The last week of the first session of Parliament for 2019 was notable for the passing of the very contentious legislation that will change the CFA as we know it forever. 

I asked Minister Jennings why volunteer firefighters could not be treated the same as paid firefighters like they are in Tasmania and South Australia.  The answer to this question of cost and bureaucratic record keeping has always been inadequate. For example, volunteers have to prove they have been adversely affected by carcinogens in fighting fires to receive compensation while paid firefighters are presumed to always be subject to contaminants.

I, like most people who have grown up knowing the CFA is part of our world and life, are disappointed we have legislated to make volunteers second class citizens in the firefighting space. 

Another matter that was most concerning involved the ‘locking out’ of rock climbers in the Grampians National Park. Parks Victoria, or maybe just one or two Parks Victoria Officers, have been particularly difficult and left the rock-climbing community without the ‘home’ they’ve enjoyed, appreciated and responsibly cared for, over decades. 

Claims have been made that the rock-climbing community are responsible for damage to aboriginal rock art.  This is categorically denied by the rock climbers. In response to a question from Mr Limbrick from the Liberal Democrats, The Minister directed readers to a website containing a photo of a hole in the rock art, allegedly caused by a climber’s nail when it was revealed that it was actually caused by Parks Victoria nailing up wire mesh over the rock art. What a disgrace. 

I, and others, have called on the Minister to take charge of this ridiculous situation and bring all interested parties, including local traditional landowners; rock climbers, Parks Victoria, local businesses and any other responsible user groups, together to arrive at a sensible solution that accommodates everyone where no one is locked out of consultation without consultation.

Rock climbing enthusiasts care deeply about the environment where they climb and are naturally sensitive to its significance.  They also, bring in considerable income to the local businesses just when our tourist industry is beginning to flourish. 

I will always demand the Minister and Government take responsibility for their bureaucracies when they appear not to be operating in the interests of those who fund the government to provide the services and proper outcomes expected of them.