VOL 47 ISSUE 2 2010
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ARFF MISTRUST | ACTU PRES | SUPER RESPONSIBLE | IFFUA UPDATE
Big Vic gain 442 more CFA and MFB ﬁreﬁghters The Australian Firefighter I 1
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VOL 47 ISSUE 2 2010
The Australian Fireﬁghter
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
CONTENTS 4 Contacts 5 Editorial 6 International news 7 National news
BIG GAINS IN VICTORIA
TRUST LOST AVIATION ISSUES 9
COVER STORY 16
8–15 Branch news 16–21 Cover story 22–23 Tribute 24–25 Out of touch 26–27 100 years 28–29 Vested interest
100 YEARS LATER
30–31 Baby boomers 32–33 Super issues 34–35 Unions at work
36–37 Spring into it 38–39 Hot destination 40–41 Mild to maniac
CENTURY CELEBRATIONS 26
42 The last word
BEST FIRE AFF 0810
UNIONS AT WORK
RIVERS THE INSIDER 30
GED KEARNEY 34 The Australian Firefighter I 3
United Fireﬁghters Union of Australia
United Firefighters Union of Australia National
The Australian Firefighter Magazine
410 Brunswick St, Fitzroy VIC 3065
Australian Capital Territory Branch Secretary: Jason Jones Unions ACT, 189 Flemington Road
Editor: Dave Lane email: firstname.lastname@example.org Design: Studio Pazzo Pty Ltd
Mitchell ACT 2911
Ph: 02 6175 3434
Pre publishing: splittingimage.com.au
United Fireﬁghters Union of Australia
Aviation Branch Secretary: Mick Farrell 86A O’Shanassy St, Sunbury VIC 3429 Ph: (03) 9746 3722 Fax: (03) 9746 3766
Cover design: Andrew Cunningham Advertising and publishing Austral Media Group Ltd ACN 068 899 696
National Office ufua.asn.au
63–71 Boundary Rd, North Melbourne VIC 3051 New South Wales Branch
Ph: (03) 9328 4226 Fax: (03) 9329 4633
Secretary: Chris Read 1–7 Belmore Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010 Ph: (02) 9218 3444 Fax: (02) 9218 3488 Queensland Branch Secretary: John Oliver Level 1, 286 Montague Rd, West End OLD 4101 Ph: (07) 3844 0366 Fax: (07) 3844 0367 South Australian Branch Secretary: Greg Northcott 148 South Rd, Torrensville SA 5031 Ph: (08) 8352 7211 Fax: (08) 8234 1031 Victorian Branch Secretary: Peter Marshall 410 Brunswick St, Fitzroy VIC 3065 Ph: 03 94198811 Fax: 03 9419 9258 Tasmanian Branch Secretary: Richard Warwick 379 Elizabeth St, North Hobart TAS 7000 Ph: (03) 6234 9331 Fax: (03) 6234 9505 Western Australian Branch Secretary: Graeme Geer 21 View St, North Perth WA 6006 Ph: (08) 9228 8122 Fax: (08) 9227 7822
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. It is not possible for the publishers of The Australian Firefighter to ensure that advertisements published in the magazine comply with all aspects of the Trade Practices Act 1974; that responsibility rests with the person, company, or advertising agency submitting material for publication.
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
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Advertising: Advertisements in the publication are solicited from organisations and businesses on the understanding that no special considerations, other than those normally accepted in respect of commercial dealings, will be given to any advertiser. Not a phone list: It is the desire of the publishers that the Australian Firefighter Buying Guide be used for the benefit of its members and valued sponsors. Therefore we ask you to respect the intention of the Australian Firefighter Buying Guide and not to use it for the purposes of telemarketing and soliciting of donations. Any person, group or company who decides to use the directory in this way is deemed as having accepted the following rates and becomes legally liable to pay these amounts: 1. An amount of $20.000 to a charity nominated by the publisher for the use of the directory as a mailing list, 2. An amount of $50,000 to a charity nominated by the publisher for the use of the directory as a telemarketing list.
4 I The Australian Firefighter
Australian Capital Territory Branch ufuact.asn.au
National Secretary Peter Marshall
From the National Secretary
From the National President
ith state and territory governments imposing wage restraint policies and spending clamps over the last few years, achieving good collective agreement outcomes for firefighters have been tough and sometimes drawn out affairs. However, a combination of Members and delegates hard work, skilful negotiations and unity throughout the campaign have always delivered results that firefighters can be proud of.
This has been the experience most recently in my home state, where Victorian firefighters are about to benefit from a successful campaign to defend workplace entitlements and conditions, improve wages and seek further opportunities over the life of new three year agreements. It’s been a very long and tough process but thanks a highly successful and visible More Firefighters, Not Less campaign by firefighters, we have won two truly progressive agreements for MFB and CFA operational Members. These results could not have been achieved without the unity of the Members and the dedication of our delegates, the Branch Committee of Management and the Union’s negotiating National Secretary Peter Marshall team. Victorian firefighters have also achieved a major gain with Premier John Brumby announcing funding to employ 342 more CFA career firefighters and 100 additional MFB firefighters. These are very significant increases and indicate a major shift in government thinking about fire service resourcing. It is a big step forward for the protection of firefighters, the communities they serve and is a turning point in the history of the UFU in Victoria, which is on the cusp of its centenary.
elcome to a new edition of The Australian Firefighter. There is no disputing that trust is a key element of any relationship. However, when it comes to the employment relationship, firefighters working to protect Australia’s airports say they can’t trust their management to ‘do the right thing’. This has come about because AirServices Australia / Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting management has lost touch with the operational aspects of the job. This unhappy state of affairs has revealed itself over issues as diverse as sick leave entitlements, station cleaning, lawn mowing, higher duties, equipment maintenance and training. Enough is enough say the Members – you can find out the details in the pages of this edition. We also learn from the new president of the ACTU what the peak body for Australia’s trade unions will tackle across the next term of the federal government. Ged Kearney says the Union movement still has a lot of work to do to make the national IR system fairer for working people and their Unions. Issues includes the need for a greater ability to bargain across an industry, National President Mick Farrell sorting out ‘allowable matters’ restrictions in collective agreements and increasing the scope for arbitration when disputes are log jammed. Ged also offers a view from the campaign trail during the recent federal elections.
hard fought campaign and a close call. That was the federal election campaign and despite the rancour, the long wait and a nail-biting finish, the result is a better bet for all Australian workers, firefighters included. The governing alliance under Prime Minister Gillard will continue the transition from Howard era industrial relations to a more modern and fair system where employee and Union rights are better respected. This is a welcome result. However, during its first term, Labor pressed ahead with a version of workplace flexibility that could still have serious consequences for firefighter staffing, rosters and hours of work in the medium term. Let’s hope they will lend a more sympathetic ear to our concerns this time around.
ith the global financial crisis and its impact still affecting performance based superannuation returns, we ask is your super fund looking beyond the short term and has it learnt the lessons of the crash? Investment expert Helga Birgden says if your fund is not taking up opportunities offered by sustainable investment strategies, then your lifestyle during retirement could be affected. We check out the big issues facing super funds, including the impact of climate change and environmental issues. Our regular contributors are with us again this edition, including Sir Murray Rivers, who undertakes a cost benefit analysis of baby boomers. It’s not a pretty picture I’m afraid. We also preview next year’s centenary of the Union’s Victorian Branch, which began life at a meeting in a small room under the stairs of a fire station on the edge of Melbourne’s city centre.
The Australian Firefighter I 5
NEWS INTERNATIONAL Growing stronger The world economic crisis is putting pressure on all employees and emergency service workers are no exception. To help Members better defend and improve their workplace conditions and entitlements, firefighter Unions from around the world are building closer links. Recently, the member Unions of the International Fire Fighter Unions Alliance (IFFUA) adopted a budget for the coming year and a website strategy that will see the Alliance’s online presence become a communications and document sharing hub.
The strength In a world dominated by the international financial meltdown, planet-wide climate change, the threat of pandemics and growing violence, there is strength in global unity. “These issues don’t recognise territorial borders,” says Peter Marshall, UFUA National Secretary, who is also IFFUA Chair. “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 set up IFFUA in 2006. The Alliance then commissioned an investigation which identified another 70 Unions around the world that also represent firefighters.
with equipment and training, and er safety on the job. “We also face longer term challenges such as adapting to climate change, which will affect the work we do at wildfires and floods, as well as our working conditions.” Matt is General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) representing front line fire service workers in the United Kingdom.
Multilingual – the new Global Alliance newsletter speaks to firefighters and their Unions across the world
to-task crew size study, that provides scientific data supporting fully staffed rigs, – from the UK, the FBU’s Pathfinder trials that focus on the provision of fire cover, – the US Fireground Survival program, and – the UFUA commissioned climate change impact report. The IAFF will also share details about a new personal protective flat pack that will provide firefighters with state-of-the-art breathing apparatus. This project is now entering the manufacturing phase of development.
The global financial crisis continues to make its mark on most countries. Christchurch ﬁreﬁghters tackle a ﬁre in the city following the In New Zealand, firefighters have devastating earthquake in New Zealand in early September. The quake learnt about a secret management and a series of aftershocks caused serious damage, dislocation and review of firefighter conditions. The stress. Fireﬁghter crews and USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) teams NZ Professional Firefighters Union contine to mop up, but with damage estimated to hit the $4 billion dollar Secretary Derek Best says “the mark, months and years of work are ahead to rebuild the city. New employers are clearly well organised Support structure Zealand Professional Fireﬁghters Union Vice President Peter Hallett internationally; they meet together IFFUA General Secretary Harold says a number of Members may have lost or been left with severely regularly and exchange and learn by Schaitberger from the North damaged homes but reports are still sketchy their experiences. What the employers American firefighter Union, the pic: NZPA/David Alexander propose in one country is quickly IAFF, says the Global Alliance adopted elsewhere.” gives Members the ability to Derek believes the International exchange information and gain Fire Fighter Unions Alliance (IFFUA) can help Information source fresh perspectives. “We all have unique firefighters anticipate these attacks, learn from Last year, IFFUA held its founding conference experiences and approaches to problems others’ experiences and be better prepared in Vancouver, Canada. 25 delegates and 23 and challenges. By working together, we can representatives from firefighter Unions across to defend what they presently have. “Its value learn from our successful endeavors – and or benefit is really the same as why individual the globe gathered to establish connections also our costly misjudgements – through fi refighters ought to belong to their own and plan a course of action. Founding information sharing and a support structure National Union; there is Strength in Unity.” ■ members of the Alliance, the IAFF, FBU, UFUA that goes beyond our respective boarders and NZ PFU were joined by officials from and also reaches down into the fire stations firefighter Unions in seven other European, that house our Members.” GLOBAL ALLIANCE Central American and the Middle East. IFFUA Vice-Chair Matt Wrack says the Find out more about the With the recent adoption of the budget, major issues for firefighters across the globe International Alliance of valuable information will soon be available via include pay and long working hours, threats Fire Fighter Unions from the the IFFUA website. This includes: website at iffua.org to our jobs from neoliberal governments, – a recently completed IAAF sponsored timeinadequate professional standards, concerns 6 I The Australian Firefighter
NATIONAL Road ahead
National Ofﬁce decision The UFUA National Executive met in Adelaide in August and endorsed a new financial strategy for the national Union. “This includes the adoption of a sustainable funding model that will enable us to implement key recommendations of the UFUA National Review,” says UFUA National Secretary Peter Marshall. The review was conducted by UFUA legal adviser – and now the federal MP for Melbourne – Adam Bandt. It analysed the issues and challenges facing the Union at national level and makes 30 recommendations about the structure and role of the national Union.
New environment “The Bandt Report gives the Union a concise and practical blueprint for the years ahead,” says Peter. The scope of the review included: – the structure and role of the Union, including the relationships between the Union’s Branches and National Office, – the strategic direction of the National Office, including the support, coordination, political and campaigning functions it performs, and – the governance of, and resources within, the National Office. “This review found a need for better resourcing of the Union’s activities at national level,” says Peter Marshall. “With the National Executive supporting the financial plan, we can now build the National Office to meet the challenges on the doorstep; it will be a powerful resource for UFUA Branches and Members.”
National trend The overall national and global context for the Union’s review of its national role included: – the ALP in power in Canberra with an agenda for national industrial relations and OH&S systems,
– an increasing interest on the part of some states to hand their IR powers over to the national government, – the effect of climate change in Australia and its likely impact on the work of current and future firefighters over the next 10 – 40 years, and – the growth of terrorism, the threat of CBR and their impact on firefighter work structures, including federal intervention in – and funding of – fire services. UFUA National President Mick Farrell is also pleased that the Union can now implement the Bandt Review recommendations. “Employers are organising nationally and developing joint strategies and programs, so we have to match them or the battle will be even harder,” says Mick. “There are also those issues facing firefighters that can cross state boundaries, such as regulatory regimes and standards for protective clothing and equipment. This is where the National Office will be vital in ensuring Members’ best interests are represented in the coming years.”
Resource rich The Bandt Review recommends that a new National Office be established with a focus on providing: – guidance for Branches about the transition to the emerging national IR environment, as well as strategic advice and assessments about the national laws’ impacts, the risks they pose and the opportunities they offer, and – industrial and organisational plans to guide the Union through this transition, to ensure the wages, conditions or entitlements of firefighters are maintained and improved. “The National Office will add to its resource base and expand its ability to provide assistance to Branches for industrial, legislative and campaign matters, particularly to the smaller branches when they have to deal with large-scale disputes,” says Peter Marshall.
Information sharing will be the key to the effective resolution of negotiations and disputes in the future. With the impact of the global financial crisis likely to be with us for some time to come, bargaining is not going to get any easier. “The National Office will be better positioned to take part in broader industrial and political campaigns to advance the interests of firefighters nationally,” says Mick Farrell. “And as the global firefighters Unions Alliance (IFFUA) grows, the UFUA will be able to actively participate in the international sphere as well.”
Close shave With the ALP retaining control the government benches in the national parliament, the threat of WorkChoices making a return has receded. “The ALP’s hold on power is wafer thin,” says Peter Marshall. “But firefighters can be relieved that we will not see in this term, the use of regulation to attack workplace rights and entitlements. Had the Coalition formed government, this could have been a distinct possibility.” This is the second successive federal election where industrial relations played a key role in the campaign. The Liberals committed to maintaining fair work laws and not go back to WorkChoices, despite Tony Abbot’s views about the much despised Howard era industrial relations framework. In his book titled Battlelines, Tony Abbott remarks, “WorkChoices was a political mistake, but it may not have been an economic one.” WorkChoices has now been rejected by the people in two elections in a row. ■
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 New Appliances The ACT Branch has been busy for some time trying to get staffing and resources issues addressed through various consultation processes. This hard work has started to show results recently and recruitment will commence soon to boost firefighter numbers. The ACT Branch has been critical of the processes used by the Emergency Services Agency (ESA) to procure vehicles. The UFU stance has been that the ESA Fleet tail is wagging the dog and has failed to prioritise purchases. An example is an ARGO amphibious vehicle (derisively known as the banana splits mobile by Members) that was bought for the Ambulance service before replacement urban pumpers for out of date front line vehicles arrived.
Replacements for old vehicles are finally starting to arrive
consultation phase and will enter service in 2011.
The ACT Branch strongly opposed the findings of a review of station locations where management had advocated going from nine existing stations to seven stations. The BCOM knew that this would be a disaster for service delivery and firefighter safety. Initially the BCOM were able to force management back to nine stations but mostly in new locations. This was still unacceptable because the locations were poorly selected and based on flawed information. The UFU convinced the acting ESA Commissioner and the Minister that a peer review with strict terms of reference was required. This review has now been concluded and it shows that 11 stations are required to cover the ACT urban area within the standards of fire cover. That’s quite a turn around from the seven stations proposed by management. The UFU will be meeting with the Minister this week to determine the time frame for the construction and opening of the new stations and recruitment of additional firefighters. A review of uniformed support Night – or day – the new personnel numbers is currently appliances should enhance underway and the BCOM are safety and service delivery confident of further increases
The good news is that the first of 5 Series 94 Scania based pumpers has arrived with the remainder to follow before Christmas 2010. The vehicles appear capable and well designed, so safety and service delivery will be enhanced. Three new heavy tankers have entered service with all the modern crew protection devices such as spray bars and burn over shields. These tankers replace the 28 year old Mercedes tankers that were in service up until this year. A new breathing apparatus support appliance is in the final design and
8 I The Australian Firefighter
to firefighter numbers meaning further improvements to community and firefighter safety.
Training reform The adoption of national competencies through locally designed and tailored courses and learning continues. By the end of 2010, nationally recognised qualifications up to Advanced Diploma will be available to Members. The UFU faced years of resistance to training reform from some managers and it is gratifying to see our Members working hard to build and deliver a modern, relevant and recognised training and qualification package.
Changes at the top The ACTFB appointed a new Chief Officer, Paul Swain (formerly of the MFB), in May 2010. So far he has shown a willingness to consult and work cooperatively with the UFU to achieve results that benefit the community, Members and the Brigade. Significant challenges still face our branch after years of divided management and directionless leadership at executive levels. Only time will tell if the new Chief can make a difference for the better. ■
UFU ACT BRANCH Branch President: Matthew Mavity Branch Secretary: Jason Jones Website: ufuact.asn.au email: email@example.com
AVIATION BRANCH and the payment was halved, forcing the Union to take steps to prosecute the case. Now a third party will make the decision on the application of the clause and therefore the entitlement. This is not the best outcome; it would have been much better for the ARFF to honour its word.
Cleaning Fire Stations Out of touch – the ARFF management style
In ARFF we trust? During recent meetings with Members at fire stations down the east coast, it became quite apparent that one of their major concerns – and Members have many – is their complete lack of trust in Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) management. To put it in the vernacular, Members can’t trust them to ‘do the right thing’. Discussing this with them further, it became obvious why; there is a perception that management has lost touch with the operational aspects of the job. There are tangible reasons for this:
Our Members do not clean fire stations. They have made it clear to us they have no wish to do so any time soon. In previous negotiations, AirServices Australia (ASA) /ARFF have tried many times to incorporate daily station cleaning in industrial agreements; they’ve failed on each occasion. Nevertheless, the ARFF did convince some Hamilton Island Members to clean their station even though there is no provision for this in their CA. Members were initially told there were no cleaners available to do the job, a strange
Remote airfares Australian Air Services’ ARFF has effectively halved the remote airfare costs entitlement for Cairns and Townsville. The possibility of this arising was discussed by Members and ARFF management in Cairns last year, during a round of Australia-wide collective agreement meetings designed to explain the application of the new agreement, prior to a vote being taken on the draft. At the time, Members were concerned that the ARFF was intent on misrepresenting the custom and practice of the application of this entitlement by using a change in the wording of the relevant clause in the previous collective agreement (CA), and despite the payment of the full allowance across the life of the 2005-2008 CA.
This payment-in-kind is reminiscent of the Work Choices regime, where it was deemed fine to pay workers with pizzas for working overtime. The cleaning ploy at Hamilton Island was an obvious effort to undermine Members’ conditions of employment all around Australia. By using Hamilton Island as an example, the ARFF management has tried to introduce fire station cleaning duties at a number of other locations – and was actually briefly successful at two. Today, Members in Australia do not clean fire stations, much to the chagrin of the ARFF.
Alternative duties This particular CA saw a change in sick leave entitlements – from an ‘as-required’ provision to a capped system which incorporated the ability for Members to choose whether or not to work alternative or light duties at the station when on sick leave. The clause in the CA is very specific. “In circumstances where you are unfit for operational duties, you and your manager may1 agree to you performing suitable alternative duties for that period, where it is safe and appropriate to do so.”
Oversize – the nature of ARFF demands
claim given Hamilton Island is a holiday resort and all rooms require servicing. Later on, management stated that yes, there were cleaners available, but they were too expensive and that the cost of cleaning had not been factored into the budget. Again, this is not the Members’ problem; it’s a concern strictly for the employer.
Cut in half
TV & pizza payment
ARFF Management told Members in Cairns to trust them. They said a mistake had been made and assured all at the meeting this would be remedied in Canberra; so there was nothing to worry about. However, the status quo did not prevail
Unfortunately, some Members on Hamilton Island were deceived, trusted ARFF management and agreed to carry out the cleaning to assist the ARFF. They were subsequently recompensed by having pay television installed at the station.
Again, as the road show toured stations around Australia in 2009, each time the question was asked of ARFF by the Members about this clause in the new agreement, their representative replied that yes, trust us that is correct; it will be up to the individual to decide if they wish to work alternative duties or not – if there are other duties available within the Station’s work programme at that time, of course. Nevertheless, at times, the ARFF has ordered Members in from sick leave to work alternative duties against their will. This is also a matter now to be prosecuted. continued page 24 1 Our emphasis pics: from the Melbourne airport
UFU 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 D&A Protocol The Department is telling Members the Joint D&A Protocol is out of date and needs changing. This attack flies in the face of reality, as the protocol remains operative and legally enforceable. That hardly makes it out of date. And to add injury to insult, the Department has failed to deliver formal D&A training for a decade. All firefighters know that training is the key to any successful operation – and the D&A Protocol says relevant training is critical to its implementation. The Union believes the protocol is a fair, sane and reasonable way of dealing with what is a complex health issue. It should be defended, so the Union has written to the Department calling for a meeting of the Alcohol and Drug Safety and Rehabilitation Committee.
10/14 for Lismore After month long negotiations the Union and Department have agreed to redirect the four permanent Special Roster positions that were previously scheduled for Ballina to Lismore fire station. This will now move Lismore to 10/14 permanent staffing, beginning October 1. Batemans Bay, Cessnock, Maitland and Nelson Bay will also commence on the Special Roster on the same day.
Retained hours & duties It seems some Retained Members have been told that the Union has agreed to a reduction in the hours allocated for authorised duties. This is untrue; there has been no agreement about reduced hours. In fact the Union is pushing for an increase of authorised hours as part of the upcoming Award negotiations. The Union has also had a document dropped on it detailing duties to be performed by Retained Members standing-by in case of shortages at a retained station. There has been no consultation about a list of duties; what’s in this document would reduce the earning capacity of Retained Members attached to a Which way up the ladder – the firefighter promotional program particular station. was under challenge at diversity discussions The only duties to be conducted by Members who are standing-by Diversity are pumper and equipment checks, general tidying after use, and reading In The Union has met with the Department to Orders, safety bulletins and other relevant progress the development of a NSW Fire brigade information. Brigade Women’s Employment Strategy. However, some of the proposals put up represent major workforce change under the guise of getting more women into the job – they go well beyond the gender equity issue. One idea floated was to replace the Award’s promotional program structure with promotion by merit selection interview. This appears to have little to do with the promotion of diversity and more to do with the Department’s agenda to introduce broad public sector processes on Members, regardless of their appropriateness.
Win for Recruits
Dispatch is the UFUA’s national industrial and campaign newsletter.Subscribe at ufua.asn.au to have it delivered to your email inbox
10 I The Australian Firefighter
Following the Union’s win for Recruit Members, in August the Department retaliated by announcing it would require all future recruits to hold a Medium Rigid (MR) licence before commencing. It planned to impose this, starting with the class scheduled for later in September . The Union went to the IRC and emerged with a good result; the Fire Brigade will pay this next group of 20 recruits to gain their MR licence.
Country Inspectors After a provocative attempt by management to advertise vacant Inspector positions in Dubbo and Wagga Wagga, the Union imposed relieving bans for Inspectors. This followed the Department’s decision to ignore an Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) recommendation to that the advertisements be withdrawn. Following the imposition of the bans and the return of the dispute to the IRC, the Union agreed to lift the bans in return for the Department’s agreement to suspend the vacancy advertisements pending the resolution a matter currently before the IRC. PETER MARSHALL UFUA National Secretary MICK FARRELL UFUA National President
UFU NSW BRANCH Branch Secretary: Chris Read Website: http://fbeu.net Email: email@example.com
QLD BRANCH A nightmare in the making Queensland firefighters are well aware of the rumblings and shakings accompanying the Operational Management System (OMS). It’s the next impending, ‘not quite up to speed’ management tool which our employers have been designing – in one form or another – over the past 10 years or so for themselves. Sorry, that should have read; to assist operational staff in managing their Total Station Workload (TSW). It’s a nightmare in the making for our Queensland Members. This least awaited program called OMS is meant to replace the current and apparently falling-over program, the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) Station Management System (SMS). We’re lead to believe that by its conceptual design, OMS will provide users with a multi functional program, specifically designed with every fire station’s needs in mind.
The Union is tackling QFRS management over the OMS pic: matthayes
insist that predetermined percentages of worked time be accounted for regardless, and that Station Officers will enter them!!!
Assist or report The OMS program apparently doesn’t allow senior management to enter any type of completed duty, program or expected tasks
Total scrutiny Sorry, no it doesn’t do that very well at all. However, what we do know it does really well is, it will significantly enhance the QFRS senior managers’ ability to scrutinise every little thing that firefighters do during the day – on a minute-by-minute time frame. This information or reported data will be available to senior management in collated form, from any computer, at any location, at any time, by the numerous reporting mechanisms that are hidden within in the program, accessible only to management. Sorry, the official line is apparently, that this is not what senior management use OMS for. Well then I ask, what do senior officers peruse through report after report of OMS for? However, we do have senior managers who are struggling to follow their own boss’s directions. When instructed not to treat SMS or the incoming OMS program as a time management tool, the well hidden dinosaurs’ of the fire service suddenly re-emerge and
the all the fuss about? Well to put it simply, previously we used a SMS program that assisted the Station Officer in his duty of delivering to the community the core business of the QFRS. Now we have a program which is specifically designed to report up line on everything that is being managed at station level on a minute-byminute basis.
OMS – a least awaited program pic: matthayes
for themselves into the system. OMS doesn’t recognise them; why is this, I don’t know. It seems that this program is only to report on … whoops!!! – did I say that out loud again? – I meant, to assist operational staff at the fire station. How did the UFUQ end up in this predicament? Well it’s occurred over a period of time; award provisions and enterprise partnership agreements of the past have innocently listed statements, for example, “(c)ontinue to improve business performance systems that assist in corporate governance and risk management and use data and information provided by systems to continuously improve the QFRS’s performance”. Sounds innocent enough, so what is
More importantly, what was promised is not what has been delivered – and shock horror, it doesn’t work as it’s supposed to. And for our Members in the Far Northern Region, it has been the cause of many arguments, feelings of distrust, dissatisfaction, anger and frustration. Someone always has to go first and the Far Northern Members were the unlucky ones who got to trial it. It goes without saying that our Members in the Far North went far beyond what should be expected in their efforts to get this lemon to work with their dedication and willingness to improve the disastrous OMS program that was inflicted on them. They stayed true to their resolve, mindfully ensuring that the same stressful, frustrating experience would not be inflicted on their brother and sisters across the state. Alas, due to OMS inherent faults, they could not get everything fixed or rectified in time and now OMS has been rolled out … continued page 12
UFUA QUEENSLAND BRANCH Branch President: Steve Bunney Branch Secretary: John Oliver Website: ufuq.asn.au email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Australian Firefighter I 11
NEWS SA BRANCH Walkin’About At 0630 hours on Fathers Day, September 5, our Members from Headquarters Station assembled in Rundle Mall to support and farewell Hawthorn football legend Shane Crawford as he began his bid to run from Adelaide to Melbourne in 12 days to raise funds for Breast Cancer Network Australia. In the days leading up to this, the Union organised a donation of $1000 from our Members. Olympic medallist and breast cancer survivor Raelene Boyle also joined other celebrities and hundreds of South Australians to support Shane in his 760 km That’s What I’m Walkin’ About run.
Big cheque District Officer Peter Mason presented Shane with the cheque in front of all South
Showing Shane the money – ( lto r) District Ofﬁcer Peter Mason, Station Ofﬁcer Tim Catherwood, Shane Crawford, Fireﬁghter Mark Opie, Fireﬁghter Corey Bradley and Senior Fireﬁghter Robert Fergusson
Shane thanked all South Australians for their support and paid particular attention to our firefighters. The Bronto fire appliance then escorted Shane out of the city to the base of the Adelaide foothills.
implemented at our last National Executive Meeting held in Adelaide on the August 16. This will now allow us to move forward with the recommendations of the Bandt Review. There is more information about the review in the national news on page 7. ■
Showing support for the run – (l to r) Firefighter Corey Bradley, Senior Firefighter Robert Fergusson, Firefighter Mark Opie, Raelene Boyle, District Officer Peter Mason (at rear) and Station Officer Tim Catherwood
Australians to kick start his fund-raising run. District Officer Mason went on to tell all that we are also supporting our own firefighter Mick Tagell in his ‘Run Across America’, where funds are being raised for burns units across Australia and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in the US.
QLD news continued
The Union has spent the last month consulting with our shop stewards from regional and metropolitan worksites to develop a log of claims to take to management in early October to initiate and progress our next Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. This log of claims has now been endorsed by our State Council and if successful will see improvements in the delivery of service to all South Australians.
National decision The South Australian Branch is also excited that a sustainable funding model for the National Union was endorsed and
from page 11 ... to more regions. Slowly
and surely the complaints, the frustrations and anger are starting to rise and filter through to the State Office. We will be taking action and have been consulting with the QFRS on this issue. Firefighters are not – and were not – meant be the sounding board for a failed program trial, which it seems, was inherently flawed to begin with and in our opinion had been inadvertently hijacked for senior management use.
What does this mean for our brothers and sisters across this country? Unfortunately, plenty, given a national management and policy making organisation that is currently flexing its might and inflicting its policies on all state fire services. It won’t be long before some clever business manager may think that there is a coin to be made by selling this purposely designed reporting tool for management …
12 I The Australian Firefighter
A firefighter escort for Shane Crawford as he leaves Adelaide, Melbourne bound
UFUA SA BRANCH Branch President: Barry Luke Branch Secretary: Greg Northcott Website: ufusa.asn.au email: email@example.com
whoops!!!! – did I say that out loud again – I meant, an Operational Management System to every other fire service in the country. Then perhaps, they could start a competition between all the state managers to see who wins the mostrecorded-time-at-work prize. You read it here first folks. REGARDS STEVE BUNNEY State President UFUQ ■
TAS BRANCH Progress made Negotiations over a new Tasmanian Firefighters Collective Agreement have been progressing well. The old agreement ended on June 30 and discussions with the Tasmanian Fire Service (TFS) began in the context of a tight state budget situation. However, given commitments given to the Tasmania’s firefighters by the ALP during the state election campaign back in March, the Union went into the negotiations with some optimism. “This time around it has proved to be a most unusual situation because the employer is demonstrating a never before seen – and genuine – enthusiasm to get an agreement made,” says Tasmanian Branch Secretary, Richard Warwick. “I can’t say why; all I know is that they are pressing ahead very strongly to get an agreement made finalised.”
as part of the negotiations. “You could say this has been a difficult one for the Union for a decade; it’s not uncommon for communications and dispatch centres to present all sorts of difficulties,” says Richard Warwick. “But in the current negotiations, we’re finally starting to get some of those problems ironed out.” The key outstanding issue relates to job function – and settling on exactly what are the Members’ core and no-core functions. “We also need agreement on the sorts
Installation & servicing In Tasmania, the Fire Service still employs people to install and service fire protection equipment. This has been privatised in most other states and territories places but because of the decentralised nature of Tasmania, it’s proved necessary to have a cross subsidy – from the towns to the bush – to ensure regional businesses meet their portable and fixed fire protection equipment obligations. “This area is another focus of the collective agreement negotiations,” says Richard Warwick. “For the Members who perform this installation and servicing work, their wages have needed serious attention for some years; and we’re now hopeful of a good outcome for them too.”
Campaign promise During the election campaign the ALP promised to keep Tasmanian firefighters wages in line with their mainland counterparts. 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. “We’ve been waiting to see the results of enterprise bargaining negotiations between the UFU, the MFB and CFA in Victoria ,” says Richard. “These have now just come through, so hopefully we will be able to move fairly quickly with the employer to finalise the wages side of the agreement.”
Comms centre A number of issues in the communications and dispatch area also need to be settled
A new collective agreement – employer support to settle soon
100% relativity with mainland wages – a government election commitment
of systems and triggers that are used to ensure Members can cope with peak loads. These are important issues for the Union and discussions to resolve the points of difference with the employer are coming along well,” says Richard.
The third key area of concern for Tasmanian firefighters that needs to be settled as part of the current negotiations is deployment to other areas. “It’s about the circumstances, rules and conditions that apply when people are sent on deployments, either further afield in Tasmania, interstate or even overseas,” says Richard. “The arrangements to date have been ad hoc and inconsistent, so we’re putting significant pressure on the employer to agree to a clear cut set of rules in advance of any deployment of that type happening.” Given the current rate of progress, the Union hopes to have the new collective agreement settled well before the start of the bushfire season. ■
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 Sign off Victorian firefighters are about to reap the rewards of a successful campaign to defend workplace entitlements and conditions – and improve their take home pay. The UFU Victorian Branch is nearing the end of a very long bargaining campaign. New three year collective agreements have been negotiated and both CFA and MFB management have signed-off on them.
15.4 over three As this edition of The Australian Firefighter Magazine goes to press, the MFB Operational Staff Agreement has been voted up by MFB Operational Staff and it will now be submitted
In an industrial campaign, unity produces results
“The new EBs provide real advances, such as developing a special operations unit in the MFB,” says Peter. “This recognises the fact that the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board has employees who have attained specialist skills in the areas of USAR, HART, CBR response, Marine Response and Specialist Rescue. We have agreed with the employer to review the feasibility of combining such expertise into a single specialist ops unit.”
built up significant momentum and public awareness. “The new Enterprise Agreements will help to address a number of the concerns of Victorian firefighters,” says Peter Marshall. “In addition, thanks to a recent, truly historic announcement by Victorian Premier John Brumby, the lack of resourcing we have fought to rectify over many years will be addressed.” When announcing the state government’s full response to the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commssion’s final report and recommendations, the Premier announced funding to employ 342 more CFA career firefighters and 100 additional MFB firefighters. “These very significant increases indicate a major shift in government thinking about fire service resourcing. They also mean a big step forward for the protection of the community and represent a watershed in the history of the UFU in Victoria,” says Peter Marshall.
Victorian firefighters applied the pressure, took to the streets and achieved success in EB negotiations
to Fair Work Australia for approval. The vote by CFA Members for the CFA Operational Staff Agreement is about to get underway. “In addition to a 15.4% wage increase for MFB and CFA operational Members over the three year life of agreement, they will also maintain their current conditions,” says UFU Victorian Secretary, Peter Marshall. “Minimum crewing, the 10/14 roster and consultation provisions have been kept as is despite strong pushes from the employers to take away these and other conditions.” With new agreements in place, Members will be able to build new opportunities as well. 14 I The Australian Firefighter
In addition, the agreements provide more equitable rostering provisions, relativity adjustments for Leading Firefighter, Station Officer and Senior Station Officers, plus new allowances, and other provisions. “These truly progressive agreements could not have been achieved without the tireless efforts of the UFU negotiating team and the Branch Committee of Management, and the unity of the UFU membership,” says Peter Marshall. Over the past months, UFU Members in Victoria have taken to the streets a number times to express their concerns about the direction of the Victorian Fire Services and the approach of management. Firefighters set up stalls in marginal electorates and other key locations in Melbourne and across the state to highlight the threat to fire services resourcing and community protection.
A good result for firefighters and all Victorians
Unity The tireless campaigning by the Members and their unity throughout the campaign has delivered the success of the last few weeks. The gains made will go a long way to achieving the workplace safety and protection firefighters deserve. A full report about the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission’s final report and the reactions to it can be found in the Cover Story starting on page 16. ■
Historic gain The campaign More Firefighters, Not Less, One Fire Service focused on threats to minimum crewing and other concerns. Coupled with some larger rallies and campaigning on the internet, the campaign
UFU VIC BRANCH Branch President: Dave Hamilton Branch Secretary: Peter Marshall Website: ufuvic.asn.au email: email@example.com
WA BRANCH Assessment ﬁx This last 12 months has seen replacement personnel to a department of a Western Australian Fire Service discover that literally thousands of assessments provided by firefighters were packed in boxes, stuffed in cupboards and generally laying about unmarked and collecting dust. Some had been in this position for three years or more. Firefighter increments and recognition of service had not been identified as a result. This was a result of chronic underresourcing of a training facility by an organisation that is not committed to the principles of learning or ensuring that
Chronic under-resourcing of a WA firefighter training facility left thousands of assessments incomplete and gathering dust
professional firefighters at all ranks receive training and qualification levels that might actually equal or rival that of other Australian fire services. Unless of course, you are one of the chosen individuals who conform to a morally corrupt and managerially inept corporative group of bureaucratic, crony-istic, indecisive, inefficient ‘yes’ men.
Underestimated Contrary to the widely held belief of the civilian administrators that firefighters are generally lazy and, while stupid, are able to lift heavy things, they have underestimated – through their own arrogance – that ‘firies’ can always be relied upon to bite the bullet and correct wrongs, no matter what the task, when it is required. Not only did a team of firefighters mark all outstanding assessments, taking over a thousand hours, they also developed a more common sense approach to administrative
WA management at work – design faults at the new Perth fire station
procedures, and upgraded existing training resource materials. They even developed other resources that hadn’t yet been produced, rectified the ‘recognition of prior learning’ process for some others that had laid stagnant for over two years and introduced many other innovations to process. Along the way, these same firefighters provided ‘third party validations’ so that firefighter skills held by individuals wanting to be Officers could be recognised and so that an interstate educational provider could facilitate the education of these personnel for five units of Competence in the Public Safety Certificate IV.
Curriculum and very little real fire science exists in the public safety training package competencies. We’ve seen an evolutionary and incremental change to the educational landscape of career firefighters – by design. The UFUA Western Australia Branch though pressure applied by some highly motivated and intelligent firefighters pressured the fire service to develop a mapping document that looks at: - recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in previous education, - recognition of current competency being used on a daily basis, and - credit transfer from other training related education and certification, standing operating procedures, maintenance training, incidents, analysis of gaps that may exists and ways to fill those gaps, and more.
New certiﬁcate These same firies produced, after nearly 500 hours of work, a document that maps career firefighters with five years experience in a Career Fire Service to the Public Safety Certificate III course.
Not cert The outside provider was called in because in the attempt to dumb down this fire service, the organisation and its administrators discontinued a certificate and diploma level program back in 1995. They have not provided for the ability of any of its firefighters to gain a level any higher than Certificate III since. The fact that they still cannot provide a full Certificate IV without the help of another institution is conclusive proof of their attempts to water down the significance of education for career firefighters.
Auswide lessons There is a lesson in all this for every other fire service in Australia. Be very careful and scrutinise every move your training departments make. Ensure your training and education is maintained, otherwise higher levels of career education will be lost. Much of the fire science has been discontinued already with the AFC
WA firies can always be relied upon to bite the bullet
Work is continuing toward the recognition of firefighters that require Certificate IV. While we hope to achieve this, it will not be easy. Many gaps will become evident because of the legacy of that designed dumbing-down process that has created a less educated workforce. In its wisdom, the UFUA WA Branch has seen this and it is this foresight that firies in the West need to be thankful for. continued page 27
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
Big Vic gain 442 more CFA and MFB ﬁreﬁghters At the end of July, the 2009 Victorian Bushﬁres Royal C i i released l d iits ﬁnall report, apologies l i were Commission delivered and cries of ‘never again’ echoed across the state. The lengthy inquiry quizzed hundreds of witness, produced thousands of pages of evidence and delivered two reports containing scores of “modest and targeted” recommendations. Then, 16 I The Australian Firefighter
after a month of community consultation, the Brumby d iits ffull ll response to the h R government announced Royall Commission’s ﬁndings and proposals, including a plan to employ hundreds more ﬁreﬁghters to protect the state. It’s a great result for the UFU and the Victorian Members who campaigned so hard for better protection for ﬁreﬁghters and the community.
he Victorian government will employ 342 more career CFA firefighters and 100 new MFB firefighters. In addition, its $197.5 million fireground response package will focus on renewed efforts to link CFA and DSE radio networks, fix CFA communications black spots and improve aircraft dispatch. These are among the long list of measures detailed in the government’s full response to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission’s (VBRC) final report. “This is a historic announcement by the Victorian Premier John Brumby,” says UFUA Victorian and National Secretary, Peter Marshal. “We are very pleased the government has not only acknowledged the lack of resourcing we have fought to rectify over so many years but has also committed the money to address the problem.” Victorian firefighters have been waging an intense Save property, Save lives, Save 7.7 campaign to highlight the state’s dangerously understaffed and under resourced fire service. “Members are to be congratulated for their unity and campaigning efforts to highlight to communities the lack of emergency service cover in their neighbourhoods,” says Peter. “We now have the government prepared to act and fix the problems, and that’s a massive win for our Members.”
bundling technology. It has also shied away from two other high-cost – and politically sensitive – proposals; the buy-back of properties in high risk areas and forcing property sellers to first obtain a bushfire protection rating assessment for their dwellings.
Structural change In all, there are 67 recommendations in the Royal Commission’s final report, and for
and take charge of situations similar those experienced on February 7 last year. This means there will be one person in charge, not three different chief fire officers.” In mid August, Craig Lapsley, a former deputy to retired CFA chief Russell Rees was appointed Victoria’s Chief Fire Services Commissioner. Mr Lapsley’s links to firefighting go back to his very early days – he grew up in the Bendigo fire station.
Levy to go The Victorian government will act on most of the VBRC’s recommendations, including a significant increase in fuel reduction burns, more checks on powerlines in risk areas, improved warnings systems and community refuges. More money will also be spent on permanent and seasonal DSE firefighters funded under a Land and Fuel Management package. The funding of the state’s fire service will also be overhauled with a property-based tax to replace the Fire Services insurance levy that helps pay for the MFB and CFA at the moment. However, the government will not implement a number the VBRC’s major recommendations. It will not replace all overhead power lines in bushfire areas with safer alternatives such as underground or cable
The 2009 Victorian Bushﬁres Royal Commission ﬁnal report says Victoria’s multiple agency structure caused resource allocation failures during last year’s bushﬁre crisis
firefighters, key proposals relate to structural change, including operational improvement and reform. The UFU says the structural reform proposed for Victoria’s fire services should be supported to help address the lack of communication and duplication that occurred on Black Saturday. The Commission found that no one person was in charge on the day and recommended a new independent Fire Commissioner be appointed to oversee the state’s firefighting operations on days of significant fire. When the VBRC released the report, UFU Victorian and National Secretary Peter Marshall said “this person must have operational expertise
Chapter 10 solutions The final report of the Commission came nearly 17 months after bushfires that produced the worst disaster in recorded Australian history. For firefighters, a key section of the report is Chapter 10. Titled Organisational Structure, it details the need for operational improvement and reform, options for change, the implications of a new structure and funding proposals. The UFU’s submission to the Royal Commission put the case for a single fire authority for Victoria. It detailed the impact of the multiple agency (MFB, CFA and the The Australian Firefighter I 17
COVER STORY DSE) structure, the unnecessary duplication and inefficiencies, along with the resulting systemic failures that lead to loss of life and property on Black Saturday. The Union argued that a single fire service would result in increased flexibility, more effective resource allocation and an increased financial base. However, in their final report, the Commissioners recommended the three Victorian agencies remain in place with the Fire Services Commissioner overseeing a number of their functions and taking control when conditions become highly dangerous. This, at least, is a step in the right direction.
Century old structure While the Royal Commission’s final report did not recommend amalgamation of Victoria’s fire services, it does make some observation about the dated nature of the structure. It reminds us that “(t)he Fire Brigades Act 1890 established the organisational structure of brigades that is still in effect today.” This 120 year old structure was sorely tested on Black Saturday. At the high end, “(t)here were serious deficiencies in the top-level leadership arrangements as a result of divided responsibilities, and the full potential of the operational capability that was available was not exploited because of differences in processes and procedures,” remarked the Commissioners. Despite this, they do not recommend a wholesale restructure of Victoria’s firefighting agencies. They conceived the new Fire Commissioner as a leader working to better integrate the activities of the agencies and improve interoperability; “the occupant of the new position would also perform the role of State Controller under Victoria’s emergency management framework.” 18 I The Australian Firefighter
THE ABC OF EVIDENCE
he Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission’s senior lawyer says the Commission’s final report omits important evidence. Jack Rush QC has told the ABC he thought the report was “pretty slim” and that he had hoped for more – “a more thorough record and analysis of the evidence.” Mr Rush says “the report could have been more significant in the sense of identifying some very important evidence that doesn’t make its way into it.” He also wanted more substantiation of the conclusions the commissioners reached. Jack Rush argues the stay-or-go policy is fatally flawed because people will not leave early and says voluntary evacuation can work. “I think the evidence was overwhelming that it can apply in Victoria,” he told the ABC.
How useful? Dr Danielle Clode is a fire researcher at Melbourne University. In a report for ABC Radio National’s Science Show she asks, just how scientifically useful is the Royal Commission’s report? Not very useful at all is Dr Clode’s conclusion. “The research reports from the Commission are all still preliminary and incomplete,” she says. “There is a long way to go before this research is fully analysed, subjected to scientific scrutiny and good enough to be published
or used as evidence. Scientific evidence that is, not just legal evidence.” Danielle Clode draws a comparison with the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in the Ukraine and the Haiti earthquake earlier this year to demonstrate how few genuine scientific research results have come from the investigation into Black Saturday. In the 18 months or so since the disaster she’s counted three scientific papers published; 18 months after Chernobyl there were 250 and there are already 25 on Haiti. A year and a half after the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires, there were a dozen scientific papers available.
No more money “Fire research generally is prone to being locked up in massive reports, unpublished, unscrutinised and often poorly implemented. And the Royal Commission seems to have made this tendency even worse,” says Dr Clode. It seems that now that the Commission has completed its work, money for completing and publishing the scientific research has run out. “The Royal Commission findings are not, unfortunately, the answer, but just the beginning of the questions,” says Danielle Clode. READ DR CLODE’S FULL SCIENCE SHOW COMMENTARY VIA HTTP: //TINYURL.COM/29R4BXH
Shortcomings How well an outside commander will deal with the ingrained managerial hierarchies of the three fire agencies is yet to be tested. And despite some change that began after the Royal Commission released its interim report last year, there is still a lot of work to be done. Management failings and lack of information sharing put lives at risk says the report. “Under the acute conditions on Black Saturday, too much emphasis and firefighting effort was devoted to ‘putting out the fire’ and not enough to ‘putting out the information’.” The Commission concluded that the three fire agencies, as currently structured, did not collectively contribute to their maximum potential on February 7 last year. There were serious failings that limited the agencies’ ability to comprehensively fulfil their responsibilities.
Appointment problem Victoria’s multiple agency structure, with each body’s territory and authority defined by separate legislation lead to information blockages, information and systems access problems, as well as the duplication of resources and allocation failures during last year’s bushfire crisis. The report notes that “the appointment of Incident Controllers reflected which agency had legislative responsibility for the fire – DSE on public land and the CFA on private land. This was supported by a longstanding practice by the agencies but did not always result in the most appropriate person
ACT firefighter and committed UFUA Member David Balfour was killed while on duty in the Victorian bushfire zone east of Marysville in the days after Black Saturday. Serious structural reform of Victoria’s firefighting services is needed to ensure firefighter and community protection
being appointed.” The Commissioners noted there are substantial differences in the training and accreditation of CFA and DSE Incident Controllers despite both being required to do the same thing.
More questions Despite the problems caused by the current three agency structure, the Royal Commissioners said they did not find any of the expert opinions on structural reform compelling. Nevertheless, in contrast to the state government view that structural change is not needed, the Commissioners say an alternative structure for Victoria’s fire agencies is required. However, it says now is not the time for a single fire service, although there could be benefits in adopting a structure that allows for a greater degree of integration in the future. In the meantime, “modest and targeted structural reform is needed as a catalyst for change and to tackle the identified operational shortcomings…” The commissioners say further reform could be considered after a review in about three years time.
STAY OR GO?
he Chair of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission says it is wrong to interpret the Commission’s comments about the stayor-go policy as backing those who would stay to defend a house in any circumstances. “We’re saying it would be a disaster for that to continue,” Bernard Teague told the ABC. However, the final report of the Commission says the basis of the stay-or-go policy is sound and that staying to defend a house from bushfire remains a valid choice. The Commissioner said that decisions should be based on preparedness, the vulnerability of other people in the house, the severity of conditions and bushfire threat. The alternatives to stay-or-go proposed by the Commission’s legal team included following overseas practice in locations like California where voluntary evacuation is the primary
response to bushfires. However, a wholesale dumping of stay-orgo was rejected in the final report, given the challenges posed by a total evacuation approach. “Do you evacuate the whole of Bendigo because fire is impacting upon it? There are too many problems in going down that track,” said Mr Teague. The Commission says emergency evacuations should be considered when they would provide a greater level of protection for those facing threat from bushfire. The report also recommends community refuges be designated in areas of high bushfire risk – and a name change, from stay-orgo to prepare-act-survive. READ THE FULL ABC INTERVIEW WITH THE COMMISSIONERS VIA: HTTP: //TINYURL.COM/35QLO6L
Labels and territory The Commission also suggests: - the ‘Country Fire Authority’ label is out of date and badging the CFA as the ‘Community Fire Authority’ would be better, after consulting all concerned of course, - the value of the CFA integrated model remains suitable in urban areas, including The Australian Firefighter I 19
in larger regional cities, but needs further review, responsibility for positioning of Melbourne’s metropolitan fire district boundary should be with the Fire Commissioner and be reviewed no more than once every three to five years, the buck should stop with the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, the Emergency Services Commissioner role should return to an auditing role, and the insurance based fire services levy should be replaced with a property-based levy.
The challenge The CFA nor DSE should not be immune from change say the Commissioners; “neither volunteers nor current administrative arrangements should be used as excuses for not making the changes needed to improve performance.” Confusion, lack of leadership, accountability failure, structural impediments, policy and planning gaps, as well as legislative and governance issues all caused major problems during Victoria’s bushfire crisis last year. Firefighters – and the public – are justified in asking if the Chief Fire Services Commissioner will be a fix or just a patch. While the organisational structure that failed Victorians on Black Saturday remains largely in place, Chief Commissioner Lapsleys’ job will certainly remain a challenge. ■
The Victorian government told the Royal Commission that structural change for Victoria’s fire services is not needed
FIGURES AND SOURCES THE ROYAL COMMISSION INTO THE VICTORIAN BUSHFIRES ON FEBRUARY 7, 2009 SAT FOR 155 DAYS OF HEARINGS AND RECEIVED EVIDENCE FROM MORE THAN 400 WITNESSES. ITS FINAL REPORT CONTAINS 67 RECOMMENDATIONS. THE BLACK SATURDAY BUSHFIRE IN VICTORIA 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. ITS TOTAL COST TO VICTORIA WAS SOME $4.4 BILLION. THE 2009 VICTORIAN BUSHFIRES ROYAL COMMISSION INTERIM REPORT CAN BE DOWNLOADED VIA HTTP://TINYURL.COM/M5SSD3 THE FINAL REPORT CAN BE ACCESSED VIA HTTP://TINYURL.COM/2A93GV3
20 I The Australian Firefighter
he Bushfires Royal Commission was less than kind in its comments about the performance of key players not only during Black Saturday but since. The Commissioners: - said they were disappointed the state government’s less than speedy response to a number of issue raised in the VBRC’s interim report released in August last year with 51 recommendations, including policy changes for refuges and evacuations, - criticised both former CFA Chief Officer Russell Rees and DSE Chief Officer Ewan Walker, saying they “should have done more” to provide organisational support,
state-wide planning and community warnings on the day, considered the approach by the then Chief Police Commissioner (and Victorian disaster plan coordinator) Christine Nixon “left much to be desired”, viewed dimly the failure of those in authority to consider the potential advantages of declaring a state of emergency (or raising the issue with the Premier), assessed the state control arrangements for level 3 fires as inadequate, and expressed alarm that Marysville is being rebuilt “without reference to the mitigation of bushfire risk”.
The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission
Final Report Reaction After the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission handed down its final report on Saturday July 31, here’s how the response to its 67 recommendations and the impact of Black Saturday panned out across the following month: Sunday August 1 – Victorian Premier John Brumby publicly apologises for the failings of the state’s emergency response on February 7, 2009, – Former Victorian Police Chief Commissioner and Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority Chair Christine Nixon admits to learning “a lot of lessons” and apologises for her actions on Black Saturday Monday August 2 – the Premier gives in-principle support to 59 of the Commission’s 67 recommendations for change but says he is still not convinced by proposals for a new tax to fund fire services, costly power line upgrades or property buy-backs Tuesday August 3 – the State Government begins community consultations on the Royal Commission’s recommendations, – the Opposition pledges to support legislation for a bushfire ombudsman, – power company SP AusNet rejects allegations of negligence in relation to the Black Saturday bushfires Wednesday August 4 – Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin says he will stay on in the job Thursday August 5 – Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) Chief Fire Officer Ewan Waller apologises for his failings on Black Saturday Monday August 9 – Premier Brumby gives the strongest signal yet that the government will not bury existing power lines in fire-prone areas Tuesday August 10 – a special sitting of Victoria’s Parliament is held to debate the findings of the Bushfire Royal Commission’s final report, – the Opposition says the Government’s community meetings are an exercise in spin Friday August 13 – Victoria’s Bushfires Royal Commission senior lawyer Jack Rush QC says the report omits important evidence and could have been more significant and thorough, – Former Hawthorn Football Club President, Ian Dicker is appointed head of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority Tuesday August 17 – former CFA Chief Officer Russell Rees officially apologises for his role on Black Saturday Thursday August 19 – Craig Lapsley, Emergency Management Director, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services is appointed Chief Fire Services Commissioner Friday August 27 – The Victorian government releases its full response to the VBRC’s final report, promising 442 more CFA and MFB career firefighters.
The Australian Firefighter I 21
On the run For 16 Australian ﬁreﬁghters running across the United States it is a tribute to the ﬁreﬁghters who died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11, 2001. The Tour of Duty team are also running to remember all their colleagues who have died in the line of duty. They’re raising money and will donate it hospital burns units and ﬁreﬁghter support foundations in the US and Australia. The Aussies have been joined by 20 American ﬁreﬁghters and other emergency service workers on their hot and tiring 31 day, 7,500 km epic summer journey. As The Australian Fireﬁghter Magazine goes to press they are just days away from their goal, Ground Zero on 9/11
A month th after ft starting, t t the runners will cross the Brook September 11, to arrive at Ground Zero in time for a special 9 time the ﬁrst aircraft was crashed into the South Tower o 22 I The Australian Firefighter
cross the Brooklyn Bridge, New York City, at 6.00 am on me for a special 9/11 ceremony at 8.46 am. This was the exact he South Tower of the World Trade Centre attack in 2001 The Australian Firefighter I 23
WORKFRONT MANAGEMENT AV I AT I O N
Mow over Aviation Members will recall the dispute we had earlier this year with the ARFF about lawn maintenance around fire stations. In the lead up to this dispute, we learnt that at some stations, Members were tractor slashing training grounds, trimming trees, weeding, planting, and poisoning. This of course was a concern in itself. The agreement we finally achieved was that Members would mow and water lawns only; all other work was to be carried out by contractors. Further, lawns were to be maintained only within the ‘immediate vicinity’ of the station because, (a) we were unsure about the area of lawns at every station in Australia, and (b) so as to ensure Members could respond within the required CASA response times. After that agreement was reached, the lawn maintenance ban was lifted by us in good faith but the ARFF again reneged on the agreement, insisting that the area to be mowed was the entire leased area. Once again, the trust extended by the UFUA to the ARFF was broken and this matter is still unresolved at one station because of that breach of trust.
Fly in ﬂy out A long climb required – to restore Aviation Members trust in management
Out of touch Airport ﬁreﬁghters can no longer trust their management to do the right thing. UFUA Aviation Branch Secretary Mick Farrell continues his review of ARFF management practice from page 9 ... Aviation firefighters continue to tell the Union of their dissatisfaction with Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) management attitudes and practice. The Category 10 activity roster is another case in point. The ARFF’s expansion into Category 10 level stations played a large part in the development of the current collective agreement (CA). Part of that progression was the agreement by the parties to develop a roster that would be attractive to Members already working the Category 9, 10/14 rosters. The roster developed was called the ‘activity 24 I The Australian Firefighter
roster’ and, as a sign of good faith, we requested the ARFF to implement it at Sydney ARFF, even though the guidelines were in a collective agreement yet to be certified. The ARFF agreed and in so doing demonstrated an amount of trust. However, after CA certification, when it was time to implement the roster at Melbourne ARFF, management reneged on the previous undertakings and endeavoured to introduce another, very unpopular, type of roster. After much heated debate and many meetings, Melbourne now has the roster agreed to and certified in the CA.
The conditions of employment for Members at fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) stations, was drafted especially for – and is now included in – the 2009-2013 CA . Nevertheless, management ignored the good will entrusted to them by the Membership and subsequently drafted documents with lesser conditions of employment. They have pressured Members to sign them, saying if inferior conditions of employment are not accepted, their positions at FIFO stations will be in jeopardy. We also now wait to prosecute one of these cases.
Cracks aplenty There are many more examples of why Aviation Members consider ARFF management to be out of touch. Here are just a few more: - MK 8 vehicles with chassis cracks, - the hand-over /take-over routines at 10/14 Stations, - broken training assurances, and - the misuse of Cert. IV firefighters acting up in SO positions. The Morita ASV is another classic example. To gain their cooperation, Members were told it was for evaluation only. Then the
ARFF brought it on-line, ignoring Members’ complaints and all expert advice on the issue. Now we have to use an untested vehicle with a theoretical and untested operational plan for deployment.
propensity to burn back or flash back. Certainly, it is important that the new foam is more
New trust challenges The ARFF is now asking all of us to trust it with the introduction of the new Solberg RF6 foam. We sincerely hope they have finally got it right because we are not about to extend any further trust; Members are telling us “enough is enough!” Operational use foam must comply with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and needs to be the best available. Because the ARFF operate at bare minimum staffing levels, there cannot be any possibility that foam coverage has a
by the old Ansulite foam. If not, Members will be left unnecessarily exposed and that is unacceptable.
Can’t trust ARRF – the Union plans its own tests
environmentally friendly, as the ARFF states, but also it must provide firefighters with – at very least – the same level of protection provided
We plan to test the Solberg RF6 against the ARFF’s claims; we will use recognised testing procedures. If it comes up trumps, this will be a good result. If not, and the ARFF insists that Solberg RF6 be used, the Union will conduct a concerted campaign about our concerns with the new foam. I anticipate this will include, as an absolute and immediate necessity, that the ARFF reassess their strategies, tactics and staffing levels as a consequence of their failings. Our Member’s safety is always paramount; we do not trust the ARFF to ensure this is the case with the deployment of Solberg RF6. MICK FARRELL Secretary UFUA Aviation Branch
The Australian Firefighter I 25
WORKFRONT CELEBRATION VICTORIA
One hundred years later The Union’s Victorian Branch celebrates a centenary next year. It’s been a Century of Struggle for the UFU since Victorian ﬁreﬁghters ﬁrst met to set up their Union
n 2011, Victoria’s firefighters and the UFU will celebrate a hundred years of Union protection for professional firefighters in state. The United Firemen’s Union of Victoria came into being on January 22, 1911 when a group of firefighters met in a small room under the stairs of the old Eastern Hill fire station. “Keeping the Union strong is essential if firefighters’ workplace entitlements, conditions and rights are to be well protected,” says Peter Marshall. “The arrival of our centenary will allow Members to acknowledge the Union’s achievements, celebrate our solidarity and plan for the struggles ahead with renewed energy.” At the UFU’s first meeting, 173 Members signed up. MFB management reacted very quickly to the news, putting pressure on firefighters to tell what was going on with the Union. George Tuck, the UFU’s first secretary, told Members not to talk to these management ‘nosey-parkers’ as “no good could possibly come of it”.
Strength in unity A few months after the Union’s formation – and affiliation to the Melbourne Trades Hall Council – firefighters, their brass band and Union banner were among the 35,000 strong crowd at the eight hour day march through Melbourne. “These were small beginnings for the Union,” says Victorian Branch Secretary Peter Marshall. “And for the first couple of decades our elected officials went about their tasks rather quietly. By the late 1930s, firefighters had won reductions in work hours – to 108 per week! These oppressive conditions spurred on a new generation of recruits to adopt a more serious approach to industrial campaigns.”
The duplication of Victoria’s fire services with its two fire authorities, the MFB and CFA, began in the last decade of the 19th century. In 1890, the Fire Brigades Act created the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board (MFB), which replaced 56 volunteer brigades in Melbourne, and the Country Fire Brigades Board (CFB) that absorbed nine County Fire Districts across the state. Nearly fifty years later, the Royal Commission into the disastrous 1939 Black Friday fires recommended a single authority for Victoria. Another season of serious bushfires in 1944 renewed the pressure but the state government ducked the issue again and decided to establish the CFA instead. The UFU has campaigned continuously for more CFA career firefighters and a single fire service for the state. A most significant breakthrough was achieved recently, when after yet another Royal In the early decades of the twentieth century, Melbourne firefighters were Commission into a bushfire tragedy, proud participants in the city’s annual Labour Day marches. At the time this that of last year’s Black Saturday, the photograph was taken, firefighters were entitled to only three days’ annual leave. A weekly day-off was at the discretion of the Chief Officer. Thanks Victorian government announced to the Union, firefighters’ workplace conditions have improved out of sight funding to employ 342 more CFA since those days pic: Melbourne Fire Services Museum career firefighters.
New focus 1940 saw the start of what legendary UFU Victoria Secretary Bill Webber described as “the infamous 30 year war of industrial strife” that was triggered by changes in MFB management and tactics. 26 I The Australian Firefighter
The Union and its elected officials refocused their approach to working conditions, health and safety, wages and training. From then on, Victoria’s professional firefighters and the UFU have campaigned tirelessly for the conditions and entitlements that now protect firefighters and the communities they serve. “Not only did we wage that ‘thirty year war’
When the UFU was formed in Victoria, steam power and horse carriages were some of the tools of the firefighters’ trade pic: Melbourne Fire Services Museum
over hours and wages, we also fought the Kennett government’s attempt to strip away our conditions and just a few years ago, we challenged the Howard government which tried it on again,” says Pater Marshall. “Through all these struggles, the UFU stood strong and our Members remained united to see off the challenges.”
To highlight the Victorian Branch’s centenary year, a dedicated newsletter will be published every month detailing the significant events that influenced the Union’s growth and activities across each decade. The first edition will be distributed in September. On January 30, next year, a special celebration to mark the centenary will include a procession through Melbourne’s streets and a Union family day in the Treasury gardens. More events will be held throughout 2011, including the Centenary Gala Ball and the launch of a book detailing the UFU’s rich history of struggle and achievement for Members. There will be more details in future editions of The Australian Firefighter Magazine. ■
Fireﬁghter training – the lessons In WA, when firefighters uncovered assessments incomplete, but stacked away and gathering dust, they sprung into action. Their work not only helped firefighters gain increments and recognition of service but it also produced new learning materials and resources for their colleagues. The Union’s WA Branch completes the story with a plea for action across the nation
National standards needed All firefighters need to be cognisant of a national move to dumb down career firefighters so that they lose their relevance. Why fire and emergency service authorities have an agenda to do this is beyond the comprehension of most but it is very apparent that the specialisation of all aspects of fire combat is being watered down. Maybe this is so that a more homogenised emergency service worker can be developed, a sort of a jack-of-all-trades but master on none. We need to push, via the National Union, for standardised organisational education across Australia. We must further educate ourselves through tertiary and university studies while embracing institutions such as the keepers of fire science knowledge at the Institute of Fire Engineers (IFE) or the Fire Protection Association (FPA). Do this and we will stay relevant. We will also remain a force to be reckoned with against a corporate mentality that, despite all the evidence, demonstrates particularly every summer across Australia how relevant we should be that, ‘firies’ are able to do more than lift heavy things. continued from page 15
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The Australian Firefighter I 27
POLITICS POWER PLAYS CHARLES LIVINGSTONE
There are more ways than one to govern pic:stock.xchng_franz
Vested interest, power politics Will the federal election result force more cooperation and less political game-playing from our elected representatives? Charles Livingstone checks the lie of the land
ost Australians have a healthy disregard for politicians and their promises. The disillusionment we mostly share about politics was well and truly evident in the recent federal election, with the result that, more than two weeks later, a decision on who can govern had yet to be made. It also seems that most people are fairly happy with that situation. Despite the occasional outcry from some industry organisations, arguing that a hung parliament is bad for business, most of the population seems happy to have produced a result requiring some degree of co-operation for effective government. As the Independents have pointed out, the ‘two dogs barking’ pattern of Australian politics produces little light and much wasted heat. It does produce colourful headlines of course,
28 I The Australian Firefighter
and the symbiosis between journalists and politicians may well explain much of the reason for oppositional politics in this country and much of the western world.
New thinking However, it is far from the only way to govern, and the examples of Scandinavia and much of Europe, where coalitions of often highly disparate parties are regularly assembled, demonstrates that highly progressive and successful nations can arise in situations of relative political uncertainty. Indeed, the rigid party discipline we are used to in Australia is itself unusual. In both Britain and the United States, from both of which we drew our constitutional DNA, party discipline is much less rigid.
Perhaps in Australia the people have come to the collective view that we should and can force the party system into a new way of thinking, free of the vested interest of political operators and their factional machinery. Many supporters and members of both the Labor and Liberal parties would agree. Labor’s factional structure is well documented. The Liberal Party’s factionalism somehow slides under the radar but there is no doubt that much of the reason for their relative lack of success at state level over recent years has been the in-fighting between factions.
The numbers The NSW party is notoriously dominated by a hard right faction, encouraged under the previous federal government and pre-selecting often unelectable
candidates in order to retain their factional base. So it’s not just the ALP that offers factional politics; both major parties would benefit from a more open and inclusive membership base. It is undoubtedly the case that neither party has more members nationally than many AFL clubs. Hardly an inclusive base from which to govern the country! The whole Australian polity would also benefit from a careful examination of the way vested interests operate. We all have some degree of vested interest, of course. John Howard was highly expert in appealing to the vested interests of millions of voters, developing the packaging of middle class welfare into a fine art. On a host of issues, Howard was able to craft a policy position that responded to the collective electoral power of key groups. In a sense, vested interest is intrinsic to politics, and the parties we elect are a reflection of the dominant interest.
VESTED INTEREST OPERATES CONSTANTLY, AND FREQUENTLY WITHOUT REGARD TO THE ELECTORAL CYCLE. BIG TOBACCO … HAS PROVIDED A TEMPLATE
Mining inﬂuence Yet we do seem to be in danger of losing control of the political process to the power of some highly influential and well resourced interest groups. In the United States, the gun lobby through the National Rifle Association is notoriously able to undermine gun control legislation by using a twofold, carrot and stick influence; political donations to many individual members of Congress to support their reelection, and vigorous and well funded opposition to those who propose measures it doesn’t support. The result is that no serious candidate dare propose any measures for gun control, with consequences we hear about regularly. In Australia, we lack a well-organised gun lobby but we still have our fair share of well-resourced vested interests operating constantly at a political level. Even the most rudimentary analysis of the recent history of the mining super profits tax demonstrates that the government was forced into a highly public back down, involving a change of prime minister, arguably in direct response to the self-interested campaigning of the fabulously well resourced mining industry. Whether that industry then proceeded to support the opposition party at the subsequent federal election we can not know until sometime next year, because our donation disclosure laws don’t require such revelations until well after the event.
Cash incentive But vested interest operates constantly, and frequently without regard to the electoral cycle. Big tobacco (who still donate to the coalition, although Labor, to their credit, don’t accept their donations)
has provided a template for how some of the other ‘dangerous consumption’ industries can delay public health reforms and confuse the public about relevant issues almost endlessly. Just such a process has been in train for a number of years in the gambling industry, where despite overwhelming evidence of considerable harm and little evidence of real economic or other benefits, the Australian poker machine industry continues unabated to enjoy spectacular profits. Cash-strapped state governments are only too happy to go along with this, the NSW and Victorian treasuries both pocketing about a billion dollars per year as their share of this system for extracting cash from those who can least afford it.
Illusory beneﬁt The demands of Andrew Wilkie, that this harm producing poker machine industry be restrained by a ‘pre-commitment’ system (allowing gamblers to decide in advance how much they wish to spend), demonstrates the power of vested interest in yet another way. The government has readily accepted his proposition because it seeks to continue in office. Fair enough, we might say. Yet interestingly this idea, when floated by the Productivity Commission in its 2010 report on gambling, was not seized upon by the Government. In fact the Government response was to toe
the gambling industry’s line and mutter about the many benefits of gambling, such as employment and facilities. That these benefits are largely illusory (as the Productivity Commission argued very convincingly) matters not at all in such debates. Rich and powerful industries operate under their own rules of perception and political response, at least until the rules change as they did after the 2010 election result.
Chance for reform If we are really lucky, the 2010 election will give us an opportunity to begin the process of restraining the power of vested interests to influence our public life. Reform to political disclosure laws, proposed by the Rudd government, but defeated by the coalition with the support of Senator Fielding, is well and truly back on the agenda. This may also extend to reform of the laws around political advertising and influence peddling by recent former Ministers, as well as the myriad other ways there are to hijack the political agenda in defiance of the public interest. From the political imbroglio of 2010 may flow a fundamental reform of at least some aspects of Australian political life. We can but hope! ■ 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
Baby boomer threat They’re out there, they’re still voting and as far as nuisance value goes, they are the global benchmark say Sir Murray Rivers
reetings, fellow distinguishing persons. Putting aside the various rural Rejects from Central Casting – the Honorable Independent members for Self Interest – who at the time of writing are trying to work out who they want to ruin this colony for the next three years, I want to discuss a greater danger; a cabal, who in my learned opinion represent the greatest danger that our society has ever faced – the Baby Boomers. The word nuisance, ladies and gentlemen, comes from the verb nuire, from the Latin nocere, ‘to harm’. I want you to hold onto that verb ‘to harm’, because harming things is something the Baby Boomers have done a fine line in under their watch; harming themselves, the environment, other countries and particularly their children’s future.
Idle hours More than any other generation in this colony’s history, Baby Boomers have cornered the market on being not just a national nuisance but a first class, global nuisance. I argue that Baby Boomers continue to be a right royal pain in the social arse. And if there is a single reason as to how they have become such outstanding pests, it is this: as a generation they simply had far too much time on their hands. Spare time is the kerosine on the fire of idleness; it is the hand that drives disruption. Baby Boomers have indulged themselves in a way that no other generation in this colony ever has. What have they done for this colony? Absolutely nothing. And as we all know – the only thing wrong with doing nothing is that you never know when you’re finished. Having indulged all their lives, now on the verge of retirement, they are expecting to be indulged further. The simple fact is: Baby Boomers never grew up. They have all remained Peter Pan and Wendys. Put simply, once this group understood their capacity to remain children and to create nuisance, for the Baby Boomer, there was no looking back. 30 I The Australian Firefighter
The simple fact is, baby boomers never grew up pic: stock.xchng/trolf
Blameless And the one thing about Baby Boomers is; they do know exactly who they are. After all, Baby Boomers have spent the better part of their adult lives ‘discovering themselves’. While Rome burnt, the Boomers fiddled. Fiddled while the environment was collapsing around them; played with themselves while the financial crisis crept up on the world. They did this because they’d been told they could; sitting as they all did on the couches of expensive shrinks and other assorted witch doctors and medicine men, believing they needed their heads read. Well, they were right about that. They paid a premium for the quacks to tell them what they wanted to hear; that all their failures in life derived directly from their parents. Baby Boomers weren’t guilty for their marriages breaking up or
leaving the planet on a drip feed in the emergency ward. Tom Jones sang ‘No. No Not responsible’ – no surprise that song was a smash hit in the 60’s.
Marginal leverage What should be frightening the socks off the young is that the BB’s are all on the verge of retirement. Then, they can be a serious nuisance twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. In other words, when it comes to being a national pest – you ain’t seen nothing yet. Let’s look at the statistics - if not the facts. Australia has 5.25 million baby boomers; they own almost 35 per cent of Australia’s trillion dollar superannuation assets and they hold half of the nation’s total household wealth. As the saying goes
– use it or lose it. Watch them use it, every last, selfish cent. Take for example, politics. As a group, Boomers are now so powerful politically, if a Baby Boomer even sneezes in a marginal seat, politicians trip over themselves to wipe their nose or provide an ambulance. What other generation could have taken John F Kennedy’s immortal line, “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” and turn it into their own motto, “ask not what we can do for our country but what can our country do for us”.
hope never to set eyes on again, in exotic countries they hope never to return to. And Golf. Golf was designed to keep Boomers in their senior years from wandering around the streets causing trouble. I hate to think what will happen when all the Boomers retire. It won’t be safe to drive down a street in this country. Apart from the fact that the roads will be clogged with Boomers in wheel chairs and every car-park space will have a ‘P’ painted on it, there is simply not enough golf courses to keep the Boomers out of trouble.
All spent Going down swinging As for financial responsibility or looking to the future, forget it. The province of the Boomer is the holiday in Provence and Tuscany, the Venice Biennale, winter in Noosa, Bali and Thailand, towing dangerous caravans across the Nullabor and cruise ship holidays where they meet people they
1EXXMWSYV ZEWIGXSQ]LIVS Matt went in for a vasectomy on Friday afternoon, and was back at work on Monday morning.
People say Australia is in danger of becoming a nanny state. There’s a reason for this. Baby Boomers have to be forced to behave properly, they are far too indulgent and ill-disciplined; they need someone managing their crib, otherwise they’ll crawl from it, hit the playground and do what they do best – cause trouble, cause mischief
and be a bloody nuisance. Clearly, Boomers have to be saved from themselves. In conclusion, my advice to the young of this colony is this; if you want action on climate change hop onto eBay and buy yourself a boat or relocate to the mountains. Same thing if you are expecting an inheritance – sorry, it’s gone.
Best bet Here’s my tip; if you want to own a house in the future, go down to Randwick racecourse on Saturday and put all your pocket money on Race 3, ‘Watangi Hanover’. Back it with your ears pinned back because that’ll be as near to an inheritance as you’ll ever get from your Boomer parents. Keep squirting, 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 SURVIVAL HELGA BIRGDEN
Super issues Is your super fund looking beyond the short term horizon? Has it learnt the lessons of the GFC? Helga Birgden checks the lie of the land
uper funds are meant to be in it for the long term and to be on top of a wide range of risks to protect our savings. So, are they acting in our best interests? And are they smart enough to look over the short term horizon and invest sustainably? Importantly, can they deliver investment returns when it is time for us to collect the cash? In short, are the people looking after our investments up on the big issues? In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, super funds should now be reconsidering traditional investment and how they allocate our money to investments. Some super funds are now acknowledging they were caught out in recent crashes. So, is it now the time for them to consider Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues as real risks to investing? A report on this subject released by international law firm Bruckhaus, Deringer, Freshfields found that:
Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, noted that super funds in Australia should be aware of the “new industrial revolution”. New investments such as wind, solar, water, forestry, clean and green infrastructure that help to reduce carbon can offer long term investors a sustainable return.
Despite the unpredictable nature of individual events like this, there are forward looking indicators that super funds can ask for: - updates on health and safety standards, - reports on the operational risks, such as deep oil-water extraction, - checks on governance of operations, - evidence of proper oversight of risk management implementation, - exercise of voting rights and engagement with all companies, - compliance with environmental, social and governance global standards, - reporting by investment managers on these issues in the portfolio, and more.
- super fund trustees are obligated to explain the fund’s guidelines on responsible investment and to what extent social, environmental or ethical considerations are taken into account, and - investment consultants and investment managers face a very real risk of being sued for negligence if they ignore ESG factors within investment decision-making.
Global warning It is widely acknowledged that a big issue affecting our economy is the environment and more broadly climate change. What is less certain is the impact on super funds and how they can best prepare for its challenges, both from a risk management and return perspective. Could climate change be an area of economic opportunity? Sir Nicholas Stern, an ex-World Bank economist and author of the 32 I The Australian Firefighter
Surviving the GFC – your super fund can do it without harming the planet
The environment /climate change impact potential is still not fully factored in as a genuine risk to our savings. For example, we have seen recently how environmental issues can impact on a company’s reputation and returns; BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April this year saw a 50% fall in its share price by June 30. The price since then has been volatile, the company has had to set up a compensation fund of approximately £20 billion, it stopped dividend payments and the clean up took BP much longer than anticipated.
With the growing impact of resource scarcity – and the ongoing global effects of pollution on the quality of water, air and arable land – we need to know our super funds are equipped to look out over their own short term horizons to help ‘future proof ’ our investments against any impact from these big issues.
The money Many studies have been undertaken on the vexed question of whether there is a penalty for incorporating ESG risks into investment decisionmaking. Two overview studies Mercer has
undertaken1 indicate there is a material effect from such factors and, on balance, show that factoring in ESG risks can contribute to an enhanced investment return over the long term period that super funds typically invest our savings. For example, one study we reviewed used a governance index constructed from the incidence of 24 governance rules at 1500 companies during the 1990s. The study found that companies with corporate governance rules that enable stronger shareholder rights earned higher
Sustainable Investing (SI) strategies. NS means choosing not to invest in certain companies for ethical reasons, for example, in land mine manufacturers. The average five year annual return for SI strategies was 17.9%, while for NS strategies it was 13.2%. These results stand up well against traditional investment performances measured by two mainstream indices: the S&P 500 at 13.4% and MSCI World with 14.9%. Closer to home, Table 1 sets out the
The demand Super funds do have the capacity to invest using forward looking indicators to build ESG into their management of our money. This is the way they can both protect us from downside risks and take up new opportunities to create a cleaner environment and more sustainable economy. However, as super fund members we need to demand that they do so. Many studies have demonstrated that
1 Month (%) Rank
3 Months (%) Rank
1 Year (%) Rank
AMP Capital Sustainable Future BT Institutional Aust Sustainability BT Institutional Ethical Sector Trust Challenger Socially Responsive Share Fund ING Sustainable – Aust Share Trust Perennial Socially Responsive Shares Perpetual Wholesale Ethical Vanguard Sustainability Leaders Australia Warakirri Charitable Select Equities Warakirri Pensions & Charities Median
5.7 4.5 4.7 5.0 5.5 2.5 3.6 4.2 4.6 4.6 4.6
-7.1 -5.8 -6.1 -5.6 -5.7 -7.5 -6.9 -5.6 -6.9 -5.1 -6.0
9.9 9.3 8.3 11.0 10.7 10.1 31.2 9.9 11.4
(1) (7) (4) (3) (2) (10) (9) (8) (5) (6)
(9) (5) (6) (2) (4) (10) (8) (3) (7) (1)
(6) (8) (9) (3) (4) (5) (1) (7) (2)
3 Years (%pa) Rank -7.6 -5.0 -5.6 -10.5 -2.8 -6.1 -2.0 -4.2 -1.1
5 Years (%pa) Rank
(8) (5) (6) (9) (3) (7) (2) (4) (1)
5.7 5.4 7.0 1.5 8.2 5.5 10.0 5.9 7.3
(6) (8) (4) (9) (2) (7) (1) (5) (3)
Table 1: Australian Share products that factor in some form of ESG consideration – 2009–2010 Source: Mercer Australian Shares Survey, SRI universe to end of July 2010
returns, were valued more highly and had better operating performance. A performance-over-time analysis showed that a portfolio consisting of the top 10% of the governance index outperformed the bottom 10% of the index by a statistically significant 8.5% per year. Superannuation Funds Perpetual WFS Perpetual’s Ethical SRI Optimum Pers Super Perpetual Wsale Ethical SRI Optimum Corp Super Perpetual Wsale Ethical SRI MLC MKey Super – Perpetl Ws Eth SRI MLC MKey Bus Sup – Perp Ws Ethical SRI ING OA Per Sup-ING Sust Inv-Aust Sh ING OA Per Sup-ING Sust Inv-Aust Sh NEF ING Integra-ING Sustainable Inv-Australian Shares
performance of Australian Share products that take some form of ESG factors into account in their process. These factors do vary from product to product. It is interesting to note that one of these products, Perpetual Wholesale Ethical also outperformed all mainstream
applying ESG strategies can deliver positive investment returns across the time super funds have our money. Enjoy, not destroy is the message; by convincing our funds to go down the ESG path, we can take the cash when it’s time to collect knowing that we have
-6.00 -5.43 -5.43 -5.60 -5.60 -7.34 -7.39 -7.36
1.58 2.26 2.26 2.06 2.06 -3.90 -4.05 -3.94
44.17 56.16 56.16 48.55 48.55 17.85 17.09 17.69
-2.47 -2.31 -2.31 -2.80 -2.80 -2.75 -3.37 -3.26
9.58 8.87 8.87 8.85 8.85 8.56 7.89 7.88
Table 2: Eight Australian superannuation products that factor in some form of ESG consideration Source: Data supplied by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd, Ethical Investor June/July 2010, Issue 92, pp 46-47
ESG compared Another analysis of the impact of ESG considerations on returns sampled 805 global funds with $100 million or more under management and performance records of five years plus. The sample was subdivided into two groups, Negative Screening (NS) strategies and
Australian Shares funds surveyed across 12 months to the end of July 2010. Table 2 lists eight superannuation products that take some form of ESG factors into account in their process. The factors also vary from product to product. They are ranked on performance from highest to lowest over five years.
contributed to the solution, not remained part of the problem. ■ HELGA BIRGDEN is Acting Global Head of Responsible Investment for Mercer 1. The Mercer website is at http://mercer.com/ri More information can also be found at http://responsibleinvestment.org
The Australian Firefighter I 33
LIFE DIRECTIONS UNIONS
Unions at work
The ACTU’s campaign against WorkChoices defeated the Howard government. But much remains to be done to protect workplace entitlements and rights
With the outcome of the federal election still in the balance, ACTU President Ged Kearney runs through the Union movement’s to-do list for the next three years
s the new ACTU President, it is an honour to be joining Jeff Lawrence in leading Australian Unions as we continue to provide a voice for workers and their families. Over the last three years with the Labor government, the Unions have helped achieve industrial reforms that see better protections for workers, fairer workplace rights and a stable economic outlook as we emerge from the global financial crisis. In that first term we pretty much were buried in legislative reform, dealing with award modernisation and OHS harmonisation. These were intense and time consuming activities. We made progress, and are certainly better off than under WorkChoices, as we now are not slaves to AWAs, have better unfair dismissal laws, a fairer mechanism for setting the minimum wage and an independent industrial umpire.
IR plans Of course we don’t have everything we want yet and still have a lot of work to do. 34 I The Australian Firefighter
Modern awards began operation on January 1 this year. It is well known that some awards resulted in reduced pay and conditions for workers in certain industries. But the March executive meeting of the ACTU endorsed an action plan to prevent employers from using award modernisation as an excuse to cut workers’ pay. We will be vigilant to ensure wages are maintained or improved and will seek preemptive take home pay orders where necessary. This is now possible, after Unions raised concerns and the Labor government used regulation to strengthen the legislation. While the Fair Work Act is a step forward for workers, we have to continue to build on the reforms. Our main areas of focus will be improving the bargaining process, including access to industry or multi employer bargaining, improving the currently restricted ‘allowable matters’ in EBAs, and providing arbitration for unresolvable disputes, especially for the low paid, and improved right of entry conditions.
OHS The OHS harmonisation is a process that seeks to line up the OHS laws across the country; currently they differ vastly from state to state. The risk with such a process is that the lowest common denominator is made the benchmark. We are concerned that the proposed new laws will actually undermine standards, putting workers at risk. We are fighting for laws that give workers a say, make employers responsible, empower health and safety reps, respect the role of Unions, and enable workers and Unions to take court action. We are urging Unions to take up the call through our Don’t Risk Second Rate Safety campaign.
Equal rights One major concern for Unions at present is that fact our comrades in the construction industry are subjected to a separate set of laws from the rest of the workforce, laws which reduce their rights. These laws criminalise legitimate industrial activity and deny building workers the right to silence. All
HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING workers should have the same rights. Australian Unions remain as determined as ever to see these unfair and unjust laws abolished.
Ged Kearney had barely begun as ACTU
Pay equity As I write this, I don’t know which party will end up leading this country. We are caught in the abyss of a hung parliament. For Unions, there are a great many issues in the pipeline that will either see the light of day, be supported or indeed die completely, depending on who is running the country. The Pay Equity case is an important test case currently being run by Unions representing workers in the social and community sector. It is unacceptable that in the year 2010, and in an economy as advanced as Australia’s, women in female dominated industries are paid less than men. The outcome of the pay equity test case will require support from not only the states but also the federal government to help fund a positive outcome. It is pretty doubtful that an Abbott government would provide such assistance.
Super The Labor government has also committed to improving superannuation for all workers. Currently the superannuation guarantee paid by employers is 9% of wages. Labor has committed to increasing that to 12% over the next few years. This is an important and necessary reform, particularly for the low paid and women who are chronically under-superanuated. Superannuation is one of the three pillars of an adequate retirement, along with the pension, and personal savings. Tony Abbott said he would not support an increase. The increase in superannuation was to be funded in part through the minerals resources rent tax. This is a tax to be imposed on the billion dollar mining industry, where huge profits are made and a pitiful amount of that income, made from Australian resources, goes back into communities via tax. We all pay our fair share of taxes and the mining industry must do the same. Tony Abbott’s election campaign was heavily supported by the mining industry because he has promised not to introduce the tax. He wants his corporate buddies to continue making the billions for themselves.
Senate Whatever party forms government we will, as of next year, have the Greens controlling the Senate, which will serve as a watchdog for any Tory shenanigans, and hopefully, support and strengthen progressive policies should Labor be able to take the lead.
President when Prime Minister Gillard switched the nation to full-on election mode. Ged spent a hectic few weeks delivering the ACTU president Ged Kearney – the campaign continues
was, like many others, out campaigning during the elections. This offered me the privilege of meeting with hundreds of workers in many different types of jobs from all around the country. In those few weeks, I visited trucking yards at dawn for breakfast with drivers, served sausages for lunch to nurses and orderlies in hospitals, and dropped in on call centres, railway stations, building sites and factories. Everywhere I went, I met decent, hardworking people whose aspirations are simple, yet so often unfulfilled. They want a secure job, a job at which they can earn enough to provide for their family without forfeiting precious time. They want to be safe at work. They want to be respected and consulted by their employer. They want productive and satisfying work that they have some control over, and that encourages them to learn new skills. They want to be treated fairly and women, equally, They want their workplace to be environmentally and worker-friendly.
Need to join The Union movement has a responsibility to these workers. I reckon there are great times ahead for us in the Union movement and what we stand for and we have to grasp
Whatever the outcome, Australian Unions will continue to support workers; we will campaign and fight for workplace rights no matter who is in power. In the very near future, we at the ACTU will be calling on you and every other Union Member
Trade Union message to Australia’s voters those opportunities. The Australian Nurses Federation (ANF) where I’ve come from, is a campaigning Union that builds on values that are important to our Members; those of social justice, of professional advocacy and leadership, and of course industrial outcomes. We know that Unions can be places that make you feel secure, productive and proud. I want every Australian to know that and I want them to feel the need to join – to feel part of a movement, a movement that makes changes for the better.
Ask the people My message is this; if you want to know what’s best for jobs, for public services, for our industries, ask the people that work in them, speak to Unions and their Members. No matter who forms the national Government, Unions will continue to represent our nearly two million Members and the nation’s ten million workers. We will hold the Government to account for its workplace policies, ensure our industrial relations laws do not go backwards, and further advance our rights at work. We will remain vigilant. We will not let up.
across the nation to help continue the campaign on social, moral and industrial issues. Together, we can hold government to account on all accounts! Yours in solidarity GED KEARNEY ACTU President ■
The Australian Firefighter I 35
LIFE EATS MANNIX
Meat Ball Salad – tasty when warm or cool
Spring into it A change of season brings volatile weather, so choose dishes that taste good either way says Chef Mannix
hen the weather becomes unpredictable, planning a meal can be a challenge. Here are three dishes that are at their best either hot or cold.
Tasty balls salad These are ‘old school’ meatballs, fried up and served in a salad bowl where all other ingredients are round; olives, tomatoes, mozzarella and … well almost. OK, so the salad leaves are the odd ingredients out. With basil and oregano going into the dressing, I season the meatballs differently. Just parsley and oregano are great; or try basil and fennel. You can crumble a spiced sausage in there instead of the pancetta. Or make it all feel very grown up and swap the milk for red wine and add some diced porcini. Likewise, with garlic in the balls, I opt for 36 I The Australian Firefighter
minced or diced shallot in the dressing. Use your regular olive oil for the cooking the balls but break out the sensational stuff for the dressing. You won’t be sorry. The goods: You’ll need the following for the meatballs: 1 cup olive oil 450g lean ground / minced pork 55g pancetta or bacon, finely diced ½ cup fresh white bread crumbs 4 tblspns milk 3 eggs 2 tblspns grated parmesan 2 cloves garlic ½ tspn salt pepper ½ tspn cayenne pepper ½ tspn ground / dried sage
½ tspn ground fennel seeds flour for dredging, and for the salad: about 6 big handfuls of salad greens – romaine lettuce, spinach, rocket / arugula, a little radicchio –any or all a handful of old-school stuffed green olives 1 cup cherry tomatoes 12 bocconcini / baby mozzarella 1 cup crimini / button mushrooms 1 red capsicum 12 pepperoncini / sweet spicy peppadews (varieties of capsicum), while the dressing requires: 1 tblspn minced shallot 1 tblspns minced red pepper/ capsicum 1 tblspns finely chopped fresh basil leaves ½ tspn dried oregano ½ tspn salt pepper ¼ cup white wine vinegar ¼ cup very good olive oil pinch sugar.
2 red capsicums 1 baguette olive oil lemon flour 2 eggs (beaten) breadcrumbs.
Snack or entre – bite into the baguette
To prepare the meatballs, soak the breadcrumbs in the milk (or try slicing the crust off an old focaccia roll, dice it and blitz it ... instant breadcrumbs!). Mix in the meat and diced pancetta / bacon and add all other ingredients (except flour and olive oil). Mix by hand. Place about one cup of flour in a bowl; shape the balls gently (30 – 40 mm each) and roll lightly in flour, then place on a board lined with foil or wax paper. The mix will create about three dozen balls. Heat the oil (about 12 mm deep) in a large skillet. Gently place the meatballs in the oil; you may have to cook them in two batches. Make sure the balls are cooked through, then remove the meatballs to a plate lined with a paper towel and allow to cool slightly. For the dressing, chop, dice or mince the shallot (substitute with scallion or red onion), garlic, capsicum and basil. Put into a measuring jug or bowl and add oregano, salt and a pinch of freshly ground pepper. Add vinegar and oil and whisk to emulsify / incorporate. Taste it; then you might want to add a pinch of sugar. Tart it up with a splash more vinegar, soothe it down with a splash more olive oil. Build the salad this way: slice the red pepper into thin discs and place around the perimeter of the salad bowl and pile the mixed leaves in the middle. Arrange all those lovely, round, bitesized balls on top: the meatballs (hot / cold), the tomatoes, olives, pepperoncinis, mushrooms and mozzarella balls. When feeling particularly generous, I’ll splash out on a big, fat ball of burrata and place it in the middle instead of small bocconcini. Pour the dressing over everything and serve. This is really one of my instant favourite meals. Serve it at a party or downscale it for a weeknight dinner. Total time: about 40 minutes.
Zucchini Pepper & Haloumi Baguette This fried zucchini, grilled red pepper and haloumi open sandwich could be for starters or as a stand alone light meal. You will need: 250g halloumi cheese 2 zucchini
Set out three wide bowls or dishes. Sprinkle flour into one, pour the beaten eggs into another and the breadcrumbs in the third. Trim the tops and bottoms off the zucchini, slice them into ½ cm long strips, sprinkle lightly with salt and let sit for a couple of minutes. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet and preheat the oven to 180c. Pat the zucchini strips dry with some paper towel, dredge through the flour, dip in the egg and coat with breadcrumbs. Fry until golden on each side (add more oil to the pan if necessary), place on a paper lined oven dish and pop in the oven to keep warm. Add the baguette to the oven to warm, then slice the capsicum into one cm rounds and place on the outer edges of the skillet to fry. Slice the halloumi into ½ cm wedges, dredge in flour and fry for a couple of minutes on either side in the skillet. Split the baguette, arrange the fried cheese, zucchini and capsicum on top and serve with a drizzle of oil and a squeeze of lemon!
Apricot Tart – just to top it off
Apricot Macaroon Tart This is a perfect dessert solution whether it’s warm, cool, wet or dry. Serve warm with ice cream on a rainy night or cold with a cup of tea on a sunny afternoon. The goods: 450g dried apricots 1 cup boiling water ½ tspn baking soda ¼ cup Amaretto liqueur (or orange juice) pinch nutmeg 125g butter 1 cup dark brown sugar 1 cup plain flour
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 recipes like these built before your very eyes. ½ cup ground almonds 2 eggs, separated pinch salt 1/3 cup white sugar 1/3 cup coconut ½ cup flaked almonds
Pre-heat oven to 200c. Chop the apricots into rough chunks, place them in a small bowl. Sprinkle the baking soda over them and then pour the boiling water on top. Set aside while you make the pastry. Cream the butter, sugar and egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Add the flour, almond meal and a pinch of salt and beat until combined. If mixture is stiff, loosen it up with a couple of teaspoons of Amaretto (or water). Spread the pastry dough over the buttered base of the baking pan and pop in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 175c and bake a further five minutes. While the pastry is baking, prepare the apricot filling and macaroon topping. Blend or process the apricots and their liquid, add the Amaretto and a pinch of nutmeg and combine. Beat the egg whites in a spotless mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt and when the mixture has foamed and doubled in size, start adding the sugar a little at a time. Beat 3-5 minutes until the meringue looks glossy. Fold in the coconut. Spread the apricot mix over the warm pastry, then top with the macaroon mixture. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and bake a further 20 minutes, or until topping has browned. Time: 20 minutes active, 35 minutes baking. Hot or cold, just the thing for spring!
Visit http://thelovebite.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
Hot destination Holidaying in India before the monsoon breaks has its advantages but the temperature isn’t one of them, as Davo reports “
e’d better make tracks to the Taj Mahal,” said Maria. It was just on 7.00 am, the temperature already in the high 30s – that’s Celsius – and we were in Jaipur, the capital of the western Indian state of Rajasthan. That meant a journey to Agra, where the world’s most famous marble monument adorns the banks of the Yamuna River; it lay about a half day train ride away to the east . “How about tomorrow,” I asked, thinking of letting another stinking hot and humid day slip by beside the hotel pool. “We haven’t been to Jaipur’s world famous revolving restaurant yet.” A deal done, so later that morning, before the temperature climbed too far into the forties, we choofed on down to the station to book a ticket for the next day’s early train.
Seared The great thing about being in India just before the arrival of the monsoon is that the competition for hotels, trains, planes, taxis, auto-rickshaws, elephants or horse-and-carts isn’t anywhere near as intense as when the weather cools and the (international) tourist numbers rise. That means 38 I The Australian Firefighter
hotels beds are relatively easy to find and you really don’t need to plan things too far in advance to secure your preferred travel option to the next destination. However, if you live in Australia-south-ofthe-Brisbane-line the downside includes the raging forties, pools of sweat and the risk of severe dehydration if you plan to do anything outdoors between sunrise and sunset. It was late May and we hadn’t really planned to be on the north Indian plain at this time of the year. Our major destination was the coolish climes of the high Himalaya, but we were also adamant we would not leave the subcontinent without seeing the Taj. A good plan, we thought, at least until we had dropped out of the snowy peaks and seared our lungs with the first in-breath outside the Delhi airport building.
Bazaar experience It was hot! But being beggars for punishment, we thought a slight detour to the magic of Jaipur might be in order before checking out the majesty of the Mughal tomb and a quick escape across the equator back home.
The Om restaurant – some 50 metres above street level and turning slowly – served up splendid vegetarian fare, delivered with skilled but not over attentive service in just over the hour it takes the floorboards to complete a full revolution. The twinkling lights of the city and surrounds were … well twinkly. However, Jaipur is better viewed at ground level, fossicking around the alleys of the Pink City, its bazaars, the Palace of the Winds and the honeycombed façade, the armory obsessed City Palace and an 18th century astronomical observatory, the Jantar Mantar. All excellent, apart from the Jaipur touts, who are notorious for their insistent style and abrupt approach when engaging potential customers. The scorching temperature weren’t enough to deter us from a trip out of town to the northern hills to the old palace and fort at Amber. The prospect of an elephant ride kept us going. Luckily we got there early, as the pachyderms clock off by mid-morning during the hot weather.
Tracks go west Fabulous colours, great dress sense, heaps of souvenirs including plenty of dodgy jewellery; but
now it’s Thursday and we approach the Jaipur station in time for the 6.10 am train to Agra. There seems to be much more than the usual confusion in the entrance hall and we soon learn why – all trains have been cancelled! Overnight, the local Gujar minority group had ripped up the train tracks. Their recent demonstrations for a fairer go had been met with a somewhat typical political double-cross and then an even more typical heavy handed approach by the Rajasthan constabulary. Protestors were now dead in the streets, so it was unlikely there would be a resumption of normal services in the near future.
Blocks in place In just short of an instant, the planes were full, while the buses had also stopped running. We were on a tight schedule, so teaming up with another
Amber fort and palace – a work always in progress
to stand still and where its occupants conduct themselves at a certain pace – except of course for the slightly anxious occupants of a Mahindra Scorpion SUV (an offspring of the Willys jeep Indian assembly line) lurching – stop-start fashion – across the countryside, as the driver sought to find out from the locals which roads were still open and which actually lead to a way out of the state. After a long haul we stopped for a bite in Rohtak. No Om restaurant this one – a hole in the wall – but remarkably, as one of our Indonesian travelling companions observed, “even the flies left when the food arrived.” Hot, bothered but at least not fly-blown, we were approaching Delhi as the sun dropped behind the smudge that goes for a horizon in India’s capital. A long way from the Taj Mahal.
46 and rising Agra and environs have other worthwhile spots to look over. Just up the river there’s the fort. And about 40 km out of town there is Fatehpur Sikri, another Mughal empire capital, this time from the 16th century. And as for the non air conditioned bus, the mercury nudging 47 and burns on the soles of the feet … well, that’s another story. ■
Taj at last The Taj Mahal – serenity in a crowd
couple also caught at the station, we negotiated a hire car. We had to move fast as the protestors were setting up road blocks around the state. Our bargaining position was weak, so the price was hefty. It continued to grow as we were forced to evade the mushrooming roadblocks by travelling further afield, northwest towards the desert and then in an arc to Delhi. As the temperature climbed, so did the intensity of the discussions with the driver who kept turning off the aircon to save fuel.
Flies exit There was an upside to all this – it came in the form of an intense tour of the backblocks of rural Rajasthan. This is a land where time appears
A rest and recovery later, the Rajasthani troubles were now round-the-clock coverage on television news channels. Our detour and the worried faces on the TV reminded us of the difficulties of keeping this nation together, with its nearly two billion people, 35 state and territories and enormous ethnic, religious and cultural diversity. The extraordinary thing is that despite the tensions, it hangs together as a vibrant (if corrupt) democracy. Oh – and the Taj? Well, we got there, by train (from the other direction) and what can you say? All that can be written has been – countless times over. However, I can confidently report that in addition to the sublime beauty that defeats even the most intense throng of visitors, the heat shimmer creates another – surreal – dimension. Not to be missed.
Jaipur transport – lacking horsepower but plenty of grunt in reserve WHAT’S WHAT Getting there: with the Aussie dollar up you can find a flight to India from as low as $AUD$1,300 or $AUD1,500. Qantas flies direct from Sydney to Mumbai. Air India begins direct flights from Melbourne to Delhi on November 1. There are plenty of (cheap) flight choices if you don’t mind going via Bangkok, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Indian domestic airlines are numerous and generally reliable, at around $AUD60 to $AUD150 a leg depending on the comfort level you require. Trains, particularly the sleepers, are of course slower but much more fun. The Australian Firefighter I 39
LIFE PLAY MICK O’REGAN
Mild to maniac When September comes around, even those barely committed footy fans come alive. So keep an eye out, says Mick O’Regan pic: stock.xchng_adamsphoto
hey’re out there, in almost unimaginable numbers, and they’re on the move. They emerge like bears from their hibernation caves, sniffing the sporting wind and smelling something they like. It’s the Finals! Suddenly vast numbers of merely casual footy fans shrug off the highs and lows of weekly games and go a bit feral. Their team has made the eight and now it’s become do-or-die, glory or despair, boasting or blaming. Now it’s time to pull on the club colours and take up the fight. The scarves and beanies that were lying dormant in wardrobes and car boots are dragged out, cleaned up and put on. The regular season is over and home-and-away games are replaced by the weekly roulette of September football. The barely committed are about to evolve into a barracking horde. So watch out!
Let loose Of course, this is when the established teams can flex their muscles. In the ranks of the AFL, 40 I The Australian Firefighter
Collingwood fans begin to pour from every crack and crevice of society. The black-and-white army swells at the prospect of an elusive flag. 1990 seems a long, long time ago. And people around for the previous premiership have all celebrated their fiftieths. But the sap is rising again and the latent Collingwood types who you mistakenly thought cared little about footy reveal themselves as rustedon fans. They lean into arguments about the relative merits of players, denying their ‘fair weather friend’ status to the real diehards who sneer and demand to know how many times they endured the cold and wet of an afternoon in the stands. How many battered copies of the Football Record lie crumpled under the front seat of their car? Needless to say even the casual convert is welcomed come finals time. The Black and White army isn’t discriminatory and anyway it’s the more the merrier when it comes time to belt out Good Old Collingwood Forever. They can be hard to
take if you’re not among the chosen, er … selfchosen that is.
One eye pie Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against individual ‘Pies fans. One-on-one in a neutral environment they can verge on the reasonable. They speak in sentences and occasionally listen. But it all changes in September. Now everything becomes black and white. Shades of grey are for the ignorant and the uncommitted. Collingwood in the finals adds a completely new dimension to our national sporting life. And they’ve got the numbers to prove it. Imagine, all you youngsters, what it was like 40 years ago to be among the 121,696 people at the ‘G’ who saw Carlton defeat their fierce Collingwood rivals. Forget the (thankful) development of an all-seat stadium for a minute and imagine the roll and crush of Bay 13 at the old MCG. Of kids standing on empty VB cans to
get a better look over the sea of shoulders. Of slow crawls from crowded car parks where half the cars draped scarves from windows while the other half endured it.
THE TRULY GREAT MAGPIE SIDES, LIKE THE ONES WHO CREATED THE JEALOUSLY GUARDED RECORD OF FOUR CONSECUTIVE PREMIERSHIPS, ARE FROM ANOTHER AGE ALTOGETHER
Then of course there are those other Collingwood Grand Final. Rather than a decade or two stats, where the past fifty years has yielded slim Murray this year. In the National Rugby League of sporting history, clubs like St George-Illawarra pickings. 1958 and 1990 – now just outposts of there are clubs who seem to have appeared in the and South Sydney boast more than a century. distant delirium. The truly great Magpie sides, like last few moments. The Gold Coast Titans, the the ones who created the jealously guarded record North Queensland Cowboys and even the Brisbane So when the big red ‘V’ on the jumper of the Dragons comes roaring into the finals with a great of four consecutive premierships, are from another Broncos are products of the recent past. Sure, player list and a veteran coach, age altogether. none other than the man who Of course, they’ve been made the Broncos Wayne Bennett, some memorable losses when Find links to firefighter campaign, industrial, training and OHS the fan base growth goes viral. Collingwood have come so news – updated weekly. Subscribe to Dispatch and OH&S Alert It’s similar at South Sydney close, only to fall to the dreaded newsletters or download a copy of The Australian Firefighter and – as I write with one game to Colliwobbles. (This is where fans magazine. The UFUA national website is at ufua.asn.au – go – they’re a chance to make the who don’t follow Collingwood shift it’s worth a regular visit eight this season. The Rabbitohs a little in their seats, adopt a more and The Dragons in the rugby triumphal pose and begin to remind league finals! The two teams who everyone listening that the ‘Pies go between them hold a third of to pieces around this time of year). all the Premierships ever won – Collingwood delighted in getting Rugby League royalty, if ever the that monkey off their back 20 years game decides to lose its republican ago when, finally, the Fantasy ’58 streak. column in one of Melbourne’s inner
The Union online
suburban local newspapers had to be given a new title. But in 2010, the team that everybody else loves to hate is in the mix in a big way. The stumble against Hawthorn in the final round no doubt sent a shiver up the collective B&W spine, but Collingwood this year have the form to allay fears.
Team of Tonys Coach Mick Malthouse has moulded a team that doesn’t rely on stand-out performances from just a few individuals. The work is shared and the pressure relentless. A team full of Tony Shaws is possibly pushing it too far, but you grey-haired types will know what I mean. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if Smith Street erupts into a twotone carnival should Collingwood win the final game of the year. There’s a little bit of the same north of the
they’ve all got loyal bands of followers to hold the banner and sing the club song, and Brisbane has half a dozen premierships to show for their efforts since 1988.
The foundations But even that pales a bit in comparison to the buzz when one of the foundation clubs makes the
So this year in both the major codes (sorry soccer fans but I think you’ve still got a way to go), the big guns will fire. Well, they’re supposed to at least. That’s obviously part of the wonder of sudden-death football; it throws up results that defy the odds. Sides can steam into the last few games and look set to take the finals apart, only to stumble and crash out. But from here it’s all anticipation and if your team has made the cut, there are few better sensations than the unsullied hope that this year, please, please this year, you’ll be one of those fans belting out the club song as the confetti bombs fire and that Cup gets hoisted into the air. ■ MICK O’REGAN is the ABC Radio National’s online editor, former presenter of the Sports Factor and a passionate sports enthusiast. The Australian Firefighter I 41
THE LAST WORD TERRY PETERS
Healthy Initiatives The Northern American summer has produced massive ﬁres that are causing signiﬁcant health issues well beyond the ﬁre zone. Here’s where information helps, says Terry Peters
s Canadian firefighters start to gain control of wildfires during what has been another devastating fire season, health concerns are raising the awareness of not only the firefighters on the frontlines but of every other Canadian as well. Wind and weather conditions have played havoc in some parts of the country, including places that have had no direct contact with wildfires. Suddenly, they find themselves prime targets for serious health hazards due to the lingering smoke. Smoke from the fires in British Columbia wafted into the neighbouring prairie provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Smoke from fires in the province of Quebec spread across from the opposite direction. For many Canadians, even the brightest sunny days have been darkened by a haze of smoke.
away, make it a point to tell the people we protect what we as firefighters already know.
The killer We know it is seldom the fire that kills us – it’s the smoke. In fact, we will most likely get some form of cancer first, and then die slowly. Sure, the public is at risk too but by all accounts they will
Info packages In addition to making this stance, many Canadians started to have a greater appreciation of the firefighters fighting these devastating fires. Local Unions in conjunction with their departments provided information bulletins that seemed to have had a very good influence beyond the fires, while at the same time filtering positive feedback into their own local fire brigades. Commonsense initiatives that have proved to be beneficial in gaining public support include the use of information packages. These list some common concerns and facts about the dynamics of brush fires, how they can be prevented and where to find updated information, such as on web sites and the like.
Need to know
In addition, it doesn’t hurt to list the hard facts about enforcement in regards Fear factor to causing wild fires. Information can help fix the problem – before it occurs pic: iStockphoto/richardgoerg Air quality reports were far The Province of British from encouraging; in fact, Columbia has a no-nonsense people who were in the direct path of the plume, experience nowhere near the dangers we face on a rule that brings heavy fines of up to $1 million even thousands of kilometres away, were told daily basis, either in the forests or at structures in along with three years jail time for careless to remain indoors to avoid prolonged exposure. towns, cities and the suburbs. This is one of the people who have been found responsible for Suddenly, the public was experiencing one of the many reasons why we lobby for cancer legislation. their actions. The full operational costs for the greatest dangers of our occupation and they not It is important to continue to educate the containment of a fire could also be sought. only didn’t like it, they became trapped and fearful public at every opportunity, even when they are This is all good information that people of it as well. fearful. Let the truth be known that they need to need to know when they are thinking of no one As firefighter, resources and adequate staffing help us so that we can help them. Understanding but themselves. It brings their minds right back are always on our minds – but seldom on anyone our common concerns is beneficial; information to where it should be, preventing the problems else’s. That is, until they feel threatened themselves, based on facts will always help any effort we make before they begin. ■ and even more so when no one is there to assist to protect ourselves while we do our jobs. Do not them. They simply feel helpless. So colleagues, be afraid to pass along our research for lobbying TERRY PETERS when things finally settle down and you continue campaigns and if we need to take opportunities Fire Fighter Exchange Participant to cough up the smoke that, of course, is a lot to address comments about the hazards of our Powell River British Columbia Canada thicker at the base of the fire storm than further email@example.com occupation, do it! 42 I The Australian Firefighter
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