Central West Rural Fire Service
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Emergency Services. Is he aware of significant discontent from volunteer firefighters in the Central West who have complained about fire management procedures and administration costs of the Rural Fire Service? In light of those concerns, what is the Government doing to support the work of those firefighters and allay their concerns?
The Hon. TONY KELLY: I am aware that last Saturday a meeting was held in Orange, where, coincidentally, present and past National Party figures such as Gary Nairn, Russell Turner and Peter Cochrane spoke to Rural Fire Service volunteers. Some members might like to consider the political motives behind the meeting. Three key speakers were past and present members of the Federal and State Coalition. The meeting popped up just before Wilson Tuckey's Federal parliamentary inquiry and raised issues that the National Party has been peddling for the past six months. For example, it involved the same people who orchestrated a similar stunt at Goobang about seven days before the State election. I would hate to think that members of this once-great rural party would seek to politicise the men and women who give their time as volunteers of the Rural Fire Service by exploiting some local grievances among members.
The reality is that after years of Coalition neglect the Carr Government has overseen the transformation of the Rural Fire Service into one of the best-trained, well-equipped and most effective fire-fighting services in the world. The Treasurer has allocated the money to provide training and equipment after years of neglect by the National Party. We enjoy the support of the Rural Fire Service Association, the peak body representing the interests of volunteers. I have received written support from the association's vice-president, Donald Luscombe, for our work in areas such as co-ordinating bush fire-fighting arrangements; organising reforms to the Rural Fire Service, in particular the transfer of district staff from local to State Government employment; and streamlining the hazard-production process. I would welcome any submission that might come from the meeting. I will continue to work with Commissioner Koperberg and the Rural Fire Service to ensure that any genuine concerns are dealt with.