Friday, 30 May 2014 12:17

Equality for Firefighters

Thursday 22 May 2014  

Dr McFETRIDGE ( Morphett ) ( 10:45 ): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Worker's Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1986. Read a first time. Second Reading

Dr McFETRIDGE ( Morphett ) ( 10:46  ): I move: That this bill be now read a second time. This bill is a very simple bill. All it is about is giving people equity. It is a very fair bill. The issue of this bill has been long discussed in this place, and I expect it to pass with the support of all members of this place if they are truly representing their electorate, if they are truly representing what they stand up for, if they are truly listening to their constituents and supporting the 13,500 CFS volunteers in this state. This bill is not about money. This bill is not about advantage. This bill is about equity. This bill is about honesty. This bill is about principles. This bill is about courage. This bill is about conviction. This bill is about saying what you mean and meaning what you say. This bill is about putting people before politics. This is about giving people what they deserve—not just what they want, but what they deserve. You and I, Mr Speaker, know that the first thing you learn in politics is how to count. I know that 24 beats 22, so without the support of Independents and those people opposite, the members of the Labor Party, this bill will not pass. So, I appeal to them to have the courage of their convictions, to have the courage of what they are saying to me privately in the corridors, to have the courage of what they are saying to the CFS volunteers of this state, and to have the courage to support this bill and give the CFS volunteers equity. Let me remind this house and the member for Frome what the now Premier said in this place in 2005. This is what the then minister for families and communities said in this house on 16 February 2005: Democracy is not served by having a representative for whom their electorate will not know where they are to vote on a particular issue. Well, the electors of Frome clearly understood what the member for Frome was saying in 2013. They understood what he was going to vote for last year. They understood what he was going to vote for on 14 March this year, but what has happened since? Let me remind the member for Frome what he said in this place, because the electors of Frome believed him. They knew what he said, and they hoped he said what he meant. In his maiden speech, the member for Frome said: I know that every member here will put their constituents and South Australia at the top of their priorities and always place them ahead of politics and self. Well, where is the member for Frome today on this issue? I ask the member for Frome to have the courage of his convictions and come down here and support the volunteers and do what he told his constituents, back then on 24 September last year, he was going to do. The member for Frome said in the debate on the government's bill last year: I will not support the bill in its current form. The main reason is the omission of the CFS. That is what the member for Frome said September last year. That is what his electors thought he meant on March 14 this year. What do we know about what he says now. Let's just listen to what the member for Frome said in his speech about the CFS in the electorate of Frome. He said: …I also have 18 CFS locations across the electorate of Frome. Those 18 CFS locations do exactly the same as our MFS firefighters. They go out there and they fight fires. The member for Frome went on to say: They…go out there and [they] attend road traffic accidents. They attend a lot of stuff there. The ones from Napperby, Crystal Brook and Port Broughton also assist the MFS people in Port Pirie…If somebody from the MFS or a retained and also a CFS volunteers contract one of these cancers, are we going to leave that CFS person out? Well, tell us, member for Frome; come down and tell the house what your constituents thought you were going to do if you were elected to be part of this parliament on 15 March, because that is what they thought on 14 March. In his speech on the government bill last year the member for Frome then went on to say: I urge the government to put just three letters into this bill: CFS. Where is he on that issue now? He needs to come down here, he needs to stand up, he needs to be counted. As I said, the first thing you learn in politics is how to count: 24 beats 22. I know the member for Fisher—

The SPEAKER: The member for Morphett will be seated. It is a convention that all members are always present in this chamber, so the member will not speculate on where a member might be or if he or she needs to come down into the chamber. Member for Morphett.

Dr McFETRIDGE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I was speaking metaphorically about where his mind is on this issue rather than his body—we know we are always in the house—because I do not know where his mind is on this issue and the electors of Frome do not know where he is on this issue. You have got to have gonads to do this job, Mr Speaker, and I do not believe the member for Frome has got the gonads to stand up to the Premier and say, 'Premier, you're wrong on this. I am going to support the CFS volunteers, I am going to support—

Mrs VLAHOS: Point of order: I think the anatomical language being used in the chamber is highly offensive, and the member should withdraw.

Members interjecting:  

The SPEAKER: No, I'll rule on the point of order first. The member for Morphett told the house that one needed gonads to be a member of the house. Now, I imagine that many members of the house disagree with that. I imagine the member for Adelaide disagrees with it, but he is allowed to say it. The member for Morphett.

Dr McFETRIDGE: I digress for a second, Mr Speaker. Gonads do refer to ovaries as well as testicles. Had I said, 'Does the member for Frome have the balls to come down here?', that would have been out of order. I urge the member for Frome to stand up and be counted by his constituents, be counted when the division happens on this bill, because there will be a division on this bill. I guarantee that. Members of parliament will be listed in that division and every elector in Frome will know how the member for Frome voted on this bill. You need to stand up in this place, say what you mean and mean what you say. Let me tell this house and let me tell the member for Frome that the Labor Party offered me a chair of a committee. When I refused that, they offered me an outer ministry. I do not believe that was without some form of commitment, if I had accepted it. I did not accept it because I am a man of principle. I will not betray the electors of Morphett, I will not betray the Liberal Party, I will not betray the people who voted for me in Morphett. I am on this side of the house with great disappointment, but I am not going to betray my principles. I think it probably cost me about $1 million in increased wages in superannuation—$1 million. It is not about the money: it is about the principles, and that is what you need to have in this place. I ask the member for Frome: where are your principles? Where are you, when you told the people of Frome in your speech in this place 'include the CFS in this'? I will not betray the people of Morphett, I will not betray the CFS volunteers, I will not betray my principles. I am in here lobbying for the CFS for equity. This is not about money, this is not about anything more than giving the CFS volunteers everything they deserve. Ask the people of Bangor, ask the people of Eden Valley, ask the people of Delamere about how they value volunteers. What do we save this place, what do we save this state in assets, never mind the price of a life? What price a life? This place should be valuing our volunteers, they should be supporting this bill. Members of the Labor Party have said to me privately, 'Look, we support this bill; we know this is about equity.' I tell them now: one of you might be disendorsed if you come across this side but, if all of you who have spoken to me about this come across en masse, the Premier needs you. He is not going to disendorse you. He is not going to risk the spat or the arguments that are going on in the upper house down here. He is going to make sure that you stick together, because that is what he wants, but show this parliament, the people who elected you and the CFS volunteers that you have courage, that you have gonads, that you can stand up and do what is right, and support the CFS volunteers.

The SPEAKER: The member for Morphett will be seated. The member for Morphett will address his remarks through the Chair, not taunt members on the government side. The member for Morphett.

Dr McFETRIDGE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I certainly don't want to taunt them. I do plead—

The Hon. P. CAICA: Point of order.

The SPEAKER: A further point of order.

The Hon. P. CAICA: I am not offended by the terminology, but we do have—

Dr McFetridge: Here we go.

The Hon. P. CAICA: Not everyone in this house has external organs.

The SPEAKER: We have already, alas, been through this. Members interjecting:

The Hon. P. CAICA: I will then sit down, sir.

Dr McFETRIDGE: I will explain the facts of life to the member for Colton later. As a former firefighter, the member for Colton more than anybody in this place understands the dangers that firefighters face. My father was in the MFS for 30 years and I have been in the CFS for 25-plus years. I have trained with MFS firefighters and been out with them, and I know the member for Colton has put his life on the line. He is one of the heroes out there on the front line. When the bells drop, you do not know what you are going to. Others are running away and firefighters are running to the job, and the member for Colton is one of those who has done that. Actually, I should mention the members in this place who are in the CFS: the members for Stuart, Finniss, Chaffey, Hammond, MacKillop—

Mr Pengilly: Forty-six years.

The Hon. P. Caica: The member for Wright.

Dr McFETRIDGE: Forty-six years for the member for Finniss. I am not so sure that the member for Wright is a member of the CFS anymore. I understand that the member for Wright has resigned from the CFS. I do acknowledge her role and former premier Rann's role in the CFS. It would give me no displeasure in any way to see the member for Wright cross the floor and support the CFS, which she has been a member of. Let's see her be disendorsed if she does that. Let's do that. This is about equity, it is not about money. This is about valuing volunteers. This is about making sure that South Australians stand up for what is right. I will be on the stage of the Festival Centre in a couple of weeks' time addressing volunteers. Hopefully, Peter Goers will be the compere again—always great fun. The Premier will be there. The Minister for Volunteers will be there, and I congratulate her on her appointment. I heard the Minister for Volunteers say last week during National Volunteer Week that volunteers put $5 billion in in-kind support to this state. The CFS put a huge amount of that in through their volunteering. As I said, never mind the assets they save, the lives they save and the people who can now go about their business because of the quick action of the CFS, in many cases in conjunction with the MFS—that is what this is about. I make no apologies for speaking with passion and wearing my heart on my sleeve with this issue, because it means a lot to me. I know it means a lot to everybody in this place. So, when the vote comes, let it be like when the bells drop: let's all run over to support this bill. Let's not walk away from this confrontation, this conflagration, as it has become politically. It should never be that. It should be a straightforward issue, giving volunteers equity and what they deserve. Support this bill.

The SPEAKER: I thank the member for Morphett for correcting me and the house on what the term 'gonads' embraces. He is, of course, correct. Nevertheless, I think the suggestion that, unless one has a working reproductive system, one should not be a member of this parliament is perhaps going too far.

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