Vic Government must take responsibility for planned burns

Wednesday 30th April 2014

The Victorian Government must listen to its own best advice and upgrade its resources rather than contract out planned burns to unknown private contractors.

 

The Australian Workers’ Union Acting Secretary Frank Leo said a leaked Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) internal report (Weekly Times 30.04.14) recommending outsourcing planned burns did not hold the answer to meet targets recommended by the Royal Commission into Black Saturday.

 

“This government while in Opposition committed to those targets and continued to once it won office,” Mr Leo said.

 

“The fact they have not been met is a disgrace. Yet again attempting to pass responsibility to private contractors is dangerous, and I fear is the thin end of the wedge.

 

“Let there be no misunderstanding. We need a properly resourced and peopled public sector firefighting force if Victoria and Victorians are to have the fire security they deserve.”

 

The level of deception in managing planned burns was highlighted by the fact DEPI included land burnt by bushfires when reporting 275,192ha were burnt last financial year.

 

Legislation proposed by the State Government to extend the rights and abilities of forest industry brigades was another sign of a desire to abrogate responsibility for what is clearly a public obligation.

 

“This new legislation would allow private industry brigades to participate in planned public burns which is just another way of back-door contracting out responsibilities,” Mr Leo said.

 

Details of the leaked report included acknowledgment that DEPI did not have sufficient people to fulfil its obligations, and that the State Government had made it clear there would not be large-scale staff increases.