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NSW Govt to close fire stations

NSW firefighters call for your support: Template for MP’s

To NSW firefighters, family, friends, and residents of NSW,The NSW Coalition government under Barry O’Farrell are in the process of cutting the budget of NSW. This is understandable, as long as it does not endanger lives.

Unfortunately, the NSW Premier and his Cabinet ministers, have decided to cut money from NSW fire services, regardless of the fact that it will endanger lives and eventually cut the jobs of frontline firefighters in NSW.
The templates below are for use by anyone. There is one for firefighters, and one for concerned community members. The content of the templates explain the issue thoroughly.

At the end of the day, this is not about wages, it is about your safety, your services, and the way our government treats the NSW community.

Please support us to support you.

Darin Sullivan


Firefighter template

To [Coalition MP]

I am a fire-fighter with Fire Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW), and I wish to convey my dismay at your governments decision to reduce the budget of NSW fire services over the next four years by 1.2%, which for FRNSW equates to an approx $64 million dollars in Labour cost reduction, and which can only lead to firefighter job cuts.It appears that your government has failed to consider, that unlike the other agencies suffering the same cuts, insurance companies fund the overwhelming majority of fire services in NSW, with the NSW Government contributing less than $90 million (14%) to FRNSW, which has a budget in excess of $614 million. The other contributors to FRNSW’s budget are local councils (11.4%), fire service levies from insurance policy holders (73%) and other contributors for the balance.Further, the NSW coalition’s public attacks on my workmates and I in relation to our sick leave, is nothing more than spin and misinformation to justify your government’s poor decision on this matter, and has already had a negative impact on morale within FRNSW. Firefighters work in a unique industry, an industry different to most occupations, and one which means an operational firefighter needs to be 100% fit and healthy to attend work each day. Unlike most occupations, temporary and minor injuries cannot be carried in our workplace. We can’t wear breathing apparatus and hazardous material suits with a cold or flu, and we can’t limp around a fire ground pulling people out of burning buildings. While your workplace allows you to attend work with similar ails without affect, ours does not. Our sick leave is higher than some other occupations predominantly for these reasons.The true detail of the cuts are such that even if firefighters immediately stopped taking sick leave completely, forever (which is unreasonable and unachievable in any industry), the savings would not reach even half of what is required. It has come to light that there appear to be no measures possible within the context of what we do, which can achieve anywhere near the required savings. It is therefore clear to us that firefighter job cuts are coming, and your government is either hiding this, ignorant of it, or deliberately misleading firefighters and the community about this fact.Regardless, the Commissioner’s proposal to temporarily close fire stations (ie to TOL, take them ‘temporarily off-line’) in various locations around the state, in particular the GSA, to try to make the budget cuts is dangerous and reckless. The other measure which has been dictated is to utilise part-time firefighters (responding from their homes or businesses) to supplement full-time firefighters and reduce overtime costs. This will increase risks associated with the duties performed by firefighters, including firefighting operations, combatting hazardous material spillages, fire and non-fire rescue incidents, and in my opinion directly compromises the safety of people, businesses, communities and fire-fighters in general around the state by dangerously increasing response times to emergencies.Closing fire stations, even temporarily, may save money in the short term, but long term it will cost the people in the state of NSW a lot more.

The FRNSW Commissioner and the Minister can try to spin this issue any way they want, but no one can deny that if a fire or emergency occurs near an existing fire station which is ‘temporarily offline’, the response from the next station being somewhere from 10-20 km’s away must, and will, take longer. It is common knowledge, and indeed a matter of confirmed evidential fact, that in fires minutes mean lives. In car accidents, minutes mean lives. In terrorist events and earthquakes, minutes mean lives. FRNSW is the main combat agency for all of these emergencies.

Both the Minister and the FRNSW Commissioner have made public comment recently about the traditional practice of taking fire trucks off-line for training in an effort to justify this proposal. This is at best a hoax, at worst misleading. At present when fire trucks are ‘off line’ for training purposes etc they are still able to respond to emergencies with a full compliment of fire crew. When you close a fire station temporarily as suggested to save money, this means that it is unstaffed, and it is unable to respond. Big difference.

In it’s ‘contract with NSW’ prior to the election, your government stated that it wanted to restore quality services to the state of NSW. How is closing fire stations restoring quality service to the people of NSW? That is reducing service. The people of NSW pay their insurance fire service levies, pay their council rates, and pay their taxes. In return you are reducing their fire coverage, their protection, and their services.

Put all of this together, and for the first time in our history, and specifically under your government, we face a reckless proposal to close fire stations to save money, which will not reach the required amounts anyway, and which will in turn require a reduction of firefighting jobs in NSW.

Make no mistake, if you are not across this issue, you should be, because NSW firefighters will highlight every fire, rescue, or hazmat that is negatively affected by your cuts. We will run a public campaign around every event, and we will run this all the way to the next election, including polling booths if necessary. We will do this in every coalition electorate.

The people of NSW deserve better than this, firefighters deserve better than this, and your government have a lot to lose – in every seat.

I respectfully request, that as my representative in government, that you ask the Minister for Emergency Services, and the other Cabinet Ministers, to reconsider the position with regards to cuts to the budget of FRNSW and closing of fire stations in NSW. There is a Cabinet meeting this week, which may be the last chance to stop this reckless act of governance.

I would appreciate your urgent and considered attention to this issue. Please respond in writing at your convenience, and feel free to contact me about this matter any time.

[Signed]

Community member template

To [Lib MP]

I wish to convey my dismay at your governments decision to reduce the budget of NSW fire services over the next four years by 1.2%, which for Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) equates to an approx $64 million dollars in Labour cost reduction, and which I’m told will only lead to firefighter job cuts.It appears that your government has failed to consider, that unlike the other agencies suffering the same cuts, insurance companies fund the overwhelming majority of fire services in NSW, with the NSW Government contributing less than $90 million (14%) to FRNSW, which has a budget in excess of $614 million. The other contributors to FRNSW’s budget are local councils (11.4%), fire service levies from insurance policy holders (73%) and other contributors for the balance.I believe the true detail of the cuts are such that even if firefighters immediately stopped taking sick leave completely, forever (which is unreasonable and unachievable in any industry), the savings would not reach even half of what is required. I believe it has come to light that there appear to be no measures possible within the context of what firefighters do, which can achieve anywhere near the required savings. It is therefore clear to all that firefighter job cuts are coming, and your government is either hiding this, ignorant of it, or deliberately misleading firefighters and the community about this fact.Regardless, the FRNSW Commissioner’s proposal to temporarily close fire stations (ie to TOL, take them ‘temporarily off-line’) in various locations around the state, in particular in Sydney, to try to make the budget cuts is dangerous and reckless. The other measure which has been dictated is to utilise part-time firefighters (responding from their homes or businesses) to supplement full-time firefighters and reduce overtime costs. This will increase risks associated with the duties performed by firefighters, including firefighting operations, combatting hazardous material spillages, fire and non-fire rescue incidents, and in my opinion directly compromises the safety of people, businesses, communities and firefighters in general around the state by dangerously increasing response times to emergencies.Closing fire stations, even temporarily, may save money in the short term, but long term it will cost the people in the state of NSW a lot more.In it’s ‘contract with NSW’ prior to the election, your government stated that it wanted to restore quality services to the state of NSW. How is closing fire stations restoring quality service to the people of NSW? That is reducing service. I pay my insurance and fire service levies, I pay council rates, and I pay my taxes. In return you are reducing my fire coverage, my protection, and my services.

Put all of this together, and for the first time in our history, and specifically under your government, we face a reckless proposal to close fire stations to save money, which will not reach the required amounts anyway, and which will in turn require a reduction of firefighting jobs in NSW.
Make no mistake, if you are not across this issue, you should be, because I will assist NSW firefighters to highlight every fire, rescue, or hazmat that is negatively affected by your cuts.
The people of NSW deserve better than this, and firefighters deserve better than this.
I respectfully request, that you ask the Minister for Emergency Services, and the other Cabinet Ministers, to reconsider the position with regards to cuts to the budget of FRNSW and closing of fire stations in NSW. I understand there is a Cabinet meeting this week, which may be the last chance to stop this reckless act of governance.
I would appreciate your urgent and considered attention to this issue. Please respond in writing at your convenience, and feel free to contact me about this matter any time.
[Signed]
About Darin Sullivan (1968 Articles)
President of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union and a professional firefighter with more than 25 years’ experience. Father of two daughters, he lives and works on the NSW South Coast, Australia. He is a strong advocate for firefighters and emergency service workers with an interest in mental health issues and caring for those around him. He is a Director on the NSW Fire Brigades Death and Disability Super Fund and works with charities including ‘The Movember Foundation’. As a leader and activist he has long been active in the campaign for action on climate change. Now a Station Commander in the fire and rescue service in NSW and has decades of experience fighting fires, both rural and urban. He is passionate about highlighting the impact climate change is having on fire preparedness and fire behaviour in Australia, and the risks associated with inaction on climate change. Darin is also a spokesperson for the Australian Climate Media Centre.
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