Question without notice
My question is for the Premier.
Premier, you will be aware that the public administration of this state relies very heavily on the thousands of public entities and boards that deliver a broad range of services and are essential to good governance in Victoria.
There have been many examples of board dismissals and forced resignations in recent years, including water boards, the Ambulance Victoria Board and, more recently, the Country Fire Authority (CFA) board. What level of independence and autonomy can government boards such as the CFA expect to exercise in the future given their high level of vulnerability to intervention by government?
Mr Andrews, Premier
I thank the member for Shepparton for her question. Statutory authorities and boards — like the CFA and others that have been listed by the member for Shepparton — exist under statute. They have powers, they have obligations, and they have a profound responsibility to the communities that they serve, just as any government of the day, regardless of political persuasion, has a responsibility to ensure that those organisations are going to deliver, and are delivering, against their trust, if you like, to the Victorian community.
I do not believe going into another fire season with this matter unresolved — while volunteers and career firefighter are on the fireground in regional Victoria and the suburbs of Melbourne, and while at the same time senior executives of the CFA are down at the Fair Work Commission — is protecting the community. I do not think that is right, and I do not think that is sustainable. No-one, I would say to the member for Shepparton — no-one, none of us — is bigger than the responsibility to keep our state safe.
Organisations need to fulfil their responsibilities, governments need to fulfil their responsibilities and the sacred and trusted position that we hold in our system of government, and where an organisation, whether it be the Ambulance Victoria board or the CFA board, has demonstrated an inability to do that, then the higher, and in many respects more important, obligation for the safety of every single Victorian has to come first.
Victorians want outcomes, and that is exactly what this government is delivering and will continue to deliver. I make no apology for making sure that the safety of Victorians comes first, and that the cultural change that must be delivered in the CFA is delivered so that volunteer brigades and career firefighters who stand shoulder to shoulder with them can have the benefits of the reform that the equal opportunity commissioner calls for, the fire services review calls for, the mess at Fiskville calls for, the appalling treatment of firefighters at Hazelwood calls for and the common sense in a changing climate calls for. I make no apology for that whatsoever.
Premier, what level of confidence can the government have in the future recruitment of high-level candidates to government boards given the serious potential damage to governance careers of board members when they are dismissed by government in this way?
Across our state, whether it be in small statutory authorities, advisory committees or boards of governance, we are very well served in this great state to have people who put themselves forward. There is often a modest amount of money provided, sometimes a little more than that, but in many cases there is no financial reward for the service that so many hundreds and thousands of people offer in those board appointments.
I am confident, just as they should be, that public service comes with many rewards, one of which is the confidence that you have played your part in keeping the community safe, you have played your part in keeping Victoria a leader in terms of reform and improvement. That is for so many reward enough. I am confident of that.