Emergency Services Minister blocks access to DFES facilities, staff and volunteers

The Opposition has raised concerns around access to emergency service facilities including volunteers and staff after repeated requests were rejected by the Emergency Services Minister.

Opposition Leader Mia Davies said multiple attempts to meet with emergency service personnel or visit Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) facilities in Dongara, Geraldton and Esperance had been blocked since the start of 2022.

“This is a State Government refusing to allow the Opposition to meet volunteers on site, while at the same time enforcing a draconian code of conduct stopping volunteers from speaking to their local Member of Parliament,” Ms Davies said.

“Silencing our critically important emergency service volunteers from raising real concerns around disaster response, funding for equipment, or access to training is a long way from the gold standard transparency this Government promised.”

Correspondence from the Emergency Services Minister this week confirmed future access for Opposition MPs to DFES facilities would not be granted, stating:

Unfortunately, we will not be accommodating visits to DFES facilities by the Opposition in the absence of a pressing operational requirement.

Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Martin Aldridge said it was highly unusual for any government to take such a partisan and heavy-handed approach to our vital emergency services.

“Blacklisting Opposition MPs from meeting with DFES personnel, visiting new facilities, or hearing firsthand accounts about responding to events like Cyclone Seroja would have been unheard of prior to this Labor Government,” Mr Aldridge said.

“Meanwhile, Government backbenchers have seemingly unfettered access, regularly posting photos on social media with the same volunteers and staff we are barred from visiting.

“It’s a blatant double-standard which reflects poorly on the Emergency Services Minister and the State Government and must be reconsidered,” Mr Aldridge said.

The move follows the introduction of a new code of conduct for emergency service volunteers and staff in 2020, preventing communication with State and Federal MPs.

“Not content with total control of Parliament, total control of DFES staff and volunteers by holding them to their code of conduct, this Minister now seeks to silence the Opposition,” Mr Aldridge said.

“I suspect many DFES staff and volunteers would not be aware of our frequent attempts to meet and would be displeased with the Minister interceding and prohibiting them from speaking with us.”