Fire and Emergency Services (Volunteer Charters) Amendment Bill

Introduction and First Reading

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:02): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005. Read a first time.

Second Reading

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:03): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill will be familiar to the continuing members of this chamber. It is a bill that passed this house and lapsed in the previous parliament, where I understand it had overwhelming support across the benches, but was unable to come to a vote in those last dying hours of the previous parliament due to an interest in electoral reform rather than volunteers recognition—much-needed electoral reform, but this is also a most important bill.

This bill reintroduces a bill, and I pay tribute to the work of both the former MLC Hon. Robert Brokenshire and the former member for Morphett, Duncan McFetridge, who both brought this bill before this parliament previously. This bill gives legislative recognition to the South Australian Country Fire Service and the SASES emergency services volunteers charters.

These charters, currently sit in the regulations, but this bill moves them into the legislation itself. I do not do so lightly—this has been a long-held campaign from the volunteers themselves, and I think it is time that the parliament recognised that, and I certainly expect the strong support that this bill has had in the past from members who have previously moved it, that was enjoyed across the benches across the chamber, will be seen again.

These charters were originally launched under the Rann government and then relaunched in 2013. The bill, is a relatively small change to the Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005. The changes are to section 58 of the act to insert section 58A, which talks about the parliamentary recognition of the SACFS volunteer charter, and there are a few new subsections. Under section 107 there is an insertion of 107A, which introduces parliamentary recognition under the SASES volunteer charter. The legislation will cover the approximately 14,000 CFS volunteers and 1,600 SES volunteers from whom our state currently enjoys a service.

That respect by this parliament for their very valuable volunteer contribution I would hope would come as something on which we could all work together across our political divides. Both the SES Volunteers Association and the CFS Volunteers Association support moving their charters into legislation. It mirrors what has been discussed in Victoria. Of course, the role of volunteers in the CFS and the SES has expanded greatly in past years, and the demands have not only expanded greatly in past years but we know, with the impacts of climate change, are likely to continue to grow.

So we need to make sure that our volunteers know they are valued and that they are supported not just in words, in regulations, but through the work and in law of this parliament, and recognised, of course, by governments of all colours. The first paragraphs of both charters reads:

The government of South Australia supports and recognises the role that emergency service volunteers play in our community.

One way of demonstrating support for these volunteers is through enshrining these charters in legislation. That is what they have called for, as members are no doubt well aware, and that is what we should do in the new parliament.

We should rectify our error of having let that last bill lapse in that dying day of parliament and ensure that this is one of the first pieces of legislation through this new parliament. It will show deep respect for our volunteers and acknowledge not just that they need to be recognised in a regulation, which of course can be disallowed at certain stages, but of course in legislation.

I am sure that many members will welcome the opportunity to laud the fine work of those who give their service to protect people and places in this state. They are often incredibly ordinary but inspirational members of our community, very valuable members of our community, and I think it is the least we can do to recognise those charters within the highest laws of our state. With those few words, I commend the bill to the council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins.

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