The announcement made by the Government in April of a Department of Fire and Emergency Services restructure was not the announcement of an independent rural fire service that will actually fight bushfires according to the Shadow Minister for the Emergency Services Dr Steve Thomas.
Dr Thomas also said that the apparent location of the proposed Rural Fire Division in Darlington in the Shire of Mundaring in Perth was a snub to rural communities, an embarrassment to the Government, and possibly a by-election bribe to the electors of Darling Range.
“The United Firefighters Union let the cat out of the bag last week when they publicly confirmed the location as Darlington, despite the Minister for Emergency Services sticking to his line that it has not yet been determined” Dr Thomas said. “This is on the edge of the seat of Darling Range and only 30km from Parliament House in Perth.”
“The only thing missing from this worst kept secret is a formal announcement by the Government, no doubt including the Labor candidate.”
Dr Thomas said that questions he had asked of the Minister in Parliament in recent weeks had revealed more detail about the proposed Departmental reshuffle that will be known as the Rural Fire Division.
“The Minister has acknowledged that the Rural Fire Division will not manage bushfires – this will stay in the Operations Division. Neither will it supply bushfire brigades with equipment.”
“The Rural Fire Division will in fact be 32 FTEs based in Metropolitan Perth whose role is administration, support and planning according to the Minister, not actually fighting fires.”
Dr Thomas said he believed that given the Government’s intent to not have a truly independent service, the leader of a WA Rural Fire Service should be a Deputy Commissioner, the highest rank below the Commissioner, to give the service the importance it deserved.
“I also believe that a rural fire service should be located in the country, not in the metropolitan region. I would be looking to the South West between Pinjarra and Manjimup to house the leadership group.”