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Thursday, 15 September 2016
Page: 1084

Mr HUNT (FlindersMinister for Industry, Innovation and Science) (12:39): by leave—I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

By agreement, and I thank the opposition for this, I wish to make a few closing remarks on behalf of the government. This bill is about the values of the Crib Point CFA, the Hastings CFA, the Kernot CFA, the Lang Lang CFA, the Moorooduc CFA and so many others throughout the seat of Flinders, the state of Victoria and their rural fire service counterparts throughout each state and territory of Australia. It is about a very simple proposition: when people around the world think of Australians, they identify our lifesavers, our CFA volunteers and our emergency service volunteers as the soul, the essence, the vision and the sense of what it is to be Australian. Against that background this government made a pledge during the course of the last election that the first bill we would introduce would be the Fair Work Amendment (Respect for Emergency Services Volunteers) Bill 2016. That is what we have done. It honours our commitment to do all we can to protect Australia's emergency services from a hostile union takeover.

This is something that is fundamental to our communities, to our culture, to our sense of who we are. It is fundamental to our safety and our values. The threat to our communities is clear and present. It comes in the form of the agreement which has been rubberstamped by the Andrews Victorian Labor government and which has been greenlighted by the Shorten federal Labor opposition. What we see here is a clear and present danger. It is a danger not on the basis of what we say, but of what is said by those that are closest to the CFA, who were its defenders and protectors, and who have understood more closely than everybody else what it is to be a volunteer and why it matters.

Let us look at who has sacrificed their career to protect the volunteers. The Victorian Labor minister, Jane Garrett, national Vice-President of the Labor Party, resigned rather than rubberstamp this CFA takeover by the unions. That is the strength of concern which the Victorian emergency services minister had, which the national Vice-President of the ALP had. All credit to Jane Garrett for sacrificing her career so as not to be caught as a rubber stamp in the attack on volunteers' rights, freedoms and standing and the safety of our communities.

What did the CFA Chief Executive Officer, Lucinda Nolan, say in relation to her own resignation? She said before a parliamentary inquiry, only a few days ago in Victoria, that the agreement 'was not going to make the organisation a better place. It is destructive and divisive. I could not stay and oversee the destruction of the CFA … I think this has the potential to negatively impact the organisation, community safety, our volunteers and our volunteer contribution …'

Community safety was under threat. That could not be a stronger statement from the very person entrusted with the future of the CFA. Let me move even further. We go from there to the CFA board. The CFA board was sacked unceremoniously by the Victorian Labor government. What have they stated? On 6 June 2016 the board said:

We have serious concerns many of these proposed clauses—

in the EBA—

are unlawful and we have legal advice that indicates CFA would be in breach of its statutory obligations.

Legal advice!

Many of these clauses have no place in modern day workplaces and are out of step with today’s society.

They went on to say:

The proposed EBA undermines volunteers, our culture, allows the UFU operational and management control of CFA and is discriminatory.

Those are fundamental concerns from the people who know the EBA, the CFA and the union most closely. Then, of course, the chief fire officer, Joe Buffone, resigned. He resigned because he did not believe, with his statutory responsibilities for community safety, overseeing fire operations and other activities, that he could stay and justifiably discharge those duties.

Against that background we bring in this bill, which brings in fundamental protections for volunteers. It will protect in perpetuity the CFA volunteers of Crib Point, Kernot and so many other communities around the country. I commend the Fair Work Amendment (Respect for Emergency Services Volunteers) Bill 2016 to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a third time.