Bill: Fire and emergency services (volunteer charters) amendment bill

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Published Wednesday, June 19, 2019 | Share:

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (11:21): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

As the Independent member for Mount Gambier, I am proud to support the Fire and Emergency Services (Volunteer Charters) Amendment Bill. This bill provides parliamentary recognition of the South Australian State Emergency Service Volunteer Charter and the Country Fire Service Volunteers Charter.

The bill takes the CFS and SES volunteer charters out of the regulations for the Fire and Emergency Services Act and puts them in the legislation itself. It also creates a requirement for the government to consult with the CFS and SES on matters that affect them—in short, to respect those who protect us. This same bill was previously introduced in 2012 and 2015 by the former member for Morphett, Dr Duncan McFetridge, and in 2015 in the other house by the Hon. Robert Brokenshire. At those times, it garnered support from government, opposition and crossbench but repeatedly fell short of passing through both houses.

The CFS and SES volunteers often leave their families and homes to protect someone else's from a raging fire, flood, an extreme weather event, or to provide help at a motor vehicle accident or rescue someone from a precarious situation. The services these volunteers provide are an essential component of the emergency system in place for the communities of South Australia. It is a service that is vitally important, especially for the regional areas of our state. Due to the close-knit communities that exist in regional areas, a volunteer will sometimes attend an incident and know the person or people in need of assistance. Attending a traumatic scene is difficult enough, but the lasting effects can be magnified when it is somebody they have known.

The Limestone Coast has seen many incidents where the SES and CFS have arrived to help: from the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires to the mini tornadoes that ripped through Penola and destroyed the local bowling club. Every region has its stories. I would like to read out an email that was sent to Tammy Franks in the other place from the Executive Officer of Volunteers' Association Incorporated because I think it captures quite succinctly their frustration at the delay of this bill and how they feel about it. The email reads:

Hi Tammy.

As you are aware from our discussions over the last 18 months or more, our volunteers were most disappointed when Rob Brokenshire's, with your support, bill which was fully supported in the Legislative Council, and then supposed to be moved in the House of Assembly failed, due to a supposed lack of time on the day (December 2017).

The Association then sought endorsement from all parties (prior to the 2018 State Election) for the charter to be introduced into legislation as a priority of the government and these commitments were forthcoming.

To date this has not occurred in that the Volunteer Charter was suddenly included as part of the Miscellaneous Amendments Bill, and here we are still waiting for a timeline, after the Bill's delay last year and the subsequent Select Committee on areas, which really should have been considered separately.

Simply, the Volunteer Charter being delayed is an insult to our volunteers and has had many of them question whether the majority of Members of Parliament really understand the roles and commitment forthcoming to our State, the thousands of hours freely given to support the community, not even mentioning the millions of dollars donated through these hours.

The Volunteer Charter is both a recognition and commitment to them, our volunteers (together with CFS volunteers) are out at the coalface and understand their communities and their needs and hence their voices need to be recognised.

The Association looks forward to your proposal to bring to a vote Legislative Council Bill No. 79 the Fire and Emergency Services (Volunteer Charters) Amendment Bill 2018...

Kind regards.

Susan

It is with those words that I commend this bill to the house and seek its swift passage through this house so that the 15,000 South Australians who volunteer for the SES and CFS have their voice recorded and the important work they do for our state recognised. We are truly grateful for all their sacrifices and the sacrifices that all volunteers make for this great state. With those words, I commend the bill to the house.

Debate adjourned on motion of Mr Pederick.

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