MEMBER for Murray Plains and Nationals leader Peter Walsh and his Coalition partners have gone for the heavy artillery in the CFA saga.
They are promising a Royal Commission into Victoria’s fire services – if elected in November next year.
Mr Walsh said only an inquiry with the power of a Royal Commission – and its power of subpoena – will restore the confidence of local communities and the region’s CFA volunteers.
He said until the real and perceived cultural issues surrounding the institution are cured there won’t be the gender diversity it needs.
“The number of women in the fire services is going the wrong way, currently down 6 per cent this year,” Mr Walsh said.
“This decision to hold a Royal Commission is about protecting the people who protect us,” he said.
“The Royal Commission will be one of our first priorities when elected so we can have a final report handed down sometime in 2019.”
Mr Walsh said the policy, announced this week, would take the politics out of the bitter dispute over Victoria’s fire services.
He said many local volunteers have told him they feel there is no longer anyone left to stand up for them and to represent their interests.
“In the past year both the CFA and MFB boards have been replaced, resulting in more than 100 years of experience going down the gurgler,” Mr Walsh said.
“Serious allegations of bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment and discrimination within Victoria’s fire services have been brought to light in a series of reports but completely overlooked by Mr Andrews and his Labor Government.”
Mr Walsh said the ongoing dispute over the CFA and MFB’s enterprise bargaining agreements had also led to concerns about operational effectiveness.
“The implications the EBA has on community safety, and the process and conduct of these negotiations, will be a key area of investigation by the Royal Commission,” he said.
Ms Ryan said there was serious concern through his electorate that Daniel Andrews had politicised Victoria’s fire services.
“A Royal Commission completely independent of government is now vital and urgent,” he added.
“There have been a number of previous attempts at reform for our fire services, as well as attempts to fix cultural and operational problems but nothing has worked.
“A Royal Commission will be able to critically examine the issues our fire services are facing and come up with evidence based solutions.”