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Union seeks to block firefighter bill

AAP logoAAP 29/08/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Union legal advice shows new laws proposed by the Turnbull government to deal with "takeovers" of volunteer organisations such as the Victoria Country Fire Authority are unprecedented interference in a state issue.

A volunteer and a professional firefighter have joined United Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall on a two-day mission to Canberra to lobby Senate crossbenchers ahead of legislation being introduced to parliament.

Mr Marshall said the changes to the federal Fair Work laws - which the prime minister unveiled during the election campaign - were political and based on falsehoods.

"There is no other precedent that we know of, or our lawyers know of, where a federal government has sought to insert themselves in a state dispute over wages and conditions," Mr Marshall told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

"That is a first and that speaks volumes."

The draft laws, which were expected to go to a coalition joint partyroom meeting on Monday for endorsement, will cancel any parts of enterprise agreements that interfere with an emergency services body's ability to manage volunteers and invalidate any terms that conflict with state laws.

Mr Turnbull says the proposed CFA enterprise bargaining agreement undermines volunteers and subordinates them to a "militant union".

Volunteer Andrew Tonkin, from the Geelong City Fire Brigade, said he had come to Canberra to show unity with the professional firefighters.

"We just want to get on with protecting the community," Mr Tonkin said.

Mr Marshall warned there could be an increased risk in terms of fires in Victoria if the interference continued.

"They have created unnecessary anxiety and stress for a political purpose," Mr Marshall said of the federal government.

The EBA has been endorsed by the CFA board but is subject to a September 22 Victorian Supreme Court challenge by a group of volunteers, which must be concluded before the EBA can be approved.

Academics have suggested the laws may not survive a High Court challenge.

The High Court had held in the past there is an implied constitutional limit on the ability of federal laws to interfere with a state's capacity to manage its workforce.

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