VOL 47 ISSUE 1 2010
print post approved pp 543 451/00009
CAMPAIGN | BUY LOCAL | PRESUMPTIVE | WILDLIFE | HEALTH POLICY
One fire service more firefighters
The Australian Firefighter I 1
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The Australian Firefighter
VOL 47 ISSUE 1 2010
PRESUMPTIVE EXPLAINED ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
One fire service more firefighters
6 International news
7 National news
8–15 Branch news
16–19 Cover story
COVER STORY 16
WORKFRONT SAFETY 20
21 Muscular Dystrophy
22–23 NCOM gallery 24–25 Buy Local 26–27 Vic Campaign 28–29 Power Plays 30–31 The Insider
32–33 Men’s health policy 34–35 Wildlife protection 36–37 Winter warmers 38–39 River reverie
CAMPAIGN TRAIL WORKFRONT PROTECTION 24
WORKFRONT CAMPAIGN 26
42 The last word
REVOLUTION OR JUST REVOLTING? RIVERS THE INSIDER 30
NATIONAL POLICY LIFE HEALTH 32
LIFE PLAY 40 The Australian Firefighter I 3
United Firefighters Union of Australia
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The Australian Firefighter Magazine
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Contributors We welcome your contributions to The Australian Firefighter Magazine. Make it a letter, story, column, feature or even just an idea. Send us you photographs too, but make them a minimum of 120mm x 80mm at 300dpi. We like travel and workplace stories, as well as personal profiles. Email all to email@example.com Authorised by P Marshall 410 Brunswick St, Fitzroy VIC 3065 All material in The Australian Firefighter magazine is subject to copyright and cannot be published or reproduced without permission. Opinions expressed in the magazine do not necessarily reflect those of the Editor, the United Firefighters Union of Australia, or the publisher. Contributions are accepted on the basis that the material is accurate and not defamatory. No responsibility is accepted for error or omission and every effort is made to verify submitted material.
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4 I The Australian Firefighter
United Firefighters Union of Australia
National Office ufua.asn.au Australian Capital Territory Branch ufuact.asn.au Aviation Branch ufuav.asn.au NSW Branch fbeu.net Queensland Branch ufuq.asn.au Tasmania Branch ufutas.asn.au Victorian Branch ufuvic.asn.au West Australian Branch ufuofwa.net.au
National President Mick Farrell
National Secretary Peter Marshall
From the National Secretary
From the National President
s daily temperatures drop across the continent, the political elcome to this new edition of The Australian Firefighter. temperature is on the rise. A federal election will soon be There can be no argument that a firefighter’s work upon us and this gives firefighters an ideal opportunity to environment is more dangerous than any other campaign on a number of issues that have direct impact on our civilian workplace; that’s why the UFUA places a primary focus working lives, health, safety and the protection we provide to the on occupational health and safety issues. And it’s the Rudd communities we serve. government’s program to replace state and territory based The current national political climate is one that can work in OH&S laws with a national set of standards that’s another favour of firefighters, the UFUA and the Australian Union movement election year issue getting firefighters out on the campaign trail. right across the board. The government is under pressure from The federal ‘harmonisation’ of OH&S regulation is designed the coalition, it has suffered a number of self inflicted wounds to streamline the laws, make them more consistent and reduce and voter support is drifting to minor parties. This has created an bureaucracy. However, the current draft is a worry to the Union ideal campaign environment movement because it looks like the and firefighters are taking government is going for a lowest the opportunity to press our common denominator solution when demands vigorously. instead it should be picking the best With the overhaul of from each jurisdiction. We detail the Australia’s Award system well issues at stake in this edition of underway, a review of awards the magazine. and agreements covering public The cover story examines sector fire authority employees the Victorian Bushfires’ Royal will be conducted this year. Commission and the UFU The government likes to call Victorian Branch’s submission for its streamlining of the system a restructure of the state’s fire Award ‘modernisation’; the services. Union movement is not so sure While the Royal Commission that’s the correct word for it. is yet to deliver its final After the decade of report, it seems likely that its Howard government attacks recommendations will not only on workplace rights and reverberate throughout Victoria trade unions, Unionists can but will have major implications be pleased with a number for fire and emergency service of protections the Rudd management structures and government has introduced as practices right across the country. part of its FairWork industrial The OH&S theme continues with relations package. However as a contribution from Queensland UFUA National Secretary Peter Marshall and National President Mick Farrell at the March NCOM meeting in Perth always, the devil is in the detail Branch President Steve Bunney on and the government’s version of presumptive laws for firefighters who flexibility could have serious consequences for firefighter staffing, contract workplace diseases such as cancer. Steve is the UFUA’s rosters and hours of work. All UFUA branches will be campaigning Presumptive Laws National Officer and he provides valuable together very strongly to ensure firefighter safety and our ability advice about protection against exposures that can trigger some to respond quickly to emergencies is not compromised by federal of these deadly diseases. government mandated Award inclusions. We also ask the question, do you know where your work gear Members’ conditions are protected most effectively in collective is made – and does it matter? At the March NCOM meeting in agreements negotiated between the Union and Fire Services. That’s Perth, delegates heard from a local manufacturer of PPC and why the review of agreements by FairWork Australia (the national other firefighter, emergency worker and military clothing about industrial relations body that replaced the Industrial Relations why firefighters should demand locally sourced product. There Commission and Howard era IR instruments) is a critical opportunity could be definite value in raising a few questions when your to press home the point that that our rosters and staffing levels are management prepares the tender for the next issue of new key to firefighter and community safety. uniforms or replacement gear. Peter Marshall
The Australian Firefighter I 5
NEWS INTERNATIONAL Global Alliance on track A phone hook-up of Unions that make up the International Fire Fighter Unions Alliance (IFFUA) was held in late May and representatives agreed to a number of measures to move the Alliance and its activities forward. “We’ve approved a new budget and a plan to strengthen the communications links between the Unions and our Members around the world,” says UFUA National Secretary, Peter Marshall. “The IFFUA website will be completed soon and a newsletter will be produced to circulate among member Unions.”
No borders In a world dominated by the international financial meltdown, planet-wide climate change, the threat of pandemics and growing violence, the strength has to be in global unity. “These issues don’t recognise territorial borders,” says Peter, “That’s why it’s so important for Australian firefighters and the Union to strengthen our international links and build campaigns to protect the workplace rights and safety of firefighters wherever they may be.” The UFUA is one of four firefighter Unions representing more than 350,000 members in five countries that joined forces as IFFUA back in 2006. “We then commissioned an investigation that identified another 70 Unions or so around the world that represent firefighters,” says Peter. “And from this we’ve been able to expand our contacts.”
MD support The Union is helping firefighters build a new initiative to support those struck down by muscular dystrophy – and their families. On page 21, you can find out more about how firefighters will support the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation of Australia (MDFA) during its June awareness raising visit of veteran comedian and actor Jerry Lewis. “I encourage Members to go to the website of our global partner, the IAFF*, and view some of the activities that have been 6 I The Australian Firefighter
undertaken by firefighters in North America and Canada in raising money and building awareness about muscular dystrophy,” says Peter Marshall. “As you will see, IAFF firefighting members have a long and proud history of fundraising for the US and Canadian Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) which has accumulated into many millions of dollars over a number of years.”
Local visit Jerry Lewis is the patron of MDA and has a very close working relationship with North American firefighters and their Union. One fundraising event undertaken each year is a 24-hour phone-in marathon but this is just one of numerous events, many of which are organised at local fire station level. “Jerry Lewis will be visiting Australia in the latter half of June,” says Peter. “We’ll be meeting with him to further explore and understand the relationship he has with
A strong international alliance of firefighter Unions is key to the protection of firefighters in every corner of the globe pic: stockxchng_jzlomek
retirements, professional firefighters should have access to reduced benefits at age 55 and unreduced benefits at age 60. This is five years earlier than other workers. In May, proposed amendments to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) were announced; consultation about the changes continues.
North American firefighters and their Union raise millions to support muscular dystrophy sufferers and their families.
the IAFF and firefighters in North America. We’ll be also working with MDFA to assist in Mr Lewis’ public appearances during his visit, and to develop more Australian MD awareness and fundraising projects.”
Pensions and presumptive A federal review of retirement systems is being conducted in Canada, and the North American firefighter Union, the IAFF has produced a submission emphasising that due to the dangerous nature of the profession and the unique nature of
The Canadian province of Alberta will now cover compensation claims for 10 types of occupation related cancer which firefighters are in heightened danger of contracting. In May, the provincial legislature passed a new law that increases the cancer types covered by its presumptive laws from eight to 10; the additions include oesophagus and testicular cancers. Alberta’s new legislation brings the province into line with the coverage in other Canadian jurisdictions. While the laws vary greatly between states and provinces, most US states and Canadian provinces now have some form of presumptive law covering firefighters and emergency response workers. ■ * The IAFF MDA page is at iaff.org/mda/index.asp
GLOBAL ALLIANCE Find out more about the International Alliance of Fire Fighter Unions from the website at iffua.org
NATIONAL Award update The overhaul of Australia’s Award system is well underway. In the end, more than 4,000 state and federal awards will be collapsed into 130 ‘modern’ awards. In December last year, the Industrial Relations Commission ruled on a new national firefighting services award, the Firefighting Industry Award 2010. Following the decision, there have been some questions raised about this new award by firefighters in New South Wales. “Concerns about the position of NSW retained firefighters and their conditions of employment are unfounded,” says UFUA National Secretary Peter Marshall. “The award does not apply to NSW Fire Brigade retained employees because they are employed in the public sector and are covered by the state industrial relations system.”
However, after a draft set of laws was circulated, the Union movement began to wonder who would benefit most from this new approach to OHS. “The stakes are high - more than 150 people died in work-related incidents last year,” says UFUA National President Mick Farrell. “So naturally, Unions are campaigning to ensure OHS laws are strengthened in every jurisdiction, not watered down anywhere.” No one objects to streamlining and the reduction of bureaucracy but the proposal as it stands has more losses than gains for workers and Unions. While the rights and powers of NSW H&S reps will improve, the ability of Unions to prosecute over OHS breaches will go, as will the reverse onus of proof. Queensland workers will lose their Workplace Safety Officers and also the reverse onus of proof, with less onerous obligations being imposed on employers.
OHS rights and obligations will increase the number of people killed and injured at work,” says Mick Farrell. “The review of OHS law should be an opportunity to adopt the best, not compromise what we’ve already achieved.” And who pays for workplace health and safety neglect? Overwhelmingly, the cost is borne by workers and the community; latest available figures indicate employers contribute only 3% to the total cost (Australian Safety and Compensation Council report).
All together Along with all other state and territory firefighters, NSW colleagues will be included in the review of awards and agreements covering public sector fire authorities to be conducted as part of the Award modernisation process later in the year. “We’ll be all in it together when this review begins – and we can expect the employers will mount a vigorous attack on staffing, rosters and other conditions that protect firefighters at work,” says Peter Marshall. “Our Union’s branches will be working closely together to ensure no firefighter in any state or territory will be put at a disadvantage.”
Paid parental leave for all – in this year’s federal budget
Federal OHS laws need to strengthen not weaken workplace protection pic:warrenfrey/tas
Harmony for whom Originally a Howard era initiative, the proposal was to replace state and territory based occupational health and safety laws with a national set of standards. The states agreed to a review and the process continued with the election of the Rudd Labor government.
The best required Unions say the ability to initiate prosecutions should be available Australia wide and the reverse onus of proof be extended to all jurisdictions. A provision allowing for the disqualification of H&S reps and the watering down of the obligation on employers to consult about OHS matters are also concerns. “We believe any diminishing of existing
The UFUA National Women’s Network is reconvening this year. Parental leave, back-to-work provisions, conflict resolution, harassment and EEO are major issues requiring input from both male and female firefighters. The Network does not adopt an ‘us and them’ approach; much of its work ends up benefiting all firefighters. Employer superannuation contributions will increase following changes announced in this year’s federal budget. The boost won’t begin until 2013 but by 2020 the superannuation guarantee will be 12%, up three from the current 9%. That’s if the government’s budget strategy survives the campaign against its mining industry super profits tax. Paid parental leave is another initiative in the federal budget. From next year, eligible parents will receive taxable payments at the rate of the federal minimum wage for up to 18 weeks, paid for by the government, not employers. ■
UFUA NATIONAL National President: Mick Farrell Branch Secretary: Peter Marshall Website: ufua.asn.au email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Australian Firefighter I 7
NEWS ACT BRANCH Hard bargain The last few months have been busy ones for the ACT Branch. Our Collective Agreement (CA) negotiations will draw to a close over the next few weeks after what has been a fairly difficult and drawn out process. Most of you negotiating CAs over the past 12 months will know that the economic downturn and the subsequent tightening of the purse strings has made for exceptionally difficult circumstances for improving wages and conditions, particularly when bargaining with government. The ACT Government approached our negotiations (and negotiations with all ACT Unions) complaining of a $65 million hole in their budget caused by the Federal Labor Government's review of GST state and territory revenue streams. This cut ACT Government GST revenue almost in half and they immediately called on Unions for wage restraint. Very early in the piece, they started attacking us all in the media, claiming that our wage claims were irresponsible and exorbitant. Other Unions are seeking relief in FairWork Australia and we have commenced proceedings to take protected industrial action.
Gains made Despite all of this, we have had substantial negotiating success. We have maintained the focus on tidying up our agreement and improving Members’ capacity to access their entitlements. The pay rise is likely to be in line with CPI or slightly higher and we have firmed a commitment from ACT Government to work with us to develop a Death and Disability plus Voluntary Early Retirement (D&D+VERS) scheme over the life of our agreement. With the weight of a fully unionised workforce behind us, we successfully fought off attempts from the government to reduce access to 100% compensation for workplace injuries, deteriorate the 10/14 roster and cut our entitlement to annual leave and personal leave. So despite the difficult economic times, we have come through with a reasonable outcome with our CA.
Industrial support In a first for the ACT Branch, we have employed Industrial Officer Dave Livingstone, 8 I The Australian Firefighter
D&D+VERS = valuable extra support across a tough career
for three days a week. Dave has been working hard on the CA, as well as developing a sound industrial program for our branch. The main aspect of this will be the D&D+VERS scheme, which Dave will be working on after the CA is finalised. The scheme is being developed to address the serious shortfall in our Members’ ability to access income protection insurance and life insurance. Most insurance companies charge career firefighters triple their normal public servant premiums. Most won't sell income protection insurance to career firefighters at all, while the few that do, charge exorbitant premiums. They say it is too expensive to pay injured firefighters because of the impact of even a minor injury on a Member being fit for duty.
Significant benefits The D&D+VERS will be a co-contributed scheme where Members contribute a percentage of their income every fortnight, matched a matching, employer paid percentage of the total wages bill. Members will be able to access money when they are injured (non-compensable injuries only), while lump-sum payments will be made to Members (or their families) following permanent injury or death.
Early retirement Members who contribute across the life of their career will have the option of retirement up to five years early with their full wage paid until retirement benefits kick in. This will reduce the strain on firies at the end of their career and give them the opportunity to enjoy a long and fruitful retirement. There's an added employer benefit of workers compensation costs dropping off before a firefighter's likely injury peak (the last five years of their career). The D&D+VERS scheme will fix a massive shortfall in protection for our Members for a fraction of the cost of life insurance or income protection insurance. Similar schemes work in NSW and SA, and we will be borrowing heavily from them. We are still in the planning stage so it may not end up exactly as described. However, we are confident that with a lot of hard work and support from Members, we will develop the best scheme possible for ACT firefighters. Interesting times are ahead for all Australian firefighters and we look forward to continuing to work with all branches to further the interests of our Members. Yours in Unity, ACT Branch Committee of Management
UFU ACT Branch
Branch President: Matthew Mavity Branch Secretary: Jason Jones Website: ufuact.asn.au email: email@example.com
The Morita Aerial Specialist Vehicle
Aerial woes The debate between ARFF management and the union surrounding the introduction of the Morita Aerial Specialist Vehicle (ASV) at Category 10 Stations around Australia has been in progress for nearly two years. This eventuated in a Fair Work Australia (FWA) hearing, including an on site inspection by Commissioner Smith being conducted in May. All that attended witnessed a demonstration of the Morita(ASV) at Melbourne airport ARFF fire station. The result highlighted a number of the concerns that the Union has put to ARFF management over time regarding the operation of this vehicle. The Morita is designed as a rescue ladder or to be used in what is known as a ‘surround and drown’ technique where water is discharged through a monitor at a distance from an incident to combat a fire. However, it was not designed for the way the ARFF now uses the vehicle. Firefighting aerial specialists tell the Union that no other fire service in the country would consider mounting an aerial internal firefighting attack from a basket using hose bowled backwards down a ladder. The ARFF is currently using the Morita to do just this and we believe it is unsafe and will leave our Members dangerously exposed – and at risk.
Training, quals, safety When ARFF introduced the Morita, firefighters were trained by personnel who were not qualified in aerial vehicle operations. After approaches by the Union, the ARFF trained staff to gain an ‘Elevated Work Platform’
(EWP) licence. This is a basic licence formulated for general application, such as in the construction trade. Although it does form part of the relevant fire service training required for firefighters to perform aerial operations, the applicable ARFF qualification system in this area is the ‘Public Safety Training Package’ (PSTP); the relevant module is PUAFIR310B, ‘Operate Aerial or Specialist Vehicle’. However, there are no ARFF firefighters at Melbourne who hold this qualification and so the Union believes those who instruct and those who operate the vehicle do so without the necessary firefighting qualifications. This means Members are at risk when operating the Morita at an aircraft accident or incident. Not only is there a lack of suitably qualified trainers, but Morita training has been ad hoc, spasmodic and lacking the necessary support materials when it does occur.
Unintended uses – the ARFF Morita issue
Mock-up no help now The ARFF has recently advised that a purpose-built mock-up will be constructed to provide realistic training; but this – and the rushed and inadequate training to date – does nothing to assist firefighters who are currently expected to operate the vehicle in an emergency. Unfortunately, there’s more. Staff who the ARFF view as qualified Morita operators have never actually bowled hose down the ladder from the basket and advanced into a structure such as an A380. So, the theory management relies on – that two firefighters can successfully deploy enough lengths of hose from the Morita basket to reach the interior extremities of an A380 aircraft – has not been tested.
Hose bowl issue The Union has other safety concerns about how the vehicle is deployed by the ARFF. These include: - firefighters must turn their back on the incident (most likely in poor visibility) while bowling the hose down the middle of the ladder section during set-up, - misdirected hose and tangling, - hose regularly fouls on the ladder rungs preventing immediate deployment of hose, - hose(s) bowled back down the ladder centre blocks access for other firefighters, - inadequate water curtain and no heat shield on the basket, and - time wasting, inefficient hose hook-up requirements. Firefighters, the Union and the Commissioner witnessed many of these problems during that training exercise we attended.
Exposure levels high Further, issues with the ARRF use of the Morita vehicle include: - outdated body belt worn to attach firefighters to the basket, - no easy access to BA connections or spare cylinders for firefighters on the rig, and - poor communications equipment. Morita operators are expected to deal with theses problems often when 10–15 metres above the ground. We are also concerned about the overall high level of exposure for crews; the basket is quite open and firefighters are far too exposed to possible flashovers or fireballs. The UFUA has submitted a list of fixes to the ARFF. In the meantime, the Union has advised management it should stop the practice of bowling the hose backwards down the ladder rungs and mounting internal firefighting attack from the basket. Following appropriate training, the Morita should be used only for rescue/escape or for a remote aerial firefighting attack until successful engineering solutions are implemented. Mick Farrell Aviation Branch Secretary
UFUA Aviation Branch
Aviation Branch President: Joe Stenhouse Aviation Branch Secretary: Mick Farrell Website: http ://ufuav.asn.au email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Australian Firefighter I 9
NEWS NSW BRANCH National Award The handing down of a new national firefighting services award by the Industrial Relations Commission (now FairWork Australia) will not affect NSW firefighters employed in the public sector. Despite some questions raised about the position of retained Members, it is clear the federal Firefighting Industry Award 2010 will have no impact on firefighters employed in the public sector as they are covered by the state industrial relations system. The new Award is a private sector award and includes mandated clauses that are being imposed on all national awards as part of the Rudd government’s industrial relations changes. The process is called Award ‘modernisation’ and eventually, national awards will replace most state and territory based industrial arrangements. Firefighters who are currently covered by an enterprise or collective agreement are also protected from Firefighting Industry Award 2010 clauses that have been imposed by the federal government. A review of awards and agreements covering public sector fire authorities is to be conducted as part of the Award ‘modernisation’ process later in the year.
Bypass not on Management continue their attempts at job restructuring, calculating somewhat naively that they can complete the exercise without talking to firefighters or the Union. Media leaks and the rumour mill are no substitutes for genuine talks; it’s time management caught up with the fact that John Howard left the stadium more than two years ago and the obligation on employers to bargain and talk to Unions and Members is back.
A well oiled machine Not! Incident Ground Health Monitoring (IGHM) should be planned and effectively structured. The current approach by management can’t provide what’s required – and that’s a consistent, practical program that’s able to provide protection for all Members. Firefighters right across the state are entitled to an IGHM program that works, not a hit-and-miss approach that’s under 10 I The Australian Firefighter
members should not be penalised because of dithering by the Department. Perhaps the judge thought so too, as the matter will now go back to the Full Bench for decision.
A hanging issue – magnets and aluminium vehicle panels
resourced. It’s important management has more than the workers comp premiums in mind when designing and implementing such a program – the D&D Award demands it.
Magnetic miscalculation Safety at work is paramount; but a Departmental answer to traffic hazards has come unstuck – even before it could be put in place. The issue of 40 kph advisory, ‘slow when lights flashing’ signs to help protect Members at road and traffic incidents was followed by advice to stick them on the back of appliances when required. They even come with magnets – to help fix them to the aluminium panels of the vehicles. It seems someone wasn’t paying attention in science class at school. A lack of guidance about displaying 40 kph and / or Hazards Ahead signs isn’t helpful either. For a start, two separate signs would help. Protection of crews is paramount and vehicles should be positioned to maximise this. It’s up to the police or RTA to handle any resulting traffic management requirements.
Back to the Full Bench That was the reaction of the Industrial Relations Commission when the Department appeared before it over a refusal to observe an agreement about recruit training made back in 2008. The deal was to reduce training by four weeks or pay recruit Members at the rate of FL1 after 12 weeks. Recruit
Management left it to the Union to tell Station Officer Promotional Program (SOPP) participants that not all would be promoted at the end of the last six week training round. In November, management told the Industrial Relations Commission and the Union that from the start of this year, improvements in its approach to workforce planning would ensure the promotion of SOPP graduates immediately after the completion of the program. When the Union brought the dispute back before IRC it recommended all graduates from Class 27 be promoted to Station Officer Level 1 within 12 weeks and to Station Officer Level 2 in two years. At the start of September, there’s to be a report back to the IRC on plans for the next program – and a resolution to this dispute. Peter Marshall UFUA National Secretary Mick Farrell UFUA National President
OH&S Alert is the UFUA national health and safety newsletter. Subscribe at ufua.asn.au to have each edition delivered to your email inbox
UFU NSW Branch
Branch Secretary: Chris Read Website: http://fbeu.net Email: email@example.com
QLD BRANCH Under new management With a new management team in office, the Qld branch has hit the floor running. Our employers have been reminded on numerous occasions that there is a new management team in office at the UFUQ and things are being handled a little differently in this office from now on. Given the impediments that we faced earlier in the year, as your President it is heartening to see our Union pick itself up off the floor and get down to the nuts and bolts of our business, which is working for YOU, our Members. Members will realise that this new team does things a little differently now. Our office staff have adjusted well to a new management team and embraced a different management style in the running of the office. I believe the results are starting to speak for themselves.
UFUQ Members turned out in strength for the 2010 May Day march
not be tolerated. We suspect there are more occurrences of this type which are going unreported by our Members. We need to change that mindset and take affirmative action. Any such attack upon our Members will result in swift and decisive action from the UFUQ. We will ensure the full force of the law is enacted upon any person whom feels stupid enough to take cheap shots at firefighters who are just doing their job.
Diesel exhaust emissions The employer has agreed to conduct a survey at all fire stations in Queensland and discuss with the UFU suitable outcomes for the management of diesel exhaust emissions within the identified fire stations. Members are asked to please contact your regional delegates with your concerns so that they may liaise with the State office for action.
Now Who’s Saving Theirs?’ campaign. Our campaign of highlighting to politicians at all levels of government, our employers – and of course our very own Members – about diseases and illness that effect firefighters has led to the recognition and understanding at a higher level of management, and caused significant changes to historical work practice for firefighters. Up against significantly larger unions, this is a major award for the UFUQ and is justifiable recognition for our efforts. It is further evidence of our Union punching well above its weight.
Start of shift checks Queensland firefighters on the march – 2010 May Day parade in Brisbane
Code Red We are keeping true to our promise and working hard to improve communications with our Members. The Acting State Secretary recently introduced a new Code Red information bulletin for Members. The newsletter will only be used as communication to Members when serious issues such as bans, industrial action etc. are being put into place by the Union, ensuring there is no confusion on directives. It’s imperative that any issue of a Code Red is read out at all musters and relayed to all shifts. It’s just one more way of cutting out the confusion.
Firefighter assaults There has been a marked increase in reported assaults on firefighters while carrying out their duty. The UFU has been totally supportive of our Members who have been the recipients of such attacks and any type of verbal abuse or physical threat or actual harm upon any of our Members will
These are also currently under review and negotiations are being held with the employer to deliver a suitable and safe outcome for our Members when undertaking these tasks.
OHS issues Our Occupational Health and Safety Officer has ensured that the UFU will be represented on all committees by an authorised UFU delegate and that, as a priority, there must be full and meaningful consultation to ensure acceptable outcomes are achieved. Other OHS issues currently being addressed include: - turnout ensemble: going to tender, - helmets: expression of interests are being called for, and - fit for duty: discussions are being held on involvement.
Labour Day award At the recent Qld Council of Unions’ Labour Day dinner, the UFU Qld Branch received the ‘Best Industrial Campaign in a Workplace’ award for the ‘Firefighters Save Our Lives
The UFUQ new look Code Red bulletin – ensuring no confusion on directives
Finally, what a fantastic Labour Day! To all our Members and their families who celebrated our Union’s existence and shared in the pride of marching the city streets of Brisbane, I say thank you all. To our chief Labour Day organiser Glenys, how could we do it without you? To our helpers, our fantastic office staff, to Chris and Pete who sweated it out on the bbqs, and my family who pitched in wherever needed. I was inundated with remarks about what a fantastic day was had by all. So a big Thank You to everyone, and let’s make next Labour Day even better. Steve Bunney State President UFUQ branch ■
UFUA Queensland Branch Branch President: Steve Bunney Acting Branch Secretary: John Oliver Website: ufuq.asn.au email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Australian Firefighter I 11
NEWS SA BRANCH
Adelaide’s 38th – Seaford fire station is now open
also the materials used such as internal polished brick, reduce the frequency and cost of ongoing maintenance for the facility, and - the station is capable of housing a On Saturday February 13, the thirty eighth second appliance and crew to cope with MFS Station opened in the Adelaide future expansion. southern suburb Seaford. The new station This new station at Seaford is the fifth is the southern most evolution of the new MFS metropolitan station, ‘two appliance bay’ fire and is an industry and station designs to be Australian leader in constructed following energy efficiency and Elizabeth, Golden Grove, green design. Beulah Park and Paradise. The station was Each of these stations formally opened by has had a Union nominated Minister for Emergency representative from the Services the Hon. Station who, through Michael Wright MP. In consultation with the attendance were the previously built station Hon. John Hill Minister representative, has for the Southern identified and implemented Suburbs and State design improvements. local member, Amanda With regard to Seaford, Rishworth, Federal improvements have Member for Kingston, as been made in the food well as representatives preparation area, making of local government it more user friendly. and community UFUA SA Branch Secretary Greg Northcott (r) attended the Seaford FS The Union fully supports opening along with (l-r), the Federal Member for Kingston Amanda Rishworth, Joe Szakacs organisations. and acknowledges that UFU SA Industrial Officer, SA Branch President Barry Luke and Southern Suburbs Minister (and local Seaford is a bustling this consultative process member), John Hill and state Emergency Services Minister Michael Wright development in the the S.A. Metropolitan Fire southern fringe of metropolitan Adelaide, and Service is using when designing and building the new $4.5 million station will use of rainwater for both garden irrigation new stations is benefiting all. ■ serve the community for decades to and in toilets are incorporated into the come, with a projected useful life for the building, UFUA SA Branch station being a minimum fifty years. - the layout maximises the use of natural Branch President: Barry Luke Branch Secretary: Greg Northcott light and ventilation and has a high The commissioning of the station has Website: ufusa.asn.au thermal-energy rating to reduce the seen 22 crew moved to Seaford, and resulted email: email@example.com requirements on heating and cooling; in an extra recruit drill squad in 2009. Among
Seaford two bay opens
12 I The Australian Firefighter
some of the key design and environmental features of the station are: - photovoltaic solar panels providing 12 kilowatts of power are installed and grid connected, enabling any surplus power generated to be returned to the electricity network, - water recycling initiatives including the
TAS BRANCH Election outcome Tasmania is now ruled by a Labor/Greens coalition after a state election that produced a hung parliament*. Firefighters and the Union are looking forward with optimism to the government now delivering on promises made during the election campaign. “We’re encouraged by a commitment from the Labor Party to keep Tasmanian firefighter wages on par with their mainland counterparts,” says UFUA Tasmanian Branch Secretary, Richard Warwick. During the election campaign the Greens committed to support a third, full-time staffed, 24 hour fire station on the northwest coast. “This promise was much appreciated by our Members up there,” says Richard. “And we’ll be following that up with the Greens for implementation now they are part of the government.”
The Branch Annual Conference was held just days before the state election: guest speakers from the major parties attended
Bargaining round The Tasmanian firefighters Collective Agreement with the Tasmanian Fire Service (TFS) ends on June 30 and negotiations have begun for a new agreement. It’s a tight budget environment but firefighters are encouraged by commitments given to them by the ALP during the election campaign. “We’ve lodged the claim and hopefully it will be a less confrontational bargaining process than we’ve seen in recent times,” says Richard Warwick. The Labor Party promise to keep Tasmanian firefighters wages in line with their mainland counterparts should help. The comparability formula is 100% relativity of the average of the first class firefighter rate in each mainland state and territory. Projections across the life of the Tasmanian agreement are then made based on mainland EBs and collective agreements.
Questions answered In the run-up to the election, the Tasmanian Firefighter, Ambulance and Police Unions circulated a questionnaire to each major
redeployment within each agency. “Medical retirement options are also an important area for the government to do some work on,” says Richard Warwick. “The tone of the questionnaire response suggests the new government will also take this up with the agencies.”
Fire service specific
Workplace reps (l-r) John Hardstaff (Branch Junior Vice President), Steven Davison and Martin Sloane at the Branch Annual Conference
party canvassing their views on emergency services workers’ wages, staffing levels and Critical Incident Stress Disorder. In addition to the wages comparability commitment, the Labor Party also made promises on staffing levels. “The last thing we want is for the lives of Tasmanian people to be put at risk because we do not have enough staff in a particular area,” the ALP told the Unions. “We will review existing staffing levels across the spectrum of police, fire and ambulance to make sure all areas are appropriately staffed and if not we will commit to improving those staffing levels.” The Party said it will establish a fully staffed, 24 hour helicopter based emergency medical service and recruit 30 additional police. “We anticipate a review will also identify gaps in firefighter numbers and resources that we know exist across the state, particularly in the northwest,” says Richard Warwick. “Given their commitments, we look forward to Labor and the Greens rapidly completing the review and filling the gaps.”
Stress disorder support In response to the questionnaire, Labor said it will continue to fund the police Critical Incident Stress Management Team which also covers fire and ambulance employees and will review its effectiveness. “It’s also good to hear the party that is now the major force in government views rehabilitation of injured employees and their return to work its ‘highest priority’,” says Richard. For those unable to return to work, Labor say it will look into implementing a redeployment system across the wholeof-government in Tasmania. This will go further than the current emergency service agency approach to non-operational duties
The Union also requested the parties respond to a series of further questions about TFS resourcing and fire preparedness across the state. The Labor Party indicated a willingness to implement the outstanding recommendations of the 2007 Hobart Myer fire coronial inquest recommendations and those of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission that are relevant to the state. On other particular resource questions about such areas as the urban / bush interface, the northwest coast, Launceston and the Kingborough municipality, Labor has said it would set up reviews should the government assess the need arises. “The Union will be keeping the pressure on the new government over resources,” says Richard Warwick. “We are encouraged by their promise of additional road accident rescue equipment for Hobart’s northern
Reps Justin Smith, David MacFarlane, John McDonald (standing)and Peter Tavasz were enthusiastic participants
suburbs this financial year. But we see that as just a start and we’ll be expecting the government to attend to those other outstanding resource issues promptly.” The Union will also pressure the Labor/ Greens government to fund an independent review of career firefighter training in the TFS. ■ *The Labor/Greens coalition is the first attempted since 1989 when a Labor/Greens accord lasted a little over twelve months before being sunk by the Greens over forests policy.
UFUA TASMANIAN Branch Branch President: Vincent Males Branch Secretary: Richard Warwick Website: ufutas.asn.au email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Australian Firefighter I 13
NEWS VIC BRANCH EBA campaign bites MFB and CFA firefighters have been campaigning hard for the last six months as negotiations over new collective agreements continue. “Our grassroots campaign to build public support for our conditions and resources claims is showing very positive results,” says Victorian Branch Secretary Peter Marshall. “The public understands that their safety and protection depends on firefighters being able to do their job effectively. Our ‘Save Property Save Lives’, ‘Save 7.7’ and ‘More Firefighters Not Less’ messages are hitting their mark.” Despite independent recommendations to boost staff at CFA stations, there was no
The review of the standard fire station guidelines is underway, capturing the improvements made to fire station design since 2003. “We’ve also made further gains in negotiations over the CFA Mechanical Maintenance and Tower Overseer Enterprise Agreement after Members voted down a proposal back in December,” says Peter Marshall. “We’ll be visiting workshops during June to discuss the gains before a further ballot is held.” There are at least 24 under-resourced CFA stations, many in the state’s 52 bushfire ‘hot spots’, but Victorians still wait for government action
deserve our thanks and the encouragement to keep up their efforts. Thanks also to our tireless delegates and staff – we are making progress and we’re now seeing MPs in those marginal seats getting increasingly uncomfortable as the election draws closer.” Find out more in the campaign report on pages 26 – 27 and in the cover story on pages 16 – 19. ■
National Award Late last year, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission handed down the Firefighting Industry Award 2010. It replaces Victorian Firefighting Industry Employees Interim Award 2000 and applies from January 2010. In line with federal government policy, the standard flexibility clause (Cl. 7) has been
CFA working parties
The UFU’s submission to the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission is delivered to the Commission’s office in Melbourne.
funding allocation in the recently announced state government budget for 2010–2011. Meanwhile, MFB management wants to abolish the current minimum crew allocation that would see resources and numbers stretched even further – and put pressure on response times.
Progress The Bushfires Royal Commission will report at the end of July and if the submissions by the Commission’s own legal counsel are anything to go on, many of the issues identified by the Union will feature in its final report. The UFU submission for the restructuring of the state’s fire services and the creation of a single fire service for Victoria was delivered to the Royal Commission in April. “We’ve had thousands of Members attend rallies, leaflet communities and campaign in marginal seats over the last few months,” says Peter Marshall. “They 14 I The Australian Firefighter
The Union’s work with the CFA to resolve of outstanding issues is producing results. It’s now agreed there will be no more sharing of dormitories at Fiskville for firefighters on courses. Air con will also be installed in the dorms. There’s been further clarification to allow Members on residential courses greater flexibility to travel home – and be compensated – if you live within a reasonable travel distance. The stowage for PPC lockers in turnout areas has been finally agreed; it’s been an outstanding issue since 2003. Geelong City, Belmont, Traralgon and Greenvale stations are the first to be fitted out, while the retrospective fit-out of other integrated stations will be discussed.
Staffing and training The Union has told the CFA that Bendigo, Ballarat City, Shepparton, Warrnambool, Eltham and Cranbourne’s engine bays will need to be examined regarding the housing of new appliances, e.g. Heavy Pumpers, Hazmats, Aerial Pumpers and Technical Rescue PODS. Also, staffing, allowances and training for new Heavy Hazmats and proposed Technical Rescue POD need to be discussed and agreed prior to their deployment.
Action stations! MFB and CFA firefighters demand resources, roster and crew arrangements to keep them and the community safe
included. In the public sector, it applies only if the employee receives payment as if working the 10/14 roster. At least for now, part-time employment has been limited to the private sector. This means that employees in the public sector must not be disadvantaged in any alternative rostering arrangement. UFU members are currently protected from these provisions by the current enterprise agreement. ■
UFU VIC Branch
Branch President: Dave Hamilton Branch Secretary: Peter Marshall Website: ufuvic.asn.au email: email@example.com
WA BRANCH Resources squeeze It’s a busy time in the Industrial Relations Commission (WAIRC) for the WA Branch. The big hurdle for the Union has been the Fire and Emergency Services Authority’s continuing attempts to shut the Membership out of decision making. Management says if it sends a letter to the Union then it has consulted. We believe this is not good faith consultation; management should negotiate about what it wants to do and seek input from the Membership about the best way to do it. However, the Authority refuses to do this. This problem runs across every issue that comes between Management and Members.
A generic Comms Centre – management must keep talking pic: mike teraci
Peak argument Chronic understaffing and under resourcing at the Communications Centre has been issue in the WAIRC for nearly two years now. Staffing levels are not keeping up with the growth of emergencies in WA, because management says the service will never be able to cope with peaks; so it always under-staffs the centre. The Union says management is aiming too low. To make matter worse, we are seeing an attempt to turn the Comms Centre into a generic centre to look after all types of emergencies, such as storms or sea rescue, anything bar the police. Fortunately, the Authority’s attempts to have our case in the WAIRC dismissed have been rejected, so that’s forced management to keep discussion open.
Skills set tussle The Union is also in negotiations over agreed competencies for every rank up to Superintendant. So far, we have them for Firefighters and Station Officers, but for ranks above, including Area Officer, District Officer
Let’s hope there is not blood on the floor before someone listens and learns that the safety concerns we have are real.
Two from one
The squeeze at Perth Fire Station
and Superintendant, management has been stalling and won’t engage in discussion. The Union has gone to the WAIRC about the competencies for Area Officers. We’ve got to get the skills-set right but unfortunately, this gets back to ongoing attempts by management to homogenise our Area Officers and create broad management teams for any emergency. We believe this is being driven by the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) which wants jack-of-all-trades people in place of Officers with the appropriate competencies.
Instructors The WA Branch is also arguing about the correct classification for our recruit instructors at the training centre. Twenty years ago, they were all at District Officer level but over time they’ve been arbitrarily dragged back to Firefighter level. Members say this must be sorted out – they’re sick of the current situation – and want to be classified properly and be paid appropriately. In the meantime, they’ve decided not to do any further instructing and this has us back in the Commission where the Union finally gained a concession and higher classification during the current Recruit School while the Union prepares a Work Value claim for Instructors.
Wellington St Problems at the new Perth Fire Station remain unresolved but Members have been forced to move in following an order handed down by the Industrial Relations Commission. The engine room at the station is too small and there’s very restricted vision when responding to emergencies, particularly at night. Already, there have been several near misses and we’re concerned the traffic management studies weren’t done properly.
In WA, there’s a push to break up the single fire service into urban and country services, despite the problems this structure approach has produced in other states. We say rural areas are growing to such an extent that their fire services shouldn’t be treated as rural fire services – they are urban fires services just surrounded by bush. The recent Toodyay fire is a case in point; 38 houses were lost but they still called it a ‘bush’ fire. The Union says, no – that was a ‘38 house’ structural fire. You plan for bushfires out in the bush and once it becomes an urban area, you’ve got to start planning for structure fires – and the Authority is just not doing that.
New Office The Union has moved in to our new office – the old North Perth Fire Station. Members are thrilled with the purchase of this property and are looking forward to a meeting hall and club house to be added, hopefully starting this year.
A two fire services push – planning in the wrong direction pic: mike teraci
Our retired firefighters are ecstatic at the prospect of holding functions here rather than going to a local hotel. They’ll be able to come to the Union office and keep the brotherhood alive, passing their stories to the next generation of firefighters (see the pictures on 22–23). Graeme Geer Branch Secretary See the centre page gallery for pics of the recent WA Office opening celebrations. ■
UFUA WA Branch
WA Branch President: Kevin Jolly WA Branch Secretary: Graeme Geer Website: ufuofwa.net.au email: ufuofwa.net.au/contact.html
The Australian Firefighter I 15
One fire service more firefighters Some fifteen months after the Black Saturday disaster, the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission is winding up. The UFU’s Victorian Branch has put a strong case for the amalgamation of Victoria’s fire services to the Commission and continues to pressure the state government to recruit more professional firefighters for dangerously understaffed localities. 16 I The Australian Firefighter
The campaign trail leads right back to the heart of Melbourne where, in an astounding move, MFB management wants to cut firefighter on-shift numbers that would see response times blow out with lives and property put at risk. Summer has gone and the bushfire season might be over but in Victoria, debate over the state’s fire services is really hotting up.
n April, 2,000 MFB and CFA firefighters marched to the Bushfires Royal Commission in Melbourne’s CBD to hand deliver their Union’s submission. It was a Wednesday, the same day Christine Nixon, former police chief but now chair of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority, faced the Commission. CFA Fire Officer Stewart Marshall from Greenvale, near Melbourne airport, told the rally, “On my station, we have myself and two other firefighters to respond to a call, which may range from an alarm to a full blown structure fire, whereas in other parts of this country, seven is the minimum on the fire ground to do the job. In the CFA it can be two!”
After the alert call, two volunteer CFA brigades at Plenty and Diamond Creek were paged before the CFA integrated brigade at Eltham. The closest station to the fire was Greensborough, an MFB station about four minutes away, but it wasn’t contacted until 12 to 13 minutes after the initial call. So what’s behind this approach? Barry Thomas told the Commission “I guess it’s a territory
Ambulance Victoria was created from three ambulance services and it makes sense to do the same for fire services. The Premier has not been shy about commenting on views put to and by the Commission. An ABC online commentary noted as early as February “the fact that the Premier appears to have already taken a long term view on so many of the questions under investigation by the Commissioners must leave them scratching their heads.” To date, there’s been no discernable change in John Brumby’s approach.
The UFU submission to the Royal Commission puts the case for a single fire authority for Victoria. It details Competition problem the impact of multiple agency (MFB, Stewart works in one of Melbourne’s CFA and DSE) responsibility for the rapidly expanding suburban fringe areas, response to, and suppression of, fire which along with fast growing provincial across the state. Unnecessary duplication towns, are demanding the same protecand inefficiencies that have resulted in tion their neighbours have in the greater systemic failures leading to the loss of life metropolitan area of Melbourne. and property include: The tragedy of the Black Saturday - duplication of costs and different bushfires in February last year revealed funding arrangements, systemic failures in communication and - different approaches to training, coordination between the MFB, CFA accreditation and endorsement of staff and DSE (Department of Sustainability (including training manuals), and Environment) hierarchies. Again, it - different uniforms, rank and insignia, exposed the competition over territory - different safety equipment (including that exists between the three authorities. BA), equipment duplication and While Melbourne’s established inner incompatibility (including hose and suburbs have 24/7 MFB protection, pump couplings), residents in the outer suburbs and growth - different terminology in relation to fire corridors rely on a patchwork of CFA fighting equipment, professionals and volunteers. The UFU - command, control and submission details the public safety and communications duplication and economic benefits of a single fire service incompatibility, Royal Commission chair Bernard Teague. The final report will be for Victoria and how professionals and - numerous and complex MOUs delivered at the end of July pic: aap/angela wylie volunteers would work together, as they between agencies requiring review and do now in the CFA. auditing, and - cultural differences plus irrelevant and thing. It’s a boundary thing ... It may be based Boundary impact outdated territorial boundaries. on proximity to fire, but it is not based on the CFA firefighter Barry Thomas was the final In contrast, a single fire service, would gain appliances that could get there the quickest.” ‘organisational structure’ witness to appear from increased flexibility, more effective resource Barry told the Commission this incident before the Royal Commission. Barry’s career allocation and an increased financial base. An was an illustration of the sort of problems with the CFA spans nearly 35 years and he told associated with both the MFB and the CFA being expert report by Professor David Hayward from the Commissioners about a fire at the Apollo the RMIT University School of Global Studies, responsible for incident response in metropolitan Parkways Primary School in Greensborough, Social Science and Planning was commissioned Melbourne. an outer north eastern suburb of Melbourne. by the UFU and presented to the Commission in Resistance The fire broke out on a weekday morning support of the case for amalgamation. during March 2008 and caused, according to Despite these problems, the Victorian government Times a changing one report, about $1.5 million worth of damage. says the current setup has served the state well Luckily, it was the Easter school holidays at the The CFA currently covers approximately one and rejects calls from the Union – and the Royal time and no children were there when the third of greater Melbourne and the MFB covers Commission’s counsel – to merge the CFA and fire broke out. the balance. MFB. The UFU points out that back in 2008, The Australian Firefighter I 17
COVER STORY MFB firefighters also provide emergency medical response – attending some 6,000 rescue and emergency medical calls last year. But these services are not generally delivered by CFA volunteers due to training and accreditation requirements. Any fire service covering a large, complex, industrialised city must be capable of responding to structure, chemical and industrial fires, crime related incidents and bushfire in outer metropolitan and rural regions. In addition, the UFU submission noted that resourcing to cope with the impact of climate change will require a boost in Victoria’s firefighter numbers of between 24.7% and 44.3%.* Add to the mix the fact that fires in domestic and commercial structures now being built with composite lightweight materials burn and collapse very quickly, and the argument for a single agency providing standardised fire cover and lower response times is more compelling than ever.
Volunteers The UFU told the Commission that any future amalgamated organisation would continue to rely on volunteers in fire suppression and response in
be recognised and in some cases paid or provided for with an allowance. There should also be defined career paths available to volunteers who aim to become full time paid staff. These opportunities could be best facilitated by an amalgamated fire service.
7.7 – not negotiable
As debate over structure and resourcing raged, and while the Royal Commission continued to hear the heartbreaking stories from Black Saturday victims, MFB management embarked on a remarkably ill-timed push to strip back firefighter availability in metropolitan Melbourne. Its timing could not have been worse, and the potential impact has been highlighted in the Union’s 7.7 Campaign. As the Union’s submission to the Royal Commission was being delivered, Victorian UFU secretary Peter Marshall told the 2,000 firefighters rallying outside, that MFB management plans to scrap the minimum number of firefighters on duty at any one time threatened six minutes after the alarm to find irefighters have reacted with community safety. He said the residents in the upper floors trapped disbelief at MFB’s plan to cut proposal would compromise the VFB by smoke, one holding a baby out a Melbourne’s fire protection international maximum response The UFU says fire services in broken window and another trying cover by scrapping the minimum time standard of 7.7 minutes. Victoria should be amalgamated to climb out. Because of their timely number of firefighters on duty at any “7.7 minutes means the arrival, firefighters quickly suppressed one time. “Fewer firefighters on duty into a single fire service, the difference between life and death,” the fire and successfully evacuated the will mean fire station closures from Victorian Fire Board. The residents. time to time, or appliances being said Peter Marshall. “It means the Board would manage and “It is not just fires,” said Mac unavailable due to crew shortages,” difference between being able to direct the activities of an Urban Hanson. “For medical response calls, says UFU Victorian Branch Secretary contain a fire to the room where Division and a Rural Division. it’s not just minutes that matter Peter Marshall. “The current standard it started as opposed to losing the Neil Bibby also supports but every second. That’s why we – a response within 7.7 minutes – whole building, and any chance of integration of Victoria’s fire respond with Ambulance Victoria to gives fire crews the maximum chance extracting someone and saving their unconscious, non-breathing patients. of saving life, and preventing the fire services. A firefighter whose The sooner we can commence CPR reaching flashover and spreading from life is greatly diminished.” Peter told career began as an MFB recruit the better the chances of survival the room of origin in 90% of structure the rally that the fire service should in 1973, Bibby was CFA CEO for the patient. The same applies to fires.” be going forward, not backwards from 2002 until his retirement car accidents, chemical spills and MFB Station Officer Melissa ‘Mac’ to the bad old days when people in in September last year. He told every other emergency we respond Hanson told firefighters at the Royal the metropolitan area could not be the Commission he supported to. Response times are critical to a Commission rally of her concerns as guaranteed a fire truck would turn integration via evolution not successful outcome. They are how we an operational firefighter. At a recent up save their families and property. measure our efficiency. They are not fire in three-storey units at suburban revolution. “Now, there are a negotiable.” Maribyrnong, the first fire crew arrived In the lead up to a state election lot of steps that need to be put in November, firefighters are now into place. A simple thing like campaigning in marginal electorates having the same hose couplings rural and regional areas. The UFU accepts that to let the public know that MFB wouldn’t go amiss; the same the CFA currently has a large number of highly management plans will put their – and firefighter radio network. So they can’t happen overnight. motivated volunteers with experience and skills – lives at risk (there’s more detail on pages 14 and However, if there is a long-term goal then all of 26). The firecrisis.com website, with its links to these things can be budgeted for, can be looked at that make them particularly suitable for Incident Management Teams. Facebook and Twitter pages, is keeping the public and you have something to aim for. Currently we The Union says the work of volunteers should up to date with campaign developments. have nothing to aim for.”
18 I The Australian Firefighter
URGENT NEED IGNORED
t is now more than 12 months since a Board of Reference ruled that 26 CFA fire stations needed mandatory upgrades. These included stations located in 34 of the 52 hotspots identified by the Victorian government before the start of last summer’s fire season. Many are in Melbourne or close to suburban fringe. Others are in, or adjacent to, major regional cities and towns. In April last year, the CFA asked the State Government for more professional firefighters. But Victorians - and
Next The final week of Royal Commission hearings is at the end of May with the state government in the spotlight. The Age newspaper says a leaked submission by the lawyers assisting the commission accuses the government of ‘’substantial policy failure’’ that placed ‘’at least some of those who died at great risk’’. It says the government and fire agencies still fail to grasp that the stay-or-go policy has been discredited – and merely tinkered with it across the last bushfire season. The newspaper says agency chiefs have been assessed as managers not leaders, while another submission recommends a Victorian Fire Services Board be established to sit over the three fire services and coordinate planning and resourcing decisions, including the allocation of resources “within and between” the services and the MFB / CFA boundaries. Royal Commission hearings have stretched across more than 150 days and once completed, the Commissioners will have about two months
the firefighters who protect them - are still waiting. CFA Fire Officer Stewart Marshall, a firefighter with 34 year’s experience, told the Melbourne rally, “(e)very day I wonder if I will be returning to my home at the completion of my shift due to the woefully inadequate manning levels that the CFA are imposing upon us … when we turn out to jobs, I’ve got to go and take a hose line into a building and I may not come out – that’s always in the back of the mind of every firefighter in the CFA.”
The great divide UFU Life Member Rod Knowles spent thirty years with the MFB, much of it stationed near CFA boundaries in Melbourne’s south east suburbs. Rod now heads the UFU Victoria Branch 2011 Centenary celebrations Committee and is part of the Union’s team advising the UFU counsel at the Royal Commission. A strong advocate for amalgamation of Victoria’s fire services, he remembers well the difficulties caused by the CFA / MFB structural divide. “When we were at a big fire with MFB and CFA appliances, confusion always reigned,” says Rod. “We didn’t know which rank we were talking to because their insignias were different to ours. It’s a problem that still exists. Their trucks were also set up differently; if we needed breathing apparatus quickly we couldn’t use theirs because it was ‘theirs’, it was different and, in any case, we didn’t know where it was. There was an ‘us and them’ mentality on the fireground. The Bushfires Royal Commission has a great opportunity to fix all this. Let’s hope it does.”
to write-up the final report before delivering it to the Victorian Governor on the last Saturday in July. ■ * From the UFU commissioned Workplace Research Centre (University of Sydney Faculty of Economics and Business) 2009 paper.
Follow the 7.7 campaign on the Union’s FireCrisis website: firecrisis.com The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission was established on February 16, 2009 to investigate the causes and responses to the Victorian bushfires of January and February 2009. An interim report was published August on August 17 last year and the final report is due by the end of July. The Royal Commission is chaired by the Hon. Bernard Teague AO with the support of Commissioners Ron McLeod AM and Susan Pascoe AM. An awful toll: The Saturday February 7, 2009 Victorian bushfire was the worst in recorded Australian history. 173 people died and 414 were injured. 7,562 people were displaced when 450,000 ha burnt, destroying more than 3,500 structures, including over 2,029 houses, 59 commercial properties, 12 public sector and community buildings, and 729 farm buildings (in addition to houses), 399 machinery and 363 hay sheds. The Australian Firefighter I 19
Presumptive explained How can firefighters best protect themselves from diseases linked to the profession? Steve Bunney, UFUA Queensland President and the Union’s Presumptive Laws National Coordinator, explains What are presumptive laws? A presumptive disability law links a particular occupation with a disease or condition that has been shown to be a hazard associated with that occupation. As a result of this linkage, if an individual employed in the occupation covered by the presumption contracts a disease or condition that is specified in the presumptive law, then that disease or condition is presumed to have come from that occupation. In this case, the burden of proof shifts from the employee to the employer, who must demonstrate that the condition was not in fact associated with the occupation but with another cause. (This definition comes from North America, where state and provincial presumptive laws are now widespread.) So what does all this ‘mumbo jumbo’ mean for firefighter sitting in a mess room in a fire station somewhere in Australia? Not a lot, probably. Put simply, it means if you contract an identified disease or illness, it’s up to the employer to prove it’s not work related.
The questions So what will save you firefighters? You need to ask these questions now to find out: i. Will presumptive laws save me? The short answer is NO! These laws will ensure firefighters receive the best available care, allow them to maintain an income and reduce the impost on their family. Does it stop them getting cancer? NO!. What is needed is a complete change of thinking about the historical nature of our job. ii. How do I ensure that I reduce the chances of getting one of these diseases? This is one of the most frequently questions I’m asked to answer. In short, take care of each other: - don’t store turnout clothes in the engine bay; make sure you are able to store or isolate your turnout gear away from the engine bay, - don’t wear turnout pants, boots etc. inside your station work and living areas – all you are 20 I The Australian Firefighter
Pressure on state and territory governments will be required to enact presumptive legislation to protect firefighters
doing is dragging the stuff we trying to protect you from into the station and affecting the health of yourself and all of the staff in that station – those days are long gone.
Make sure that all PPC is laundered frequently: - make it a priority after every significant contamination at any type of fire, including after grass or bush fires where there is a long duration of exposure, - the days when the badge of honour was a firefighter’s filthy turnout gear are also long gone; now it’s just a sign of foolishness or lack of or understanding, Do not wear or bring soiled PPC into the cabin of the fire appliance: - the cabin is also a work place and as such must be kept contaminate free, - any PPC that is dirty needs to be bagged and where possible placed in the rear locker away from the cabin. Change and clean your Breathing Apparatus, (BA) after every fire: - dirty BA must be stored away from the fire appliance cabin where possible, - if you’re unable to do this, wash the BA set to clean off any particulate matter and place it in a plastic bag before it’s re-stowed on the appliance, - on return to station source a new BA.
Prevention is the only way when there is no cure: see page 33 for more pic: stockxchng/jayphen
Personal hygiene is a priority after every job, no matter how small: - even those ‘nothing’ jobs like grass fires, rubbish fires, pot on the stove, where there’s no smoke etc, make it a habit to wash your hands and wash your face before you eat or drink, - if you feel hot a sweaty, go and take a shower; remember these gases can enter into the skin through dermatitic contact. Start of shift checks – take the truck outside when undertaking these checks: - if you have an engine bay where you can get full ventilation from front to back, open all doors,
- if not, after you have the appliance outside make sure the doors to the engine bay are closed behind you, - make sure that any engine bay exhaust extraction system is operated prior to starting up the appliance. Lastly and most importantly, lead by example; your actions now will leave a legacy of safe work practices for years to come. We know that firefighters are exposed on a daily basis to stress, smoke, heat and various toxic substances. As a result, we are far more likely to
contract heart disease, lung disease and cancer than other workers.
Don’t you become a statistic! Given the importance of this issue, your Union leaders recently met at national level and together, formulated an action plan to start the adoption of these types of presumptive laws, state by state. Do you think you may have a case or know of someone who would be eligible for this type presumptive legislation? Please contact your state or regional delegate for action. Together, we will have these laws enacted. ■
Jerry Lewis’ association with North American firefighters goes back 40 or 50 years. They came on board with him in the very early stages of his support for MD. “Firefighters raise an enormous amount of both money and awareness each year there by getting out and talking to people, collecting and being involved The UFUA is teaming up with the Muscular mark the start of a UFUA / MDFA association in events,” says David Jack. Last year they Dystrophy Foundation Australia (MDFA) to help as firefighters support Jerry in his public raised $28 million. its work supporting those afflicted – and funding appearances at footy matches and other events David said that when he spoke to delegates research into the condition. across the third and fourth weekends in June. at NCOM in Perth, the response was Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a quite overwhelming. “The interest and neuromuscular, genetic disorder: willingness to be involved and give it’s not just one disease but support – I can just see this as being of common to all its forms is enormous benefit to the children and the the weakening and wasting of families in the time to come” muscles over time. While most Victorian CFA firefighter Stewart types of MD occur in babies or Marshall is part of the UFUA / MDFA children, some others appear in planning group and says this is an late adolescence or adulthood. opportunity for local firefighters to join The incidence of their colleagues in North America and neuromuscular disorders in the UK. “This is very much a natural Australia is estimated to be one progression to incorporate Australian in 10,000. That means more firefighters and make it the major than 20,000 people have some fundraiser and support activity we’re form of the disease. Research involved in,” says Stewart. into the causes and ways to stop Following the MDFA presentation at its dreadful progress continue. NCOM, the Jerry Lewis visit has given Some forms of MD are terminal. firefighters the impetus to get active. “The events we’re planning for June will be a first; they’re a chance to get our Muscular Dystrophy Foundation Australia’s David Jack spoke to delegates Veteran actor and comedian association with MDFA off the ground at the Perth NCOM meet this year Jerry Lewis, is a long term so that over the next couple of years Muscular Dystrophy support we will roll out support activities across MDFA CEO David Jack says when firefighters activist in North America, where Australia,” says Stewart Marshall. engage with the community people listen. each year, millions of dollars are raised by “So for us to be able to be associated with firefighters and their Union (the IAFF) with ‘fill More information about MDFA and its activities firefighters is a huge honour and a privilege for the boot’ fundraising drives for MD awareness can be found on the Foundation’s website at our organisation,” says David. “When we and support. supportMD.org.au. Keep an eye on your UFUA mentioned the possibilities with firefighters here, In June, Jerry is coming to Australia to branch website for more on the joint fundraising activities planned for June. Jerry was very enthusiastic,” assist the MDFA and its work. His visit will also
Muscular dystrophy has no cure and its victims can be affected at an early age. Now a local support group is seeking firefighter involvement in its cause
The Australian Firefighter I 21
National delegates m In March the UFUA National Committee of Management met in Perth. Key strategies to build the national Union and strengthen international firefighter Union links were endorsed.
The importance of strong international links was emphasised by National Secretary, Peter Marshall
WA Branch bui UFUA legal rep Adam Bandt detailed the Rudd governmentâ€™s FairWork Act changes
22 I The Australian Firefighter
NCOM delegates and WA Members c UFUA WA Branch HQ, the old North Perth Fir retired Chief Officer and committee Retired Member, Pat Rich
meet Delegates to the 2010 NCOM in Perth
Delegates mapped out national campaign plan for presumptive diseases protection
ilding now open!
celebrated the official opening of the new re Station. The ribbon was cut by John Mc Mahon, member of the Officersâ€™ Industrial Union. hards was also acknowledged.
Mark Gribble, the UFUAâ€™s ISO and Standards Australia rep brought delegates up to date on ppc standards The Australian Firefighter I 23
WORKFRONT APPAREL global pressure
(ADA) says “I could take my design to China or Vietnam and get it copied for two or three hundred dollars cheaper. But the question is, is that good for Australian industry, because if you take away this business from Australia, you won’t get it back.” There are direct – and negative – implications if the local firefighter clothing industry disappears. One is ‘speed to market’, particularly with follow up. “If you want quick service from overseas then you won’t get it,” says Rob. “During the bushfires last year, wildland gear producers supplied within hours of orders. They worked weekends, making more product. You don’t get that out of China or Romania.”
Value stacks up
“Bit by bit it moves off shore, slowly but surely”. Fire service garment contracts are starting to undermine a valuable local industry
The value of ‘speed to market’ on top-up and urgent orders should not be underestimated. Add to this the likelihood of better quality control over design and manufacture, plus quicker response to particular needs or critical issues, and the value of local manufacture starts to stack up. Tariffs saw another reduction in January this year and the high relative value of our currency against the US dollar is further battering the defences of the Australian textiles, clothing and footwear (TCF) industry. It’s a sector that still employs close to 50,000 people and for lower skilled people, TCF provides work and security in an age when newer industries require higher skills or a move to remote regions where the cost of living is over the top.
Ever thought about where the PPC and other work gear supplied by your employer is made? Should we be making Clear labelling need sure it’s manufactured locally? Let’s check the argument When current contracts are up for renewal and
epending on where you live, the work gear you’re wearing could be coming from Romania or China. And you may think that doesn’t matter, so long as it’s up to spec and does the job. However, just as the debate over the new mining tax is raising questions about where the money goes and who benefits most, similar questions are being asked about the industry that supplies firefighter ppc and other apparel. Structural firefighting clothing for most Australian fire services is still made right here. However, for South Australian, Aviation (ASA) and – across the ditch – New Zealand firefighters, it’s produced overseas in China or 24 I The Australian Firefighter
Romania. If this is the start of a trend, then firefighters are in a good position to question what’s happening and campaign for the survival of a local industry that’s being squeezed by powerful multinationals.
Too much With pressure on trade barriers and growth of the global economy, corporates like the US Lion Apparel and British Bristol Uniforms are making inroads into Australia. The frustrating thing for local manufacturers is that they’re being told they are too expensive. “So tell us where you’d like it made,” they respond. Rob Walsh from Australian Defence Apparel
new tenders are being prepared, the Union and Members should consider the value of keeping the skills base in Australia, says Rob Walsh. “Once the contracts go overseas, those skills will be lost and it’s unlikely they’ll ever be back.” ADA produces structural ppc for Queensland firefighters from its factory in Bendigo in central Victoria. It has a fully unionised workforce of 250 people and the local economy benefits from a manufacturing plant of this size. It’s helping to keep jobs in a place where people prefer to live. As far as tenders for new contracts go, a first step could be to ensure the source of the clothing is clearly identified. “There have been contracts won and I’ve explained to a few people, well your garments are made in China,” says Rob. “There
are a lot of misconceptions about where things are made. I would like to see manufacturers state very clearly where the garment is made.”
adopt the same approach for the nation’s firefighters?
Erosion With no local procurement policies implemented by governments or authorities, we see big multinationals like Lion and Bristol pick up fire service contracts to supply the gear - but then get it made in developing nations where labour is cheap and clothing workers are on around $US 60 a month, or about one fiftieth of the average Australian garment worker’s wage. “My concern is that as more and more agencies choose the foreign made garment, it forces us in the local industry to consider going offshore,” says Rob Walsh. “What happens is it just erodes the business; bit by bit it moves off shore, slowly but surely.” ■
For those who come back with the level playing field and ‘free’ trade arguments, the reality for many Australian businesses is very different. “You try and sell garments into the US,” says Rob Walsh. “You can’t do it. I’d like to see a weighting given to local manufactures, whether that’s 10 or 20%, to support local industry.” When fabric maker Melba industries went A problematic under last year, it was bought by another formula: ‘free’ trade + global economy Australian company and the skills base was = national industry kept here. “That’s good, but we need to keep decline + local jobs loss the same skills base for the garments,” says Rob. Earlier this year, the federal government said it Have your say: Go to the ufua national website at wanted to keep key industries – including Please Note: NOT TO SCALE - approximateufua.asn.au only. and throw your two bob’s worth into the textiles – that support the defence forces debate. Vote inhigh. the online poll that asks should fire Dimensions of advertisement: 190.0mm wide and 131.0mm services’ clothing and equipment tenders be weighted onshore. The question firefighters can now ask to give local manufacturers a fair chance against their local MP is, when will the government overseas competitors?
The Australian Firefighter I 25
WORKFRONT CAMPAIGN victoria
On the campaign trail Victorian firefighters are out on the streets to defend their work conditions. Branch Campaigns and New Media Officer, Jake Wishart tells the story
’m not just doing this for my own sake; I’ll be out of the brigade in a few years. I’m doing it for the generation that comes after me when I’m gone.” Standing out the front of a suburban shopping centre in a marginal seat on a Saturday morning, UFU delegate Peter Hall spoke about why he helped organise the campaign action along with shop steward Glen Cavanagh and the other delegates and Members. Glen nods in agreement. “The way I see it, we are the custodians of our conditions. They weren’t just given to us as a gift from the employer; we’ve got a duty to protect them.”
inquiry which, over 12 months ago, identified 24 CFA stations in need of urgent upgrade to deal with urban growth and the lack of professionals. As our CFA comrades will know, many of these stations fall within the government’s own 52 ‘hot spots’ – they are under-resourced and in high risk bushfire areas. In the Royal Commission we have been making these points clearly – highlighting the direct link between our employment conditions and the standard of fire cover for the Victorian people. There have already been murmurs and speculation about greater integration / amalgamation of the fire services, with the creation of a new Victorian Fire Services Board. We await the Commissioner’s findings eagerly, but whether the Government has the inclination to follow through with logical recommendations is sometimes a separate matter.
Six months more We are at a crucial point in our campaign for a new EBA and I want to thank all Members, particularly our delegates, for all the hard yards and volunteering on the campaign trail. We have six months until the state election and the pressure is ramping up on the Government to deliver a fair outcome for firefighters and the community. For Members yet to take part in a local community action, please consider giving it a Victorian Campaign challenge
Firefighters take the campaign to Ringwood in a marginal Labor electorate
As most Members know, we are now fighting in a new setting. Under the Fair Work Act, our ability to take traditional protected action in the form of bans has been severely curtailed. Staring down the barrel of an arbitrated outcome, where long-held existing conditions are up for grabs, we have had to campaign creatively and fight smart for the changes we need in the fire services and our EBA.
Response challenge For the past six months, the UFU community campaign for More Firefighters, Not Less has been educating and mobilising the public to support maintained and increased fire cover standards across Victoria. Through Members engaging in grassroots campaigning, we have managed to educate and galvanize the support of thousands of Victorian residents and voters – through our local actions, large rallies, online campaigning and a consistent public presence in local, state-wide and 26 I The Australian Firefighter
national media. We have shown the public that our working conditions are directly linked to their standard of emergency services protection and we are turning up the heat on some nervous marginal seat MPs. For our Members in the MFB, we are campaigning against the abolition of the 269 minimum crewing chart to ensure that Members have the resources and troops needed to be safe in responding quickly to emergencies within the MFD. If MFB management are successful in abolishing 269 it will threaten fire cover and response times, spell the end of recall for Members and, coupled with the proposed MFB redundancy clause, could lead to job losses.
Urgent upgrades For the CFA, we have been pushing hard for increased resourcing and professional crews for stations stretched to the limit with a lack of staff. We have been lobbying government to immediately implement the independent recommendations from the Board of Reference
Confident campaigners in Richmond, another marginal seat for the government
go if there is one in your area. Shop Stewards and WOC (Workplace Organising Committee) members often do the ring around to ask for support and numbers at the actions – please give it a thought next time. If there is no action coming up in your area, contact the office and let’s make one happen. ■ Until next time, Strength in Unity comrades Jake Wishart Campaigns and New Media Follow the Victorian firefighters’ campaign at firecrisis.com where there are also links to the campaign Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.
Safety first When 2,000 Victorian firefighters delivered the Union’s submission to the Bushfires Royal Commission they also alerted the public to Fire Service plans to scrap the mandantory minimum number of firefighters on duty and change shift arrangements. The firefighters’ message was clear – resourcing cuts mean longer response times and less protection for people, property and themselves. MFB fire crews currently respond within the internationally accepted maximum emergency response time of 7.7 minutes. The community expects fire service managements to keep it this way.
The Australian Firefighter I 27
POLITICS POWER PLAYS charles livingston
The business end Reform is the first casualty when vested interests go to into battle against a government and the opposition plays for total tactical advantage, says Charles Livingstone
he 2007 election seemed to set up Labor for at least two terms, as the Opposition were swept, leaderless, from office. Now, if the polls are to be believed, Labor could lose the upcoming election, becoming the first single term government since the Second World War.
What went wrong? Labor governments are elected to reform, not to conduct business as usual. Rudd’s platform promised reforms including ending WorkChoices, addressing climate change and improving health and education. To achieve this, Labor has had to overcome the opposition not just of the dispirited and only modestly talented coalition parties, but also of increasingly powerful and vocal vested interests who never hesitate to oppose that which threatens their wealth and power.
Pressure points Vested interests now routinely pressure governments in ways almost unimaginable a generation ago. Back room deals with captains of industry were apparently commonplace in the 1950s and 1960s. Corporate lobbying, donating and campaigning have replaced those cosier arrangements over the last 50 years, as notions of political propriety have changed. There are currently 288 registered lobbyist companies operating in Canberra, not including organisations like the Minerals Council, the Business Council and so on. Their influence with the machinery of government is significant. This seems particularly so when the opposition has control of the Upper House. There is no doubt that Labor has many solid successes, not the least of which is its excellent counter-cyclical management of the global financial crisis. No other advanced economy was as well managed as Australia’s, or suffered less damage from the GFC. Australia’s unemployment rate never exceeded 6% during 28 I The Australian Firefighter
Abbot’s tactical strengths are also his weakness pic: stock.xchng/shuttermon
the crisis. That of the US continues to hover around the 10% level, despite the beginnings of what seems now to be solid recovery. Unlike most of the world, Australia avoided recession altogether. On this basis alone, Labor has a strong case for re-election, particularly given renewed economic uncertainty generated by the debt crisis of Greece and the Euro zone.
Total opposition However, Labor’s reform agenda seems to have lost momentum during the GFC. As in sport, victory in politics is often a matter of momentum, of who is seen to be making progress, achieving their goals, carrying the ball forward. Once momentum is halted, it’s hard to re-ignite.
President Obama’s health reform legislation was so watered down by the action of vested interests in the health care industry that many commentators suggested it was barely worth implementing. Even so, it took all the President’s considerable nous and political capital to steer it through the Congress, even with a comfortable Democrat majority in both houses. But the real point of the exercise was to maintain the Obama administration’s momentum, and that was achieved. His political fortunes improved immediately. Despite grieving over their 2007 election loss, as Tony Abbott recently admitted, the Liberals have taken their status as the opposition literally. The list of measures they opposed includes the
establishment of a national health promotion foundation, as recommended by the Preventative Health taskforce, increasing tax on alco-pops, and private health insurance reforms, which would have reduced the subsidy on private health rebates for the wealthy.
Leading from minority The alco-pops tax hike, despite the frenzied opposition of the alcohol industry, would have instituted parity in tax between other forms of alcohol and these sweet drinks designed for juvenile palates – and reduced consumption. Turnbull’s opposition backed down in the face of accurate data on consumption patterns. However, private health insurers worked hard to protect their $5 billion government subsidy. The opposition certainly saw this as an opportunity to inflict further pain on Labor. Their opposition to improved preventative health measures is a mystery. Abbott has turned this oppositionalism into an art, backed (it seems) wherever possible by vested interest – the real Abbott’s army. The carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS), agreed by Turnbull, was the vehicle for Abbott’s succession when the conservative rump of the Liberal Party rebelled against Turnbull’s small-l liberalism. This was a touch and go rebellion – had the leader’s ballot been held a few days later, after two moderate Liberals had been elected in by-elections for Higgins and Bradfield (vacated by Brendan Nelson and Peter Costello) Abbott would not have won. Abbott is a minority leader within his own party.
Shark moves The vested interests that opposed the CPRS most vigorously were the same interests that now oppose the resources super profit tax (RSPT), a progressive tax on the collective property of all Australians – resources that can never be replaced. The Minerals Council of Australia and its Chief Executive Mitch Hooke devoted enormous energy to successfully undermining the CPRS. The anti-RSPT campaign is no less energetic. As it happens, it perfectly suits Abbott’s agenda – a minority leader, demonstrating momentum to his troops. This has been a successful strategy, projecting an energetic and active image. But, largely bereft of policy, Abbott must keep moving lest his lack of substance become a problem, as the budget
Abbott has turned oppositionalism into an art, backed wherever possible by vested interest – the real Abbott army
response debacle demonstrated. Like a shark, if he stops, he dies.
All in the tactics Unlike conservative parties, Labor is a progressive, reforming force. Yet reformist governments also have to maintain their own momentum, something that Obama clearly understands (having quickly moved from health to regulation of the financial sector) but which Rudd, for whatever reason, has struggled to achieve. By abandoning what he had previously called ‘the greatest moral challenge of our time’ in the face of conservative intransigence, Rudd played into the opposition’s image of a Prime Minister without reforming conviction. Not damaging for a conservative, but mortally wounding for a Labor leader. In contrast, Abbott is all tactics. He conceded as much in his now infamous 7.30 Report interview, when he conceded that he can’t always be believed when speaking off the cuff. This is much more an admission of an unremitting search for tactical advantage than it is of untruthfulness.
Nimble Abbott is an experienced and masterful political tactician. But his lack of substance is becoming more and more clear. Rudd’s less cunning and sluggish response to Abbott’s manoeuvrings is perhaps the inevitable result of a government currently lacking momentum and trying to counter the adroit moves of a more nimble opponent. Yet Abbott’s strength is his weakness. Opposing change is easy when backed by powerful vested interests seeking retention of excess profit, monopoly or massive government subsidy. The RSPT and other wrangles have given Abbott short-term momentum, backed by the wealth of vested interest. The government, despite lacking momentum, has developed long-term responses to core problems, including the exhaustion of Australia’s resources and our need for a stronger revenue base. Abbott and his party have yet to tell us how they would build a nation for the 21st century. ■ Charles Livingstone is in the Department of Health Social Science at Monash University. The Australian Firefighter I 29
POLITICS THE INSIDER s i r m u r r ay
Leadership Lost With porkies and politics a seemingly unavoidable combination, distinguished Australian Sir Murray Rivers is preparing the obituaries
here is a saying from the American poet Walt Emerson that reads, ‘“(t)he louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons.” I think this in a sense sums up the fate of, not only the do-absolutely-nothing-but-do-it-veryquickly Prime Ministership of Kevin 07, but also, after his very unfortunate ‘gospel truth’ interview with the 7.30 Report’s Kerry O’Brien, our great new leader Crusader Abbott. So, where to begin with both leaders’ political obituaries? (Young Malcolm up the back of the class, stop giggling.) Let’s start with Kevin Rudd. The fact is that young Kev is not just on the nose, he is up a well-known creek without a paddling device. Have no doubt, Rudd is down for the count and he won’t be getting up again – even if Labor wins the next election.
Limb tearers The reason is simple. The media rocket scientists and other pea-brained trouser shakers that comprise the Canberra press gallery have accomplished what they have done historically: place a politician on an unwarranted pedestal and then, deciding that he’s no fun anymore, commenced to tear him limb by limb from the pedestal. Uniquely, in the case of Rudd, his spectacular downfall has been, on this occasion, a combined effort. His mistake however, was to think that once elected he could tell the gallery to go away and not bother him. After all, couldn’t they see – he was a bit busy posing as a leader. None of this would have mattered had the PM and the Government delivered on their election promises. He failed and this is why this PM is the Black Knight of Monty Python fame. He is a dead bird, a past parrot. If it wasn’t for the Dream Team on my side of politics continually scoring own-goals, Kevin Rudd would be gone by now. 30 I The Australian Firefighter
Pollies need better weather checkers pic: stock.xchng/dimitri_c
Richo missed Like all vain, clever politicians, Rudd’s chameleon instincts require that those surrounding him are very impressed with the brilliance of Kevin Rudd. After all, he certainly is. If it’s true, as Ernest Hemingway once said, that “every writer needs to have a shit barometer”, the same is true of politicians. Therein lies part of the problem for Rudd and Labor. For a very long time now, throughout the leadership debacles that were Simon Crean, Kim Beazley and the Mark Latham circus, Labor has desperately needed someone to act as a political SB. In other words, Labor has never replaced ‘Richo’. Former Senator Richardson, for better or worse, colourful as he may have been, policy-devoid at all times, the pragmatic Senator
Richardson was the best SB the colony has ever seen on either side of politics. Richardson’s simple genius was to lick his finger and pop it out his window each morning to see which way the political wind was blowing. Hawke or Keating never died wondering or ever got a dodgy weather report from the man who did whatever it took. Since ‘Richo’, there has been no one giving that sort of brutal advice; but even if there were, Rudd wouldn’t accept it.
Bar advice How else do you explain having twenty nine year olds as senior advisors? With all due respect to those aspirational young Generation Y things, they may be clever, ambitious and do a fine line in egocentricity, but apart from this, there is little else. What on earth do you know about life at
twenty nine? What are you going to advise Kevin 07 about – the hottest bars? But returning to my point, something I like to do on occasion during an article, Rudd’s problems have come about because having promised the voters Shangri-la, he’s failed to deliver a blade of grass in the Gobi Desert, let alone Nirvana. Yes, we have the apology to our Ingenious people. But that should have happened a long time ago. My view has always been with this Stolen Generator business, that if you nick someone’s generator, you should apologise for lifting the parts and then we all move on. I’ve never worked out why Howard couldn’t say sorry. Bad potty training would be my guess. But are the appalling circumstances for the Upper Regional people any different under Rudd? No, in fact they’re worse. Three hundred and twenty houses were to be built in the first term, thirty two have been finished – almost. Beware of white men bearing gifts.
Club reaction What about the rest? Too many back-flips to mention. It’s fine to announce new initiatives at the speed of sound, but if you don’t deliver you can’t blame the voters for not trusting you. The German playwright Bertold Brecht once observed, “there is one fundamental problem with the armoured tank. It’s driver.” So too the problem for the Labor Party, and I’m very loath to say, the other side of politics. Jaw dropping is not something one sees all that often down at the Melbourne Club but when word spread of Tony Abbott’s massive blunder on the 7.30 Report, some of the elder membership had conniptions. Good Lord, telling the voters that they shouldn’t believe what you say unless they get it in writing isn’t the smartest thing a politician might say. What came over the man? Look, I know Crusader Abbott is a practicing Catholic but there’s a time and place for the confession.
The effect at the Club was immediate. Poor old ‘Bumsie’ ( Sir Rodger Darling) was calling for oxygen, Vice Admiral Wilmonth-Smythe tipped his glass of port down his trouser legs and was predicting Armageddon, and I was forced to open another ‘69 Grange to steady my nerves.
Age of consent Look when it comes to telling political porkies, I take the very mature view that provided a porky is told, in private, between consenting adults could I care? Fate is a funny thing and Lord Turnbull must have cracked an even more expensive bottle of red as he watched the ABC. Malcolm, a word of advice from here on in – if you want the leadership back just remain silent. It is clear that keeping one’s trap shut is about the smartest trick in town. ■ Sir Murray Rivers QC (retired). A former distinguished Victorian Supreme Court judge, Sir Murray’s contribution to the nation’s public life continues as a great and very distinguished Australian
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The Australian Firefighter I 31
LIFE HEALTH ed
How healthy is that? In May, the Rudd government released a nationwide men’s health policy. A good move or an election year stunt? Read on Macduff
n average, the Aussie male dies some five years earlier than his female counterpart. Research indicates that Australian men have an average life expectancy of just under 79 years. This compares to nearly 84 years for women. This gap isn’t new, so why has it taken so long for a federal government to come up with the plan to deal with male health problems? Last month, the Rudd government trumpeted the release of its National Male Health policy. This one follows on from an election promise, so it been three years in the making and the formulation hasn’t been short on consultation. Last year, 26 public forums were conducted in regional and metropolitan centres across the country. That involved around 1,300 people, the sort of sample size your average newspaper pollster uses to gauge the popularity of government and opposition parties from time to time.
blog Crikey, that despite being some 110 years late, how well the policy goes down will depend more on to its implementation than the launch fanfare. She points out that we’ve had a National Women’s Health policy for about 21 years and that the first national men’s health conference was held way back in 1995.
Employer health checks
So now that we finally have one – and it comes with a $16.7 million budget – is it any good? Andrology Australia, a research and men’s health promotion body with a focus on male reproductive health, is positive about the policy. Its Associate Professor Doug Lording says, “(o)ne of the most important aspects of the policy is its acknowledgment of the range of factors that influence male health and the importance of a strong evidence base to inform policy and practice.” For firefighters who face the prospect of exposure to toxic chemicals and dangerous workplaces every time they go on shift, the fourth action priority, with its focus on the preventive will be music to the ears of males in the ranks. The policy aim is to encourage employers to deliver health checks and programs for men as well as monitor workplace hazards and environmental toxins. This aspect of the policy could synch in very well Action priorities with the Union’s NCOM decision The new policy has six priority areas to pursue presumptive laws and and in the time honoured tradition regulation to better recognise of the consultant (‘give me your and deal with firefighter cancers watch and I’ll tell you the time’) we and other work-related diseases. A poor tradie always blames … well, maybe not. Men’s health is now well and are being told that the ‘action plan’ For female firefighters, the news is that truly on the agenda with Australia’s first National Male Health policy requires us blokes to do something – the National Women’s Health policy - health equity between males at different life ourselves – to make a difference. Of is also currently being reviewed, stages, course government, health and non-government although it’s unknown where it might head - a focus on preventive health for males, sectors will be there to lend a hand we’re told, so with workplace issues. - building a strong evidence base on male that’s heartening. More broadly, the policy’s strong message health, and Those six action priorities include the about prevention will, hopefully, filter down - access to health care for males. to employers and HR departments – and state promotion of: All good stuff but will it work? Canberra based and territory governments – across the nation. - optimal health outcomes for males, health policy commentator Margo Saunders Unfortunately, the money may not go quite - health equity between population groups pointed out in the online news and commentary far enough. of males, 32 I The Australian Firefighter
The spend So how will the bulk of the dollars be spent? Over 40% (nearly $7 million) of the budget will go on a national longitudinal men’s health study. This forms part of its whole-of-life viewpoint, says Andrology Australia and the study will hope to identify “the social determinants of male health and the associations with biological, environmental and other factors across the lifespan.” For firefighters, there are echoes here of the Monash University firefighter health study that was proposed after the discovery of a cancer cluster at the Atherton fire station in northern Queensland. This year, the Union is investigating the value of supporting the study and whether it is more studies or more immediate action by governments and employers that will prove the most effective way to support firefighters who contract cancer through workplace exposure. But back to the National Male Health policy budget commitments; a further $3 million has
Targeting men – but will the National Male Health policy make a difference? pic: stockxhng/flycat
been allocated to the Australian Men’s Sheds Association, while $6 million will be spent on promoting the role of Indigenous men in their children’s and families’ lives. “This clearly doesn’t leave a lot for everything else, such as addressing major needs in primary prevention,” says Margo Saunders.
The limits With its nine supporting documents the new National Male Health Policy does appear to be weighty and comprehensive. But is that a recipe for success? “While the policy now provides a
framework of action”, says Andrology Australia’s Doug Lording, “it is important that individuals, organisations, service providers and governments work together to ensure that the policy is effectively implemented.” It “touches all the bases” says Margo Saunders but a number of unanswered questions remain, such as how it will relate to other national health policies, such as the National Drug Strategy and strategic approaches to obesity. So, for Australia’s men. does life need to be a choice between quantity (life span) and quality (how well we live)? Or could us blokes have it all, thanks to the National Male Health policy? Only time will tell. ■ The ageing editor Check out the detail of the National Male Health Policy at health.gov.au/malehealthpolicy Read Margo Saunders Crikey column in full via tinyurl.com/2anb7rw To find out more about the Australian Centre of Excellence in Male Reproductive Health, visit the Andrology Australia website at andrologyaustralia.org
ASBESTOS NEED TO KNOW Firefighters continues to be at risk of asbestos exposure because it was frequently used in older structures. Its ability to linger in the air even after a fire has been extinguished also makes it a hazard. Asbestos and fire Asbestos exposure is unlikely to occur during the initial firefighting stages when firefighters are wearing BA that prevent asbestos from being inhaled. However during a fire, asbestos containing materials might disintegrate from the fire itself or from water when it makes contact with hot material. It might also be released into the air in the case of structural failure. The fibres are not combustible and can linger in the air during the overhaul stage of a fire when firefighters extinguish remaining
hotspots and make their checks. Clues to its presence Asbestos was used in a number of building products. While there is no definitive way to tell whether a material does contain asbestos there are some clues after a fire. For example, if certain parts of a structure are in much better relative condition than other parts, there’s a fair chance asbestos could be present. Removal or abatement If a building has had asbestos removed, that means it is no longer present in the structure. If a building has undergone asbestos abatement that means the material has been removed or sealed within a protective material to prevent it from being released.
Health risks from exposure Asbestos fibres can enter the lungs and become trapped which can lead to scarring. Over time, this can increase the risk of developing conditions like mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer. However, that risk depends on the nature of exposure. Patients diagnosed with asbestos related diseases usually have a pattern of asbestos exposure. Therefore, it is unlikely that a one time exposure will lead to the development of cancer. But if you have been exposed to asbestos, report it and get a medical check. Prevention is key: a good start is to make sure all PPC is cleaned frequently. Sources include the US based Mesotheliomaweb.org. Check out the website’s firefighter section via tinyurl. com/27wusot There’s more information about asbestos and its dangers on the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia website at adfa.org.au
The Australian Firefighter I 33
LIFE CARE wildlife
For the wild Rescue and rehab are key roles for wildlife responders as bushfires, emergencies, climate change – and the GFC – pile on the pressure
ach year, countless numbers of wild animals are killed, injured and orphaned across Australia as a direct consequence of human activities or natural disasters. Firefighters are all too aware of the impact of fires and other emergencies they attend on the animal population. And that extends to domesticated animals as well as those in the bush. However, it is not-for-profit and volunteer based organisations that lead the charge to protect wildlife across Australia. Many provide around-the-clock rescue, rehabilitation and information services.
Modus operandi Wildlife Victoria is one such rescue body. Formed in 1989, the group celebrates a 21st birthday this year. Animal rescue, rehab and support is an expensive business, and as state and territory governments tighten their belts to cope with the impact of the global financial crisis, they are spending less in this area. So an even greater responsibility for the rescue and care of injured and threatened wild species is being placed on these voluntary groups. Wildlife Victoria relies on about 650 members, mostly volunteers, to do the work. Volunteers are trained to perform their tasks during emergencies such as bushfires, accidents or chemical and fuel spills. In addition to rescue operations, many volunteers devote hours to care and rehabilitation, education and training, wildlife advocacy and research.
with assessment, medication – and in some cases euthanasia – of injured and distressed animals. Eastern grey kangaroos, swamp and redneck wallabies, along with possums and lizards were the most severely affected species. Injuries included serious burns to paws, limbs and tails. Stress and dehydration affected many of the animals and there were a number of joeys orphaned.
Rules and regs Rapid access to injured wildlife can be an issue and delays can be frustrating for the responders.
occupy the time of wildlife responders. There are food drops to drought and fire affected areas, dealing with the results of illegal trapping and poisoning attempts (possums), mindless cruelty (bow and arrow attacks on birds and animals), dog and cat attacks (sugar glider and brush-tails) plus road injuries (koalas, wombats, echidnas) and entanglements (grey headed flying foxes). Volunteers also rehabilitate and care for injured animals – and staff the emergency phone service. In Victoria alone, 60,000 calls are dealt with each year. Funded by donations, it is nevertheless relied on by government departments, zoos, sanctuaries, veterinarians, councils, police and emergency services – as well as the general public.
So what’s it take to be a good wildlife support person? Of course sensitivity to wildlife rescue and rehabilitation is a must, along with enthusiasm, dedication, a professional attitude, not to mention the ability to remain calm and focused under pressure. You need to be able to work alone and unsupervised while the ability to relate is a must – not only to injured animals but also to members of the public who are often distressed when they come across wildlife in need Scarce already, but koalas are just one native species suffering of urgent care. increased stress pic: stock.xchng_albertip And what’s it take to be a good wildlife supporter? How about starting To clear up areas of confusion, Victoria’s with a donation? ■ Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) has recently revised its protocols for Wildlife protection and support groups Grampians are state and territory based. wildlife rescue on fire grounds. Links to a number of them include: They cover some 18 pages but Wildlife A good example of how wildlife emergency NSW: Wildlife Information and Rescue Victoria believes the revision represents “a responders go about their work can be found Service atwires.org.au significant change in the mindset of government back in January, when a bushfire burnt through SA: Fauna Rescue of SA at faunarrescue.org.au departments in factoring the state’s wildlife in 1,700 hectares of the Grampians National park WA: Department of Environment and Conservation disaster response planning.” This new approach in Victoria. Wildcare courses and helpline via has been heavily influenced by the Victorian Within 24 hours, a Wildlife Victoria response tinyurl.com/262qstb Vic: Wildlife Victoria at bushfires tragedy of last year, when wildlife effort swung into action involving more than 20 wildlifevictoria.org.au;DSE/CFA rescue and rehabilitation was almost entirely team members working in shifts across each day. The protocols can be found via Team members, decked out in rescue equipment resourced by Wildlife Victoria. tinyurl.com/28qvexn However, it’s not only bushfire injuries that Banner pic: stock.xchng/egilshay and protective gear included vets who assisted 34 I The Australian Firefighter
Sign of the times Communities have always been at a disadvantage when they’ve lacked the protection of paid, professional firefighters. However, in their absence, communities cope in various ways and from China here’s a sign describing how one town went about protecting itself against fire. And just in case the image is a little difficult to decipher, here’s what the sign says.
Fire Department The people in Wu Zhen have been emphasised anti-fire and the fire department consisted of three communities that paid the daily expenses to prepare some necessary anti-fire implements. These implements differed in different times, originally, they was made from wood, after the anti-war, the newly produced pump was used. On fire, the people went all out to put out it, who went to do so were all voluntary. Later, the people in the town regarded May 20 every year in the lunar calendar as anti-fire day. When all the people would like to take active part in fire drill. UFU Victoria Branch Industrial Officer Harry Mitchell snapped this priceless piece of fire prevention history on a trip to China.
Dispatch is the UFUA’s national industrial and campaign newsletter. Subscribe at ufua.asn.au to have it delivered to your email inbox
The Australian Firefighter I 35
LIFE EATS mannix
The Godfather …. an offer you can’t refuse
Winter warmers Eat now, save some for later – it’s the only way to go with winter comfort food, says Chef Mannix
oup with hot buttered toast, mashed veggies with grilled meat, steaming, sticky pudding! It’s that time of year where we just want to be kept warm. These are some of my favourite winter dishes. And they’re all worth making in large quantity because they all taste even better the next day!
The Godfather Chicken Soup I made this soup for my god daughter when she was here for a visit. She turned up on my door step with a nasty cold and this soup was just what the doctor ordered! You can skip the meatballs and just shred the chicken instead. But who can resist a meatball? If you start the day ahead, you can skim all the fat from the broth. And don’t overlook the old parmesan rind; it gives the soup a ton of character. 36 I The Australian Firefighter
Ingredients: 1 small chicken (about 1.5 kg) 3 carrots, peeled and diced 3 stalks of celery, diced (and some leafy tops) 3 onions, peeled and diced 3 ripe tomatoes, diced 3 tufty sprigs of dill 3 bay leaves 1 piece of old parmesan rind 1 cup of dry white wine 1 parsnip, peeled and diced 3 cloves of garlic, peeled pinch each; paprika, salt and pepper 1 red capsicum 3 small zucchini, diced 1 cup pasta shells
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed And the meatballs: 450g (about 6) chicken and fennel sausages 1 cooked chicken breast (from the chicken used for the soup) 1 egg 2 tblspns chicken fat (skimmed from stock) ½ cup (plus more) matzo meal or breadcrumbs.
Rinse out the chicken, place the celery tops, the dill and the garlic cloves in the cavity and place it in a large pot. Add all other ingredients except the capsicum and zucchini, cover with water. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to a gentle simmer and allow to cook at least 2-4 hours. Remove from the heat, allow to cool then cover with a lid and refrigerate overnight. Next day, skim the fat from the surface of the pot and set aside. Lift the chicken out of the water, trying to keep it intact. Add the zucchini and capsicum to the soup and bring back to a boil. Add a cup of small pasta shells and, if you like, some white beans. Slice one breast from the chicken, remove
Rip roaring, rooty-toot mash
the skin and dice the meat. Remove the sausage meat from their casings and mix with the chicken meat in a small bowl. Add two tablespoons of the chicken fat, one egg, ½ cup of matzo meal (or substitute with crushed Sao biscuits). If you don’t wish to use sausages, then use an equal quantity of lean chicken mince. Add 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan, some fennel, salt and pepper and cayenne. Roll the mix into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball. Roll these in some additional crumbs and drop them into the soup. If the balls are too soft, let them sit on some waxed paper in the fridge for 30 minutes, then add to the soup. Allow to simmer 30 minutes, until meatballs are cooked. Taste the soup for seasoning; you can add salt, pepper or cayenne to taste. There, you have it.
butter, a teaspoon of pepper, nutmeg and zest. Cover and allow to sit for a couple of minutes. Add ¾ of the grated cheeses and blend, mash or process. I use an immersion blender; that gets everything pureed using a single pot. Taste, add salt if necessary. Add the beaten eggs and combine well. Spoon into a baking dish, cover with the remaining cheese – and breadcrumbs (Japanese panko breadcrumbs work best – check the Asian food isle in your supermarket). Bake in a hot oven until topping is golden brown. Comforting in the extreme.
Rooty Toot Mash There is something about mashed vegetables which everyone seems to find comforting. This mix of root vegetables are mashed with some cheese and butter, lightly spiced and topped with breadcrumbs. I always make a large batch because everyone comes back for seconds. And they taste as good with the Sunday roast as they do with Monday night’s grilled sausages! The goods: 8 swedes 8 parsnips 4 carrots 115 g unsalted butter 115g grated gruyere 250g cream cheese 50g grated parmesan salt, pepper pinch grated nutmeg 1 tspn grated lemon zest 3 eggs 1 cup breadcrumbs.
Peel all of the vegetables, cut the swedes in half, then cut each half into quarter wedges. Cut the parsnips and carrots into quarters. Put the vegetables in a large pot of salted water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender (about 20 minutes). Drain, add the diced cream cheese and
What ever way up, this upside down pudding is a treat
Upside Down Pudding This one is with blackberry and lemon but you can make this dessert with any fruit. However, the blackberries and toffee are heavenly with the lemon scented pudding. Lashings of cream and lemon gelato don’t go astray either!
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a ‘how to’ video is worth a few thousand more. To see Mannix in action in the kitchen, log on to YouTube at youtube.com/user/ mannixeats to see these recipes built before your very eyes. What you need: For the berries and toffee: 115g butter 2 cups dark brown sugar 2 cups blackberries pinch salt. For the lemon pudding: 115 g butter 1 cup sugar 2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk zest and juice of 1 lemon 1 ¾ cups self raising flour ½ cup yoghurt.
Mix the butter and sugar and salt into a batter, spread across the bottom of a cake pan or baking dish. Arrange the blackberries evenly on top of the toffee batter. Pre-heat oven to 200c. Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, add one egg yolk and combine. Add eggs and lemon zest and beat well. Add flour, lemon juice and yoghurt and beat for two minutess. If the batter is too stiff, add a little water or additional lemon juice. Spoon cake batter over the berries and bake for about 35 minutes until the cake is browned and feels firm to touch. Allow to cool slightly and either turn upside down on a platter or spoon straight from the dish. That’s the great thing about comfort food; eat some straight away and save a bit for later. Either way, in the kitchen, the approach of colder weather is something to look forward to. ■ Visit the lovebite.com
for day to day suggestions and to find out more about Chef Mannix, a Melbourne lad now living in Los Angeles. The Australian Firefighter I 37
LIFE BREAKS d av e l a n e
River reverie After six days investigating seven centuries of Cambodian empire building, the next stage of Davo’s trip had to be a relaxing one River trip pics: davo
ngkor Wat and its surrounds are captivating, no doubt about it. We were so impressed, we got the tuk-tuk* driver to give it handful and range further afield so we could check out a number of temples and palaces of other Khmer kings. These ruins of glories past are extensive but the connecting roads are rugged and it was January, right in the middle of the Cambodian dry season. So we were not only hot but also very dusty by the final day of our tour of Vedic friezes and Buddhist sculptures. So how about a relaxing little river trip, suggested Maria. Cool breezes, slow currents and a timeless land immediately sprung to mind. Hmm, that ice cold Angkor, the excellent local brew I was tucking into at the time, was starting to work.
Westward ho We were in Siem Reap, a noisy boom town that services the Angkor tourist industry, but our next destination was Battambang, the capital of Cambodia’s ‘wild’ west. This region has 38 I The Australian Firefighter
been fought over by the Khmers and Thais for centuries and more recently was the front line in the brutal civil war between Pol Pot forces (covertly backed by the UK and US) and the eventual victors, some disaffected factions of the Khmer Rouge reinforced by battalions of Vietnamese warriors. There are a number of ways to get to Battambang from Siem Reap; the river trip is not exactly the quickest and during the dry season it can take all of a very long day. That’s why at six the next morning, we found ourselves in a packed minibus (85% backpackers, 15% locals) hairing down another potholed road to the ‘port’. Speed, as your neighbourhood quantum mechanic will tell you, is not a constant. In Cambodia, hairing down a highway means you cover about 12 kilometres in around 30 minutes. While local drivers don’t bother trying to avoid the potholes, there are a number of other things they will, including monks, larger vehicles, animals, motor scooters, drays, bicycles and other pedestrians – in about that order.
That half hour took us close to the junction of the Siem Reap River and a very large lake, the Tonlé Sap.
Boat lotto The water level was low and rickety duckwalks down the steep muddy banks pointed to where we should head. But which was the Battambang boat? There were a number of possibilities, all classic Indochinese river ferries with long flat bottomed wooden hulls, eyes painted on the bow, open air apart from a tin roof held up by a dodgy wooden frame and at the stern, an adjustable propeller on a long swing shaft trailing into the water. The modern backpacker is a demanding animal and each of their increasingly insistent queries “Battambang?” had the local sailors, labourers and police pointing to a different boat each time. I suppose this is how they get a laugh during an otherwise uneventful morning. However, it all settled down after a couple of side splitting attempts by young tourists to scramble through the mud from one boat to
undergrowth to get around nets, fish traps, bathers, clothes washers, small boats, bigger barges and severe bends. There was also a liberal measure of bottom bouncers and shoal churning to test the propeller, the long shaft and its gantry.
Faith is required where freeboard is scarce
another and consensus was reached about which one was going to make the journey. When filled to 215% capacity, the diesel was brought to life, the prop lowered and we were off, churning mud from the river bottom and pouring sooty black smoke into the morning air. A relaxing river trip? The jury was still out but it didn’t look good.
Fresh water Three quarters of an hour later, we were ploughing across the north end of the lake. The youth had decamped to the roof to avoid the crush of the wooden benches in steerage, making a slight stretch possible for the rest of us. A mild breeze had also sprung up, so things were definitely looking up. Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia. It connects to the mighty Mekong River and water moves in two directions. The Mekong floods fill it during the wet season and the water drains back during the dry. It’s a critical ecosystem for the region’s fish and wildlife and acts as a natural flood control device for the mid / lower Mekong. All this is now threatened by massive dams and hydro projects further upstream in China and Laos. So here we were, running against the current, breeze in our hair, and with those hard wooden
Home is where the tilt is
seats now softer (one good reason for taking a jumper to the tropics). We chugged by small open fishing boats with mum, dad and the kids plying their nets, and yes, it had become a relaxing little trip. We approached the shore again and cruised by the Prek Toal bird sanctuary. Storks, pelicans and birds of prey popped out of the greenery or circled overhead as we turned up the Sangker River to meander our way across the plain to Battambang.
With our boat negotiating its way between two and three metre high banks, the only view of the country side was now from the tin roof with the neck craned. Farmers digging in the still of the afternoon, while masses of ducklings packed behind flimsy corrals competed with the fish traps for scarce river bank space. Relaxing ? Yes it was. And as the sun dipped to the horizon we knew we must be approaching Battambang, as those tell tale signs of an urban population – heaps of plastic rubbish – started to pile piled up on the river’s pebble banks. Next stop, a prahoc (fish paste) village. Step 1: catch a boatload of fish. Step 2: leave them in the hold for a month. Step 3: that’s another story. ■
Narrows Whole lives are lived on this river; the boats of course, but add to this floating houses, vegetable gardens, pig sties, temples, shops – even whole towns and their inhabitants – moving up and down with the water levels. However, not affluent lives by the look of it; serene at times perhaps, but tough, judging by the very small fish being caught by a large number of people. Our boat paused regularly to drop off and pick up the locals, and we stopped at the (slightly less floating) river junction port of Prei Chas for a fuel stop and lunch. The blokes – and their aviator sunglasses – lounging around the hand-pumped bowser suggested we had arrived in the wild west. A little later, the river became narrow and shallow, so the rest of the day was dominated by tight manoeuvres – backups, multi-point turns, bank sideswipes and close brushes with
Dry season can be a cruel what’s what Terms: *a tuk-tuk or remorque moto is a low powered two stroke three wheeler, where the front end of a stepthrough morphs into a back end of a Cape cart. Getting there: direct Bangkok Airways flights connect Bangkok and Siem Reap but they’re not cheap (around $AUD 350 return for a 50 minute flight each way). The boat trip is around $AUD 20 pp. You can also travel in the reverse direction. With hotel construction going hell for leather, reasonable value accommodation is not too hard to find in Siem Reap. There’s less choice in Battambang – but it’s cheap! Money: US dollars are the thing in Cambodia. Auto tellers and bank staff dish them out and prices are usually quoted in them. You’ll get the local currency (Kip) in change, along with some lollies to make up the difference.
The Australian Firefighter I 39
... or just plain revolting? With its cross code recruiting and salary cap scandals, Mick O’Regan looks into what is happening to footy
hat word ‘revolution’ has gone from being very busy to absolutely flat strap, from an occasional reference to an everyday description. It used to involve popular uprisings, overthrowing governments and all that. But then advertising got hold of it and everything from toothpaste to radial tyres became revolutionary. (Yeah, I know, that’s to be expected.) But now it’s spread to sport, and not just the bumpf about revolutionary boots, energy drinks or hair replacement schemes. A revolution has gripped sport itself. At one level, it’s all about the huge change from something we did to have fun (or hang out with friends) to a massive business exercise. The link between sport and play was once fundamental, but at an elite level these days that’s pure nostalgia. Sport and pay is now the key link. But that’s hardly revolutionary either; the influence of money – dollars both legit and 40 I The Australian Firefighter
underhand – has been around for generations as well.
Skills purchase No, the revolution is all about the collapse of the differences between football codes and the emergence of an open market for players. To recruit Queensland rugby league star Karmichael Hunt as the first signing for the new Gold Coast AFL club was a masterstroke of publicity. Suddenly the as-yet-unnamed club was all over the back page of most newspapers and on every talkback show. Local leaguies said it was an insult to serious AFL fans. Diehard Melburnians questioned whether Hunt would do any good in their code. But beyond the particular merits of the AFL and rugby league, this was a clear example of buying sporting skills, irrespective of where they were fashioned. Once upon a time, a serious football player
wouldn’t have dreamt of ending up starring in a different code. Sure, there was movement between the two species of rugby but it was pretty limited and basically involved the same game. The really radical idea was to suggest a switch from Aussie Rules to rugby league, or vice versa. Imagine Ron Barassi entertaining the idea of himself in a St George Dragons’ jersey or Bobby Fulton turning out in the sleeveless kit of the Essendon Bombers. Now, imagine Karmichael Hunt, so familiar to hundreds of thousands of people in his Maroon State of Origin jersey, suddenly being the face of the AFL in the fastest growing region in the nation. It’s about to happen.
Home grown gone As the ‘80s pop song bluntly acknowledged, ‘money changes everything’. In sport, money doesn’t re-write the rules as much as make
them up to suit the situation. Over the past best soccer involves mastery of space and speed, Beefy limits generation, as the amateur shackles were and of chess-like manoeuvres that create gaps in Scanning the AFL ranks, I’d be so tempted to thrown off, the cheque books flew open. Sport a defensive pattern. It’s not an issue of tucking direct some of the tall timber to rugby union. internationalised with extraordinary speed. the ball under one beefy bicep and charging at Players like Spider Everett and Tony Lockett Overseas in the English Premier League (EPL), the line. In soccer, skill not force is the active could’ve been huge in rugby. Their power and it’s hard to find a home-grown player in a top element. defensive strength would have suited such a club’s roster. collision-oriented game. And the Brisbane Fan dilemma The EPL is a market open to the best of Lions’ Jonathon Brown has the physical In the end it’s skill that sells. Depending on the the best and that’s who it attracts. Players are presence you’d love in a top rugby league centre. code, the degree to which the skill has to be traded like the valuable commodities they are combined with sheer physical and club owners are just as likely toughness varies. But the to be overseas billionaires as local grandees. Clubs are now big essential point is this; what you Find links to firefighter campaign, industrial, training and OHS investments and not simply the grew up playing in the backyard news – updated weekly. Subscribe to Dispatch and OH&S Alert sporting expression of a particular might not be where you end up, newsletters or download a copy of The Australian Firefighter community. if sport becomes your life. magazine. The UFUA national website is at ufua.asn.au – However, the ingrained it’s worth a regular visit Interchange familiarity a lifelong player and But back to the revolution, and the fan brings to a specific sport blurring of football distinctions. A is crucial to the culture of the television commentator on ABC game. In Australia we’ve emerged TV’s Offsiders program recently as a series of somewhat hostile noted it’s “all about foot skills” not sporting camps. In the eye of the about sporting pedigree. If an elite true believer, his or her favourite player has the athleticism to jump, will be forever superior. So what run, catch, kick and handpass to will it be like when players begin the level required, then does it to move from one sporting matter what game he used to play? citadel to another, when last The emergence of young Somaliseason’s AFL star is next season’s born players in the AFL comp rugby league revelation? highlights this very nicely. Their height, speed and balance haven’t Trade options been honed playing Aussie Rules The unspoken element in all but it is all there, to be channelled this is what has happened at as necessary. It’s what you can do, the Melbourne Storm rugby not what you’ve been doing. league club. Discovering the So who might be ‘swappable’ in club officials have deliberately the eyes of cross-code enthusiasts? rorted the salary cap has been My background is mixed with met with severe punishment with Seeing him hit the advantage line with his great a Melbourne childhood and teenage years in premierships discounted and points erased. At the upper body strength would be a real crowd Brisbane exposing me to Aussie Rules and both base of it all is money and cheating, but it’s also pleaser. rugby codes. So I’ll declare myself entitled to raised a heap of questions about restraint of trade Perhaps that physical contest marks a line choose. From the ranks of rugby league I’d and player options in a wide sporting market. that soccer players would find hard to cross. In love to see the Melbourne Storm’s Greg Inglis Who knows how it will all play out because Australian Rules football and in rugby there’s a and Billy Slater playing AFL. The former’s right now the future is so uncertain. Like I said, focus on defence that means stopping the player, combination of power and balance would make it’s a revolution. ■ not just the ball. The bone-jarring head-on him a remarkable centre half forward, while Mick O’Regan is the ABC Radio National’s defence expected in these codes simply doesn’t Slater’s speed and deceptive running would set online editor, former presenter of the Sports Factor and a passionate sports enthusiast. the midfield alight. exist in soccer. It’s easy to understand why; the
The Union online
The Australian Firefighter I 41
THE LAST WORD terry peters
Size matters A landmark study by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technologies demonstrates the benefit of optimal crewing. Terry Peters checks it out
This study has now opened another door ince contributing articles to the laddering, ventilation and time taken to for this argument. It is backed up by credible Australian Firefighter Magazine, I have put water on the fire. data showing the effects of various situations written about a number of topics, from Statistically speaking, this research is well that included 22 firefighting tasks. It found the firefighter cancer presumptive laws to grassroots overdue seeing the US Fire Administration time taken to perform the tasks varies greatly lobbying campaigns. Regardless of the topic, the figures show that in 2008, 403,000 residential point I keep returning to is that structure fires killed close to 3,000 we need to get involved and utilise people and injured about 13,500. not only our own initiatives but They accounted for approximately those from other organisations as 84% of all fire deaths, with direct well. If we seek, consult and lobby costs totalling about $US 8.5 by simply getting involved, this billion. While firefighter deaths can be incredibly rewarding for remain steady at approximately 100 not only city and small, township annually, tens of thousands more fire brigades but potentially, for are injured every year. internationally shared benefits Delay grows risk as well. An example of this is a study This study will no doubt prove just released in the United States beneficial for brigades that are faced that contains the most inspirational with staffing short sightedness and I findings. It is being carefully encourage everyone faced with this watched across the boarder in challenge to address the facts and Canada through the IAFF and understand this fresh research. The I would encourage all UFUA Canadian firefighters Sid Allman, Brad Collicutt, Kevin Culos and Captain Carl report can be downloaded from Jones (l to r) from Powell River (British Columbia). Field experiments simulating Members to also take note of it. the NIST website.
low-hazard residential structural firefighting and rescue demonstrate the superiority of four person minimum crews.
This unbiased landmark study, released by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST), shows that the size of firefighting crews has a substantial effect on a fire service’s ability to protect lives and property during residential fires. Now let’s put that into perspective. Of course, if you don’t have enough firefighters at a fire it is not only going to be more difficult to do the job, but matters become a lot more dangerous for not only us but the public as well. Seems like common sense! But we continue to find examples of that not being understood, no matter where we are in the world. If everyone with the ability to rectify the problem listened to us, we would never have to argue the point! So ultimately, common sense is not so common when it comes to staffing fire apparatus. 42 I The Australian Firefighter
depending on the staffing levels assigned. Until now, few scientifically based comparisons have been available.
Two to five trial The NIST research explored a number of scenarios, including fires in residential structures, where the vast majority of fatal fires occur. The researchers and their collaborators conducted more than 60 controlled fire experiments to determine the relative effects of crew size, the arrival time of the first fire crews and the spacing between other apparatus arriving. Crews of two, three, four and five firefighters were timed as they performed standard firefighting and rescue taks while extinguishing a live fire at a test facility. These included (just to name a few) occupant search, rescue,
Backed up by NFPA standard 1710, this study now provides a stronger point to quantify what we have been saying all along. Despite economic challenges, fire risks will always grow, and each minute of delay in gaining control poses an increased risk of death, injury and property damage. Public officials need to understand that reducing firefighter numbers is not the solution – it will only put lives (including their own) at greater risk. In Solidarity. Terry Peters Exchange Fire Fighter/ Canadian Correspondent
The IAFF is the north American Union, the International Association of Fire Fighters. The NIST Building and Fire Research Laboratory website nist.gov/bfrl The NFPA is the US National Fire Protection Association