Report reveals Labor behind skyrocketing costs of Victoria’s emergency services

Today, the Productivity Commission released the Report on Government Services as it relates to the delivery of emergency services across Australia.

It’s no surprise, given the Andrews Government’s chaotic, union-demand-driven model of emergency services management, that the number of career firefighters in Victoria and their cost to the Victorian taxpayer, is increasing and dwarfing that of other states.

The Report (Table 9A.3) reveals a sharp increase in the size of Victoria’s paid firefighting workforce. In 2019-20, Victoria’s firefighting workforce comprised 8,257 personnel (cf. 6,888 in New South Wales) compared to 6,691 in 2018-19.

This increase in Victoria’s paid firefighting workforce occurs at a time when there is a volunteer recruitment and retention crisis in Victoria, with thousands of volunteers leaving the Country Fire Authority since Labor took power.

The Report (Table 9A.1) also highlights the skyrocketing costs of Victoria’s emergency services, with state government grants made in addition to the Fire Services Levy spiking to over $1.2 billion in 2019-20 – a 61.85 per cent increase on the year prior.   

The total cost per person for Victoria’s emergency services rose from $280.30 in 2018-19 to $311.23 in 2019-20. In New South Wales, the cost per person was $176.16 increasing to $216.19 over the same period.

The Report (Table 9A.13) has revealed that much of this spending relates to labour costs. In 2019-20, labour costs rose to $968.7 million from $899.2 in the previous year.

And there is no sign Victoria’s ballooning spending on paid firefighters will abate, with negotiations for a new United Firefighters Union / Fire Rescue Victoria enterprise agreement set to begin early this year (p 12).

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Emergency Services, Nick Wakeling:

“Today’s report highlights the real cost to Victorian taxpayers of a state government managing Victoria’s emergency services at the behest of the United Firefighters Union.

“As expected, Labor has met its most important target in managing Victoria’s emergency services: expanding union membership.

“It is disgraceful that while state spending is lavished on paid firefighters, the Andrews Labor Government is missing in action in addressing the CFA’s volunteer recruitment and retention crisis, a crisis largely of Labor’s making.”

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