis left the chamber in accordance with the parliamentary pairing convention, and their absence gave the Opposition the numbers it needed to do away with government law.

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