VICTORIAN opposition emergency services spokesman Brad Battin visited Ararat fire station on Friday to discuss a variety of issues, from training to contentions plans for the future of firefighting.
Mr Battin was joined on his tour of western Victoria’s fire stations by Ripon MP Louise Staley.
“I’m going around the whole state to speak with volunteers and career firefighters about the fire services and what is going to happen in the future,” he said.
“The Coalition has announced a royal commission if we win the state election in 2018.
“The reason we have announced that is there are ongoing issues with the fire services and we want to hear from volunteers on the ground, not just the hierarchy in the city.”
Mr Battin said a fire services royal commission would help volunteers in the Ararat region as it would address long-term and short-term issues.
“We need to get all career firefighters away from a culture that is influenced by United Firefighters Union, and from political influence. For people in Ararat, it should be a service about community outcomes first,” Mr Battin said.
Victorian Emergency Services Minister James Merlino has previously said the royal commission promise was an admission from the opposition that Victoria's fire services needed reform.
Victoria’s proposed fire services reforms are themselves highly contentious, with months of protests and a federal government intervention.
Ms Staley said she had constantly heard from volunteers that the state government was undermining them.
“The most recent is the ‘Fire Wise’ volunteer magazine,” Ms Staley said.
“They can’t see why the magazine, at $60,000 - not much in the context of the CFA budget, can’t be kept alive for them.
“We hear from brigades like the one at Ararat that volunteers don’t feel respected anymore.”
Captain Norm Tosh formed Fire Wise – formerly The Fireman – as Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria’s official monthly publication in Warracknabeal in 1947.
Mr Merlino has previously told News Corp that “funding decisions like this one are matters for the CFA.”