The realpolitik of Premier Daniel Andrews’ push to ram through a union-friendly EBA on the Country Fire Authority became apparent this morning when he was ambushed by 200 CFA volunteers.
Arriving in Ararat, in Western Victoria, to promote his new target of 40 per cent renewable energy by 2025, he was greeted by circling CFA trucks with volunteers carrying placards reading “CFA Volunteers Burnt”.
Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria Board Member Mick Nunweek told the Herald Sunthat volunteer firefighters were still angry at the Premier’s handling of the fire crisis engulfing the Government.
So even as he tries to pivot towards his own agenda, he continues to be dragged back to the CFA dispute and the UFU’s bid for greater control over the CFA and its 60,000 volunteers.
It’s not for us to give Mr Andrews advice on selling his policy, but Labor figures outside of the government are mystified as to why he doesn’t anchor his defence on response times. While the deal is in some ways a capitulation to the UFU, the associated rollout of 350 professional fire fighters is already slashing average response times to fires and other incidents in some area in the urban fringe.
If we were in his shoes we’d be pulling all the data on this we could and try to reframe the argument around service delivery rather than trying to argue that the window dressing on consultation, oversight and dispute resolution does anything much to neuter the many union-friendly elements of the deal.
CFA trucks protest at Ararat Aerodrome waiting for Daniel Andrews to land. Picture: Ian Currie.
Factional brawl looms
A factional brawl is the last thing that the embattled Mr Andrew’s needs right now, but it appears that is what he might get over who replaces dissident Jane Garrett in the ministry.
At face value, it might seem simple. Garrett hails from Senator Kim Carr’s half of the Left and it is proposing a like for like replacement. But another dissident, former minister Adem Somyurek, has laid claim to the spot for his ally Marlene Kairouz, current one step from the ministry proper in the Cabinet Secretary’s slot.
Jane Garrett speaks to the media. Picture: AAP.
Somyurek’s side is citing a handshake “next cab off the rank” deal struck with Andrews’ right-hand man Gavin Jennings. This purported pact was made in happier times, before Jennings’ presided over ousting Mr Somyurek from the ministry over disputed bullying claims.
But on the other hand, for the Premier, who hails from the other of the Left, supporting Kairouz would effectively split the faction, as well as rewarding a grouping that he can scarcely count among his biggest supporters.
Andrews will be keen to distance himself from this potential quagmire by telling the factions to sort it out themselves, but if it spirals out of control the issue may ultimately require him to put his authority on the line.