Wednesday, 22 February 2023

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Flowerdale fire

Ann-Marie HERMANS, Jaclyn SYMES

Flowerdale fire

Ann-Marie HERMANS (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (12:10): (44) Responding immediately to bushfires is essential. Although the grassfire is under control at Flowerdale, it remains critical that the firefighting air support is available. In December last year you made much fanfare about contracting the CH-47 Chinook helicopter, which was said to be – and I quote from a media release of 14 December – ‘the highest volume helicopter in the fleet’ and ‘a vital asset in firefighting operations’. Why, then, was the Chinook unable to fight the grassfire at Flowerdale last night?

The PRESIDENT: Before the minister answers, I think I am safe to assume that that was a question directed to the Minister for Emergency Services.

Ann-Marie HERMANS: Sorry, the question is directed to the Minister for Emergency Services.

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:11): I thank the member for her question, although I am very concerned about the content and particularly the misinformation that potentially goes to the communities that are currently impacted by fires. First of all, the fire is not under control. There are still many assets that are fighting this fire. And second of all, the Chinook was deployed last night, so your information is wrong. It is concerning. Perhaps come and talk to me after question time to give me some more information about where you are getting this wrong information, because it is of much concern to me that the community are receiving facts that are just not true.

Ann-Marie HERMANS (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (12:12): Thank you for telling us that it is under control, but it has been downgraded. Minister, you have contracted the Chinook. You have only hired –

Members interjecting.

Ann-Marie HERMANS: Well, it is not under control, but it has been downgraded. You have only hired one crew to fly it; thus it can only be used when the crew has not exceeded their legal flight time limits. So why have you severely limited Victoria’s aerial fighting capability by contracting only one crew for the Chinook?

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:12): Ms Hermans, I am concerned that the information that you have and that you are presenting to the chamber is not accurate. I am sorry, but I am very concerned about that. I am more than happy to get you a briefing on the aerial operations that support our hardworking fire services, because there is a range of aerial capability in the state. We contract from other countries, we have contract arrangements with other states, we are supported by DELWP in those endeavours, and I am very confident that we have the best contracts in place for the protection of Victorians. It does concern me that you have information that does not reflect the information I have, and I am a little more confident in my sources.