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Federal bill to 'respect' CFA volunteers

AAP logoAAP 31/08/2016 Elise Scott

The federal government has moved to stop unions influencing the work of volunteer emergency services, intervening in a bitter Victorian industrial dispute to protect Country Fire Authority firefighters.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday introduced a Fair Work Act amendment bill - titled respect for emergency services volunteers - to prohibit enterprise agreements that limit the CFA's ability to deploy its own volunteers.

"Australia's proud tradition of volunteer firefighting is under threat," he told parliament.

Mr Turnbull listed the consequences of the dispute, including the resignation of the Victorian emergency services minister and the sacking of the CFA board.

He's upset with the United Firefighters Union enterprise bargaining agreement which mandates a minimum of seven paid firefighters be deployed before volunteers can fight fires.

The federal government had to intervene because the Victorian government had capitulated to the union, he said

"There is a lot at stake if we do not protect our volunteers."

Bargaining agreements that restricted the ability of volunteers to deploy or provide support could not be approved by the Fair Work Commission, rendering them legally ineffective.

The dispute became a hot-topic issue during the election campaign and was credited with helping the coalition pick up a Victorian seat from Labor while holding its own marginals in and around Melbourne.

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