Fire & Emergency Services (Volunteer Charters) Amendment Bill

The Hon. C.L. WINGARD (Gibson—Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services, Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing) (11:08): I rise to speak on the Fire and Emergency Services (Volunteer Charters) Amendment Bill, which has come to this place from the other place. It is a bill to amend the Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005. I am proud to rise to confirm that the government will be supporting this bill today. Put simply, the bill provides legislative recognition of the South Australian Country Fire Service and State Emergency Service volunteer charters.

The provisions within the bill before us today are identical to those which were introduced in this place by me on 28 November 2018 in the Fire and Emergency Services (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill. This bill is not a new matter for this place and it has been long foreshadowed. The smooth passage of enshrining the volunteer charters into legislation is just part of the Marshall government delivering for volunteers.

We have delivered $5 million to the CFS through Project Renew to improve facilities and assist volunteers in carrying out the functions of their work. We have increased the aerial firefighting fleet from 17 to 26 by injecting a whopping $9.2 million into that program. We are ensuring that our CFS trucks are compliant with national standards, with a $5.5 million investment. We have also unlocked $2.74 million through the Natural Disaster Resilience Program to improve disaster preparedness and keep South Australians safe. We have also injected an additional $1 million into the State Emergency Services to revitalise South Australia's SES facilities and upgrade vital equipment.

These funding boosts are illustrative of the Marshall Liberal government's ongoing support of the state's emergency service volunteers. The tireless work and countless hours donated by South Australia's emergency service volunteers can never be underestimated or undervalued. Day or night, rain or shine, our first responders are prepared to swiftly respond to emergencies right across the state.

Since coming into government, the CFS and SES volunteer associations have also been instrumental in selecting the new leadership of our emergency services, with their unanimous support and recommendation to me of Don Lane as the Chief Executive of the South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission. I highly value the opportunity to meet and consult with members of the SES and CFS volunteer associations and executive, and all volunteers right across the state. I know it is difficult for them because they are spread far and wide across South Australia, but we work hard to ensure that we meet regularly and discuss any issues in their area. I very much appreciate going out into the field and listening, as I have done on so many occasions.

The move to enshrine the volunteer charters in legislation can be traced as far back as the 2013 Holloway review, a review on which the former government failed to act. The recommendations stemmed from a concern of some volunteers at the time, some years ago now, that the existing agreements on consultation processes and consideration of the views of volunteers were not being treated seriously enough under the reforms proposed by Labor's then minister for emergency services, the member for Light.

When the member for Light was asked by the former member for Morphett on 18 November 2015 when he was going to put the SES and CFS volunteer charters into legislation and not just regulation, the member for Light answered, 'First of all, regulation is legislation.' The record shows that that remark was responded to at the time by the member for Bragg with one simple word: wrong. Unfortunately for our tireless, hardworking volunteers, those opposite for 16 years just simply did not get it. Sadly, when it comes to this important issue of enshrining CFS and SES volunteer charters in legislation, a review of Hansard from previous parliaments paints a very bleak picture for those opposite.

Numerous contributions from members now on this side of the house are forever etched in the history books. Contributions from the member for Waite, the member for Flinders and the members for Hartley, Hammond, Chaffey, Schubert and Stuart are consistent in one theme, and that is that on this side of the house we support our volunteers. We stand by them, we stand with them and we back them. In contrast, all we see in the record books from those opposite are votes to adjourn, adjourn and adjourn. Shamefully, debate was even adjourned on 24 September 2015 by the current member for Elizabeth, the now purported shadow minister for emergency services. The current member for Taylor is also listed as voting to delay the bill—

Member objecting…

The Hon. C.L. WINGARD: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Just to be clear then, it was the current shadow minister for emergency services who voted against this on that date, 24 September 2015. The current member for Taylor is also listed as voting to delay the bill during the previous parliament on the same date. We can only assume that he was alert to what was happening at the time, although we have seen recently what he likes to spend his time doing in parliament when it comes to discussing matters relating to our emergency services. Time after time during the previous parliament those opposite delayed and adjourned the passage of the bill. They took our volunteers for granted. On this side of the house we do not. We have delivered for volunteers.

Today marks 501 days since the 2018 state election. In that time I have been fortunate enough to travel to every corner of our state, including 52 CFS visits and 21 SES visits as well as a number of other events, to celebrate our CFS and SES volunteers. The highlight of all those visits has always been the volunteers themselves. Whilst in this place you may sit in a lot of meetings and meet a lot of executives—some of whom themselves volunteer, many of whom do not—but it is the opportunity to get out and say thank you to the men and women on the ground that is the most rewarding part of the job.

As all members of this place know, we pride ourselves on being a cooperative government. I commend the Hon. Ms Tammy Franks in the other place and the member for Mount Gambier for their work, assistance and support in bringing this important legislation through both houses of parliament and finally into legislation.

I have said it before and I will say it again: the state's volunteers are the backbone of our emergency sector. They provide valuable insight into how the emergency services sector should operate, and the Marshall Liberal government is proud to ensure their knowledge and feedback will continue to help build a safer South Australia for everyone. Again, to all our volunteers out there I say thank you.

Authorised by Corey Wingard MP, Member for Gibson. Level 2, 1 Milham Street Oaklands Park SA 5046. ©Copyright / Legal / Login