Fire Rescue Victoria – Dry Cleaning Contracts

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (18:16): My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, the Honourable Lisa Neville in the other place. Just prior to Christmas—and what a terrible Christmas present it was—dry cleaners in Moe, Traralgon and Morwell had their long-term contracts cancelled by Fire Rescue Victoria. A state government sanctioned directive to cancel regional dry cleaners’ contracts is not frustrating, it is shameful. Citing contamination and the USA-based National Fire Protection Association in relation to personal protective clothing (PPC), the government has abandoned local businesses that have been providing exemplary services for decades in some cases. Indeed one of the Latrobe Valley dry cleaners said that over two generations he and his father have been cleaning the clothes of the CFA for 60 years. In Parliament today the minister cited personal protective clothing, and I quote:

… how you decommission it. A local dry cleaner cannot meet that standard.

The council contracts were for non-operational day wear uniforms—for example, slacks and shirts—not PPC-turnout uniforms. The minister has endorsed the decision to withdraw the services from all of the regional towns that had what were formerly known as integrated stations, now FRV stations—38 regional towns. As well as Latrobe Valley, I would like to thank the Golden Square dry cleaner for sharing his story and frustrations. The annual loss to businesses is between $8000 and $18 000 per annum—no small sum when we consider a COVID-strained regional economic environment.

Disparagingly the minister gloated that dry-cleaning would be centralised in Melbourne. The Andrews government has local procurement policies that in this case represent only lines on a page, not a commitment to rural and regional Victoria. One of the businesses contacted the FRV apparel officer to ask to tender for the process, and he said, ‘You couldn’t afford it’. Indeed my constituents know that it is a sham, this new five-year contract. It was driven by the United Firefighters Union, and indeed their 68th bulletin last year said a ‘quicker turnaround’ for dry-cleaning. That was one of key features: a ‘quicker turnaround’ for dry-cleaning. Now, local Latrobe Valley dry cleaners know that they can turn the uniforms around in 4 hours. Under this new arrangement they would barely have reached the depot in Melbourne in 4 hours. So the action I seek from the minister is to repeal and reverse this appalling decision and give those local dry cleaners in our rural towns the chance to tender for these contracts.