Bulletin No:          015                                      Volume:  20                        Thursday 23 January 2014





Last Friday as fires raged in Victoria and the extreme conditions peaked, Minister Wells was at the tennis and has said he was keeping up to date with events by text message.

Firefighters are outraged that while they were putting their lives on the line to protect the Victorian community, the Minister was enjoying himself at the tennis.

We understand that Minister Wells had received a briefing about the seriousness of the situation and the worst fire conditions that Victoria had faced since the fatal 2009 Black Saturday conditions.

Some have referred to his decision to go to the tennis as Minister Wells’ “Christine Nixon moment” in reference to the former Police Commissioner Christine Nixon admitting to going out to dinner at the height of the 2009 Black Saturday fires.

Today, UFU Secretary Peter Marshall wrote the below to Minister Wells calling for his resignation:

Dear Minister Wells,

I write to you on behalf of firefighters who put themselves in harm’s way to protect the Victorian community from wildfire and other emergencies.

Last week Victoria experienced the most extreme weather and bushfires that we have had in this state since the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

We have been contacted by angry firefighters this morning on learning that you were relaxing at the tennis while they fought bushfires in the Grampians and across many parts of the State and at the time when fires were at their most dangerous.

I wish to remind you that you have direct responsibility and oversight for emergency services under Victorian law. Those provisions are clearly spelt out as below: 

Emergency Management Act 1986 (Vic)

s 5 Role of Minister

(1)  The role of the Minister is to ensure that satisfactory emergency management arrangements are in place to facilitate the prevention of, response to and recovery from emergencies.

(2)  The Minister is not responsible for operational matters in relation to emergency management.

Country Fire Authority Act 1958 (Vic)

s 6A Accountability of Authority

(1)  The Authority is subject to the general direction and control of the Minister in the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers.

(2)  The Minister may from time to time give written directions to the Authority.

Metropolitan Fire Brigades Act 1958

s 8         Accountability of Board

(1) The Board is subject to the general direction and control of the Minister in the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers.

(2)        The Minister may from time to time give written directions to the Board.

The CFA and the Fire Services Commissioner had been warning the community all week of the conditions that firefighters would face on Friday.  

We understand that you received a briefing as to the escalating conditions and real concerns for life and property.  We believe you either failed to comprehend the seriousness of that briefing or you elected to attend the tennis despite that notification. Regardless, we believe you have failed to discharge your Ministerial responsibilities in protecting the Victorian community.

The UFU believes it is reckless and irresponsible to rely on text messages from the Fire Services Commissioner rather than face to face briefings. Your latest effort builds on the $66 million in cuts to the CFA and MFB budgets, the winding back of many Black Saturday initiatives, the failure to deliver the Bushfires Royal Commission recommendations, and the failure to deliver the additional 342 CFA firefighters.

I am extremely disappointed that you appear to have abandoned your post by being at the tennis whilst firefighters defended lives and communities across Victoria from bushfire.

Every time firefighters turn out to bushfires they place their lives on the line.  I believe your actions on Friday are extremely alarming given what was unfolding across the Grampians and around the State.

In light of the above we strongly suggest that you resign as the Minister responsible for Emergency Services.

Yours sincerely 

Peter Marshall

Branch Secretary 


Strength in Unity


Authorised by Peter Marshall, Branch Secretary