Hon Daniel Andrews MP
Premier of Victoria
1 Treasury Place
MELBOURNE
 
 
Dear Premier
 
Proposed Country Fire Authority Enterprise Agreement with the United Firefighters Union
 
I am writing about the proposed enterprise agreement between the United Firefighters Union and the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA), which I understand has your strong support.

Grave concerns, which I share, have been raised with me that the proposed agreement will seriously undermine the operation of the CFA and in so doing jeopardise the safety of Victorians and their property.

I will never forget the devastating loss of life and destruction of homes in the Black Saturday fires of 2009.

Standing between the fire and Victorians and their homes were more than 19,000 CFA volunteer fire fighters some of whom I was able to thank in the days after the fire. Many of the survivors owed their lives to the heroism and professionalism of those volunteers and other firefighters.

And it was only six months ago that Lucy and I met you as we visited the devastation of the Wye River fires and thanked the CFA volunteers and other firefighters for their skilful and courageous response. As you remember had it not been for the careful preparation and planning led by Roy Moriarty, the volunteer Captain of the Wye River Brigade, many lives could have been lost.

Under this proposed agreement, Roy, with all of his experience and years of leadership, will be subordinated to the members of the UFU.

Of course every summer, every year, the CFA volunteers are the front line of Victoria’s defence against the worst that nature can throw at us.

And as you know the CFA volunteers have for many years fought fires in other states and internationally.

The CFA has sent members interstate to provide support for their counterparts in recent emergencies, including:

  • New South Wales in October 2013
  • South Australia in January 2015
  • Tasmania in January 2016

A strong, highly motivated CFA is critically important for the maintenance of public safety in the face of bushfires — Australia’s most destructive and frightening natural disaster.

The proposed agreement appears to transfer the leadership of the CFA to the United Firefighters Union. The effective subordination of the CFA volunteers to the members of the UFU runs the grave risk of seriously demoralising and demotivating the volunteers.

I am particularly concerned by reports that thousands of CFA volunteers will resign if this is implemented.

The strength of the CFA is founded on the commitment of its sixty thousand volunteers — mass resignations, and a reduction in new recruits have the potential gravely to imperil the safety of Victorians.

The Board of the CFA, the organisation representing CFA volunteers, and the Victorian Minister for Emergency Services have all expressed their strong opposition to the UFU’s proposed agreement.

I urge you to heed their views and experience, and withdraw your support for this proposed agreement that effectively grants the Union a privileged position over the volunteers who risk their health and lives in the defence of their fellow Victorians and Australians.
 
Yours faithfully,

Malcolm Turnbull
Prime Minister