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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 143

Workplace Relations

Ms HENDERSON (Corangamite) (14:56): My constituency question is to the Prime Minister. On behalf or Corangamite constituents, I remind the Prime Minister of his recent visit to my electorate to meet with our wonderful CFA volunteers. Can the Prime Minister update the House on how our government will protect volunteer emergency services organisations, including the CFA in Victoria?

Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (14:56): I thank the honourable member for her question and recall that it was just after Christmas that Lucy and I joined her when we visited the fire devastated town of Wye River in her electorate on the Surf Coast of Victoria. There were many houses destroyed by that fire, but not one life was lost. That was because of the outstanding job done by the CFA volunteers, led by brigade captain Roy Moriarty. They developed a plan; they worked to that plan; and they got everybody out.

They are part of the heart and soul of that community. They are heroes, and we stand shoulder to shoulder with them. It was terrific to join the member for Corangamite in catching up more recently with CFA volunteers at the Highton Bowls Club, as I did with volunteer brigades in the Speaker's electorate at Coldstream in the Yarra Valley. We are inspired by the commitment, the courage, the professionalism of the volunteers of the Country Fire Authority, all 60,000 of them, right across Victoria. Again and again, they put their lives on the line to keep Victorians safe. They put themselves between Victorians and their property and horrific fires of over 1,000 degrees Celsius. We stand with them.

As we promised during the election campaign, we would stand up for the CFA volunteers in the face of an assault on their independence by the Andrews Labor government in Victoria. We are not going to stand back and allow a union takeover to undermine their autonomy. All of these men and women are volunteers; they are not paid to do it. They are doing it because of their big hearts and their love of the community. We said we would change the Fair Work Act to ensure the CFA volunteers could not be subordinated to the United Firefighters Union, as the Labor government in Victoria proposed to do. Today I introduced that legislation. Mr Speaker, in a nutshell, this legislation will make it unlawful to include a term in an enterprise agreement which undermines or disables the ability of that volunteer organisation to work with its volunteers. I call on the Leader of the Opposition, in particular, to support this legislation as a Victorian. He should stand with us and support the speedy passage of this bill. The sooner it is passed, the sooner the future of the CFA volunteers will be assured. Their autonomy will be supported. Their morale will be reinforced and restored. The sooner that is done, the sooner—and better—the safety of Victorians will be assured.