Divisions deepen on CFA

24 Jul 2017 Warrnambool Standard, Warrnambool VIC (General News) by Everard Himmelreich THE CFA issue has been a divisive one for several years and the divisions spread to the volunteer ranks at State Upper House hearings in Hamilton on the proposal to split the CFA. CFA volunteers from south-west volunteer only CFA stations put a very different case at Fridays hearings to that given by volunteers from stations that have both volunteer and paid fire-fighters such as Warrnambool and Portland. Those from the integrated stations, who appeared with the paid CFA station chiefs, did not depart from the line that they got along fine with the paid fire-fighters at their stations. That was disputed by Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) councillor Owen OKeefe, of Winslow, who said he understood it was no bed of roses between volunteer and paid fire-fighters at integrated stations. Mr OKeefe said he knew of some volunteers who had left integrated stations and gone to volunteer only stations. He said paid CFA staff were government employees and could be expected to support the governments proposal to make the CFA an volunteer-only organisation and place paid fire-fighters in a separate body. The difference in opinions prompted a blunt call from committee member metropolitan Labor MP, Shaun Leane, for hard evidence on why the volunteer only stations opposed the proposal other than it would hurt their feelings. David Blackmore, from the Westmere CFA Group that operates east of the Grampians, said he did not agree with the proposal to second paid staff to the volunteer-only CFA. The CFA should have the ability to employ its own people, he said. Mr OKeefe said he was also concerned the only way CFA volunteers could get a paid position under the proposal was to do the training for paid fire-fighters. If you have tremendous personal skills, you still have to come in through a station, he said. Another committee member, Labor MLC Jaclyn Symes, attacked Mr OKeefes credentials as a defender of the CFA, citing a 2012 media report that he supported the former Liberal governments funding cuts to the CFA. Mr OKeefe responded that 2012 was a long time ago and he could not recall the situation.