Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:20): My question is to the Minister for Emergency Services. Will the minister explain what cost savings were made, as promised, by merging the CFA and MFB career firefighters, or are they still operating as two independent organisations?
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:21): I thank Ms Bath for her question. The fire services reform project has been responsible for ensuring that our career firefighters across Victoria are represented by and part of one organisation, and they work collaboratively with CFA. Many of the former CFA firefighters are now under the banner of FRV. As you would be aware, reform takes time. We have an implementation monitor that is working through any of those issues. In terms of the costing arrangements, it is an ongoing process where we have two agreements, we are merging them and there are ongoing negotiations around how that all works. We have always said that it will be a long-term plan, but we are seeing an amazing organisation come to fruition in relation to the support and the collaboration that is provided to all career firefighters. As you would be aware, the CFA is also going from strength to strength as a volunteer organisation. This is a process that I am really proud to talk to people about on a regular basis. One of the best things about being the emergency services minister is the ability to talk to people on the ground and indeed our hardworking firefighters, regardless of whether they wear an FRV uniform or a CFA uniform or indeed are from a number of other organisations that support our hardworking firefighters. It is a little bit difficult for me probably to give you a figure for the question that you have asked, because it is an ongoing process. But the reforms continue to roll out, and we have an implementation monitor that gives me regular updates and works very closely with the agencies in relation to that reform.
Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:23): I thank the minister for her response. Noting her comment around the volunteers, I ask also: what is the cost increase for training in the CFA due to restrictions on staff and on overtime and union rules that have seen a major decrease in access to training for volunteers in the CFA?
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:24): Ms Bath, I am not quite sure how the training of CFA volunteers is directly related to your specific question around FRV firefighters. Nonetheless, training is probably the number one issue that CFA volunteers raise with me. I am very proud to have opened a brand new training facility earlier this year in relation to CFA vols, and people are very excited about the opportunities that that provides. Training has been, as you would appreciate, difficult throughout COVID, but it is the conversation that many people have with me, and CFA continually work with their members on ensuring that people get access to the latest opportunities. We have got a new driver course rolling out, for example. I joined a CFA women’s firefighters forum last week, and training was certainly the number one issue that they raised as well.