VBRC recommended periodic fire service boundary review

Just a quick note to point out a fact that has been missing from commentary about the possibility of restructuring Victoria’s fire services and/or reviewing the metropolitan fire district boundary.

The missing fact is this: the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission recommended periodic reviews of the boundary.

This was meant to be part of the role of the Fire Services Commissioner (a role occupied since its inception by Craig Lapsley). Here is the recommendation:

The Brumby Government implemented Recommendation 63 in legislation via the Fire Services Commissioner Act 2010. Hansard records that the the full text of Recommendation 63 was read out a number of times in parliamentary speeches in relation to the bill, and the recommendation is quoted in full in the Explanatory Note to the Fire Services Commissioner Bill 2010.

However, for undocumented reasons, the Bill itself did not include boundary review in its list of functions and powers of the Commissioner.

In 2013 the Napthine Government introduced the Emergency Management Act 2013, which repealed the Fire Services Commissioner Act and renamed the role to Emergency Services Commissioner. Still, boundary review did not appear in its list of functions of the Commissioner.

The Royal Commission recommended periodic boundary reviews by the Fire Services Commissioner, but this never made it into legislation. Successive Labor and Coalition Governments had the opportunity to implement this recommendation, but declined. Why?

The Report of the Royal Commission elaborated on the reasons why it made this recommendation. These are reasons that surely remain valid. It said:

So there you have it. The Chair and Commissioners of the 2009 Bushfires Royal Commission believed there was a need for periodic review of the metropolitan district boundary, and included this among its recommendations. The Brumby Government nominally implemented the parent recommendation, but failed to include the boundary review provision. The Napthine Government refreshed the legislation but again stayed clear of boundary reform.

I wouldn’t like to speculate as to why successive governments failed to tackle boundary reform, despite the findings of the Royal Commission. Hansard seems to offer no discussion or clues. Finding out why they demurred would mean having access to the people who were involved. That sounds like a job for a professional journalist. How about it, journos?

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