Past (and New) VFFA Political Relationships

Dear VFFA Members and Supporters

The VFFA has maintained an apolitical approach with a desire to work with any political party that best represents the needs of our volunteer members.

We are witnessing a massive shift away from the major political parties and I would encourage you to consider your vote in the next State Election very carefully to ensure that your needs are being properly addressed by your political representative.

This letter (post) is written to inform you of some political history surrounding your Association.

An article by Anna Caldwell in the Daily Telegraph recently quoted the Deputy Premier, Mr. John Barilaro as stating:

“State politicians must ditch their $700 suits, put on some jeans, “get real” and start connecting with voters, Deputy Premier John Barilaro warned”

This is a very sensible comment by Mr. Barilaro, but has it come too late?

Further in the same article:

“Mr. Barilaro urged his own team and their government partner to get back to basics and listen to voters.”

The VFFA suggests that all politicians need to listen to voters and in your case, they need to listen very closely to the volunteers that provide a tremendous service to communities without remuneration.

A Brief History (Past VFFA Political Relationships)

  • When this State Government was in opposition, they never left us alone.
  • The Emergency Services Shadow Minister of that time, Melinda Pavey, was made aware of the issues surrounding the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and she said she was going to clean it up.
  • When this Government came to power in March 2011, Melinda Pavey was replaced by Mike Gallacher.
  • John Barilaro would always make himself available to attend any meeting our association held in Murrumbateman.
  • Once in Government, we haven’t seen him at a VFFA meeting. He has been invited but, he is always busy (as per his staff).
  • The VFFA has had to contend with four Emergency Service Ministers since March 2011 as follows:
    • Firstly, Michael Gallacher who left his role (branded by ICAC).
    • Then, along came Stuart Ayres. He did not have any time for us.
    • Then we inherited David Elliott but he thought volunteers were just part of Dad’s Army.
    • We now have Troy Grant. Mr Grant told us at a meeting in his office in 2015 that: “the RFS was the fastest growing bureaucracy the State Government had and that it was quite concerning”
  • Considering that Troy Grant thinks the rapidly expanding bureaucracy of the RFS is quite concerning, he seems to get along very well with them. He happily attends all their functions and dinners, leaving us wondering if he really does care at all?

What have (or haven’t) the Politicians done for Volunteers?

  • The question remains:
    • What has Troy Grant done about that rapidly growing bureaucracy?
      • Nothing.
      • He has announced that he is bailing out, not intending to stand at the next state election.
  • Hazard reduction burning was once a productive and successful responsibility of volunteers but now, sadly, it is controlled by NSW RFS head office and staff with less local knowledge and engagement.
  • We are seeing an ever-increasing frequency and magnitude of fires across NSW with massive property and environmental losses.
  • These fire events are being blamed upon climate change but the “Elephant in the room is FUEL”.
  • We are failing to comprehend that suppression of these mega fires is not sustainable.
  • The public is asked to foot the bill for expensive very large aircraft and a staged media extravaganza with each fire. These events help to justify the RFS Commissioners repeated calls for more money.
  • The blatant and vicious bullying of volunteers by RFS staff is now completely out of control in some areas. This situation is causing many highly experienced volunteers to just walk away.
  • Why has the NSW Government failed to respond to the NSW Upper House inquiry into emergency services agencies? It focused heavily upon bullying and harassment of our volunteer members.
  • This State Government’s own decentralisation policy has failed because Troy Grant says the RFS Head Office must stay in Sydney to be close to Media.
  • This State Governments blind arrogance towards the issues that volunteers are facing are being ignored by our politicians. On the 9th of August (2018) the VFFA received an email back from Anthony Roberts, Member for Lane Cove and Minister for Planning and Housing asking, “please remove from mailing list”.

The recent Bi-Election held in Wagga, 8th September (2018) has sent this State Government one almighty message.

Our Volunteers Fight Fires (FREE of charge), they have a voice and they vote!

VFFA Recommendations for the NSW State Government are:

  1. Move the RFS Head Office to regional NSW.
  2. Get serious and put the RURAL back into the Rural Fire Service.
  3. The RFS Commissioner has been in his role far too long and the organisation is a mess. It is time for change in leadership.
  4. Start listening seriously to NSW Volunteer Firefighters.

Michael (Mick) Holton
Volunteer Fire Fighters Association

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