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Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Page: 1434

Country Fire Authority

Senator HUME (Victoria) (14:06): My question is to the Minister for Employment, Senator Cash. Can the minister update the Senate on the actions the government is taking to protect emergency services volunteers?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:06): I thank Senator Hume for her question. I am pleased to say that, last night, the government delivered on its election commitment to protect the volunteers in the Country Fire Authority from a hostile union takeover instigated by the Andrews Labor government in Victoria. This is a victory for the thousands and thousands of men and women who have fought tirelessly to defend the integrity, the autonomy and the authority of their CFA.

I would like to thank the Senate crossbench, including One Nation, the Nick Xenophon Team, the Liberal Democrats, Derryn Hinch's Justice Party and Family First, who all supported the CFA volunteers. Together we have ensured that this vital organisation will be autonomous and strong and will continue to keep Victorians safe. This has been a very long and a very sorry saga. The Country Fire Authority is one of the largest and the most effective volunteer based organisations in the world. It is something that Australians and in particular the Victorians in this place should be so very proud of.

As you know, Mr President, in particular over the past few months a dark cloud has been cast over the 60,000 volunteers. The proposed enterprise agreement, despite—

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator CASH: the lack of respect being shown by Senator Cameron. This is how members of the Australian Labor Party under Bill Shorten treat volunteers. They show a complete lack of respect for them. On this side of the chamber we will continue to put volunteers first every day of the week.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hume, a supplementary question?

Senator HUME (Victoria) (14:08): Can the minister apprise the Senate of why this action was necessary and the consequences of not acting to protect volunteers?

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:08): Despite the interjections from those opposite, perhaps they would like to listen to former minister Jane Garrett and what she had to say about the proposed enterprise agreement. The last time I checked, she did not sit on this side of the chamber in Victoria. She did not sit on the Liberal government's side; she sat with the Labor government, those who are in power. She was so disgusted by what Daniel Andrews and Bill Shorten are endorsing in Victoria that she stepped aside. A senior minister was so disgusted with what she was being asked to do that she put her principles first, unlike those on the other side, who are prepared to trample all over the 60,000 volunteer firefighters in Victoria. Quite frankly, shame on Mr Shorten. Mr Shorten is allegedly a member from Victoria. If I was a constituent in Victoria, I would be ashamed to have him as one of our members. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hume, final supplementary question.

Senator HUME (Victoria) (14:10): Can the minister inform the Senate of any alternative approaches?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:10): Unfortunately, I can. What we have seen over the past few months in particular is a shameless power grab by the United Firefighters Union wholly endorsed by the Daniel Andrews Labor government. And, of course, last night we saw it on full display in the Senate when those opposite refused to support the 60,000 volunteers and instead were prepared to defend the actions of the United Firefighters Union every step of the way. You are talking about tens of thousands of Victorian men and women who selflessly put their lives on the line because they believe in their Victorian communities. The Labor Party have shown they do not care for volunteers and they will not show them respect, and shame on them.