Australia: A number of witnesses are appearing today before the State of Victoria’s bushfire readiness Parliamentary Committee.
The first witness was former Country Fire Authority (CFA) CEO Ms Nolan. Under the protection of Parliament, Ms Noland said her perception was that she had an alternative to support and sign the EBA or resign. No one actually gave this ultimatum, but that was her perception from meetings with the CFA Board and from the media.
Ms Nolan stated that in the last Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) she saw, there were clauses in the United Firefighters Union of Victoria (UFU) EBA draft that impacted the CFA Chief Officers’s ability to respond to bushfires.
Ms Nolan said she would not sign any agreement would make the CFA a “worse place ” and said she would not be a part of signing “destructive and decisive EBA.”
Ms Nolan had weekly meetings in the Minister’s Office with the Emergency Services Minister at the time, Jane Garrett, to discuss the EBA progress.
In terms of engaging a ‘union busting’ firm for advice, Ms Nolan said she no idea of a particular firm’s background and always aimed ensure the CFA was open and informed and would not take a hardline stance on the union or staff during the EBA negotiations.
Ms Noland said “I did not just decicide to leave a job I loved” but Ieft because she was not going to sign the current document. She said the original EBA did require 7 paid firefighters on the fireground: this was changed to be ‘dispatched.’
A Committee Member asked if it was true that Ms Nolan said she would “destroy the Union” if she had a choice to “sign the EBA or destroy the union.” The question caused a stir amongst the Committee, however Ms Nolan said it was not true.
Ms Nolan said she never met the current Minister of Emergency Services, James Merlino, and never discussed the EBA with the UFU Secretary.
Ms Nolan said she was not bullied or intimidated by anyone in relation to the EBA and, regarding the former Emergency Services Minister Garrett, was personally “very, very disappointed she chose to resign.”
Other witnesses listed to appear today include:
- Victoria’s Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) officials, the triple zero dispatch service for Victoria
- Chair of the Bushfires Royal Commission, Hon Bernard Teague AO
- Inspector General for Emergency Services, Tony Pearce
- Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) CEO Jim Highins & Acting Chief Officer Paul Stacchino
- Former CFA Chief Officer Joe Buffone