DANGER PERIOD: Fire crews battled a monstrous blaze at Halfway Creek last year.
DANGER PERIOD: Fire crews battled a monstrous blaze at Halfway Creek last year. Frank Redward

Fire volunteers slam Greens for leaving them out of policy

VOLUNTEER firefighters are outraged after the Greens "failed" to consult with them for the party's Living With Global Warming: Backing Firefighters and Communities election policy. 

The Council of Australian Volunteer Fire Associations says the Greens should have looked to Australia's 257,000 volunteer firefighters for advice when formulating its $370 million natural disaster pledge.  

CAVFA and state-based volunteer firefighter lobby groups believe the Greens' decision to base part of its global warming policy on a United Firefighters Union of Australia-funded report left the unpaid firies out in the cold.  

They were also angered that the party did not give more credence to fire mitigation and hazard reduction strategies in the policy document it released on May 31.  

The Greens' $3 per tonne thermal coal-levy funded proposal includes plans to double the nation's paid firefighter workforce by 2030 at a cost of $120 million.  

It would also spend $200 million on a natural disaster preparation program if it managed to win power at the July 2 election.  

"It is inconceivable that any political party could adopt a policy that not only fails to acknowledge the hugely significant contribution trained volunteers make to protecting and defending local communities right across Australia, but actively seeks to contribute to their demise," CAVFA spokesman Justin Choveaux said.  

"This flawed report, that speaks so much about firefighting and firefighters, fails to acknowledge the tremendous contribution and expertise of the 257,000 brigade members across Australia.     

"One would think that such a group of extraordinary people would be a valuable source of information and expertise in developing a national policy that dealt with bushfire fighting and the effects of natural disasters.   

"But the Greens didn't.   

"Sitting high in their lofty city-based tower of power, the Greens - who purport to be the saviours of the bush - failed to consult with those who actually are."   

Senator Larissa Waters said her party "respected" the role volunteer firefighters played during natural disasters. "The Australian Greens respect and value the immense contribution made by all firefighters, both volunteer and paid," Ms Waters said.   

"Volunteer firefighters are critical to the safety and resilience of our rural communities."  

Sen Waters said her party was committed to ensuring communities were prepared to cope with natural disasters.  

"The Greens would provide for an increase of $200 million in federal funding over four years for a new national partnership agreement on climate adaptation and disaster preparedness, which includes funding for bushfire mitigation works such as maintenance of fire breaks," she said.  

"Federal funding for this crucial work has recently been reduced, with funding falling from $26 million per year in 2015 to just $9 million in 2016.   

"The Greens' policy would increase the current level of funding under the $9 million per year National Bushfire Mitigation Program by more than fivefold and widen its scope.   

"This policy would mean more funding and more support for our outstanding rural volunteer fire services."    

THE GREENS' PLAN

The Australian Greens' Living With Global Warming: Backing Firefighters and Communities election policy will provide $370 million over four years to:

•Double the number of paid firefighters by 2030 with an initial $120 million over the first four years of a 10-year plan.

•Fund natural disaster preparedness by spending $200 million over four years to replace the lapsed National Disaster Resilience Program. 

•Keep the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility and triple current funding that is due to expire in 2017. 

•Provide $5 million per year to support state and local governments to plan for rising sea levels.

•Roll out a thermal coal export levy of $3 per tonne to help pay for these initiatives.  



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