Public Sector Must Not Contract Controlled Burns

Thursday 13th November 2014


National Party MPs who want to open the door to contracting out controlled burns should hang their heads in shame, Australian Workers’ Union Victorian Secretary Ben Davis said today.


Regional communities would share the outrage of public sector firefighters that the public estate was in danger of being compromised with ill-considered assessments of what ‘value for money’ meant in terms of managing complex environments.


“It is not appropriate to take the ‘all care but no responsibility’ approach to fire suppression,” Mr Davis said.


“This is a matter which should be settled decisively now, with bi-partisan commitment against contracting, which aside from everything else is not cost efficient anyway.”


The experience of using contractors in this area gave DEPI and Parks Victoria workers no confidence in the Victorian Government’s ability to choose only those with the right credentials.


“Lives are at stake. It is vital that our forest firefighters are not exposed to greater danger than what they already encounter in the course of their work. They are professionals who should be working with other professionals,” he said.


“It is these people who will suffer the increased risk of working with, or in the wake of contractors who are highly unlikely to have the same level of skill, experience and understanding of the tasks at hand.” 


Any move towards contracting not only compromised the security of the firefighters, the public estate and the communities that bound it, but also damaged secure employment in regional areas.


“Regional workers have the right to secure employment and the opportunity to contribute to their communities in this extraordinarily valuable capacity,” Mr Davis said.


“Public sector firefighters are the unsung heroes of the Australian bush, fighting fires and all too often fighting for their own lives as they do. They deserve our respect and our commitment to not increasing the dangers they face every fire season.”