Victorian Labor has attacked the opposition for “scaremongering” over the government’s plan to split the CFA while defending the reform to the party faithful.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy was peddling “lies and misinformation” on the CFA debate, Deputy Premier and Emergency Services Minister James Merlino told the ALP state conference on Saturday.
“Of course, the leader of the opposition would not miss an opportunity to use this issue as a political football,” he said.
“But yet again he was caught out lying and he’s making a habit of his, scaremongering about the number of CFA volunteers in Victoria compared to NSW.”
Mr Merlino also hit out at his shadow counterpart, Brad Battin, who incorrectly claimed in parliament that career firefighters did not go to the Black Saturday fires until about five hours after they started.
Mr Battin has since admitted he got it wrong and apologised.
The proposed changes would make the CFA a volunteer-only organisation, with career firefighters joining their metropolitan colleagues in a new authority.
The reform package includes $56.2 million to strengthen recruitment, training and retention, while the number of female firefighters would quadruple over the next four years.
“Victorians will get the modern and reliable fire service they deserve,” Premier Daniel Andrews told the conference.
The move has been criticised by the state and federal Liberals and volunteers, and the United Firefighters Union also says it has concerns.
The government says the change is needed to circumvent a deadlock created by the federal government’s changes to the Fair Work Act.
Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash says the claim is false.
She said the legislation did not prevent the CFA entering a new agreement with paid firefighters.