Firefighters on poll booths

Poll stoush sparks bully tactics claim | Illawarra Mercury



With bushfires raging through NSW, firefighters usually receive warm welcomes but the Fire Brigade Employees Union said the opposite occurred at the Miranda by-election last Saturday.

FBEU state president Darin Sullivan said members handing out “vote Liberals last” cards at polling booths were harassed by Liberal MP Brad Hazzard and other party members.

Mr Sullivan accused the MP for Wakehurst of “bully tactics”.

“He and other party members were going to each polling booth and taking down the names of every firefighter there,’’ he said.

“They were getting up close and taking photos of our face without permission in order to report names and faces to the minister [of emergency services].

“Mr Hazzard went to every booth to deliberately intimidate every firefighter,” he said.

Liberal Minister Brad Hazzard intimidating NSW firefighters at Miranda by-election by taking photos and threatening to report to FRNSW Commissioner.

Liberal Minister Brad Hazzard intimidating NSW firefighters at Miranda by-election by taking photos and threatening to report to FRNSW Commissioner.

Some firefighters reported verbal altercations with Liberal party staffers and volunteers at booths.

Approximately 60 off-duty firefighters manned polling booths in the electorate wearing “Stop O’Farrell’s Fire Station Closures” T-shirts.

The firefighters were protesting the O’Farrell Government’s budget cuts that have taken stations in the electorate offline over 60 times this year.

The union said their aim was for firefighters to be considered ‘‘frontline’’ staff, along with teachers and police, who are exempt from budget cuts.

“We find it offensive to see Liberal MPs prancing out at the bushfires for the media when they’re cutting firefighting services,” Mr Sullivan said.

Some Liberal politicians proved more sympathetic. The union confirmed Kiama MP Gareth Ward had made efforts to hear firefighters’ concerns.

Mr Sullivan responded to criticism that the union was politicising a natural disaster.

“The fires were a coincidence to our campaign. Both the NSW Fire Brigade and the Rural Fire Service are facing more cuts and the community needs to be educated.”

The union also faced criticism that their efforts would have been better spent at the bushfires and that they had used their uniforms inappropriately.

“We wore old uniforms no longer in use, uniforms that are now our property,’’ Mr Sullivan said. ‘‘We had no official badges.

“We receive AEC approval and had every right to be there.

“Many of the union’s officials have been, and will be, on the frontline of these fires throughout this emergency, side by side with all the hard-working full- time, part-time and volunteer firefighters across NSW.”

Mr Sullivan said the community response was overwhelmingly positive.

“We think our campaign claimed a part in the historic 27per cent swing result,’’ Mr Sullivan said. ‘‘We had lifelong Liberal voters coming up to us saying that they had voted against the party for the first time because of how O’Farrell has treated firefighters.’’.

Bolstered by its success, the union is threatening to implement the campaign at the next state election.

“If Premier O’Farrell doesn’t come to us to negotiate cuts, then we’ll be forced to roll the campaign out across every electorate in the next election,” said Mr Sullivan.

Mr Hazzard did not respond to requests for comment.

About Darin Sullivan (1980 Articles)
Former President of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union (2009-2018) and a professional firefighter with more than 30 years experience. I live and work on the NSW South Coast, Australia. I am a strong advocate for firefighters and emergency service workers with an interest in mental health issues and caring for those around me. I am a former Director on the NSW Fire Brigades Death and Disability Super Fund and work with charities including ‘The Movember Foundation’. As a leader and activist I have long been active in the campaign for action on climate change. I am a Station Commander in the fire and rescue service in NSW and have 30 years experience fighting fires, both rural and urban. I am 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. I am also a spokesperson for the Australian Climate Media Centre.

4 Comments on Firefighters on poll booths

  1. Many Thanks to the fire fighters on the front line in the fight to turn around the global warming disaster now upon us.
    How many deaths will it take for the “do nothing showponies” in the Liberal party to tell their boss, rupert murdoch to f… off.


  2. Trevor Gordon // October 23, 2013 at 9:08 am //

    Congrats to all of our firefighters in NSW – both paid, PPT, and especially our RFS volunteers.

    Thank you for standing up against budget cuts to our fire services and educating the public. We all need to know what is really going on behind the scenes and the misleading PR tactics used by government.

    It saddens me when politicians claim credit for things they have not done, let alone things they have actually worked against (i.e. basking in the limelight with our courageous firefighters whilst cutting their funding!).


  3. Naturally Hazzard would not respond to comments – that would mean someone might trick him into admitting that HE IS WRONG.

    O’Farrell, and his government, are offensive to any right-thinking individual. How do you go about impeaching a premier ??


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