War of words as Opposition claim State Government is blocking them from meeting with emergency volunteers

Jessica MoroneyGeraldton Guardian
Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Martin Aldridge blocked from visiting DFES emergency volunteers.
Camera IconShadow Minister for Emergency Services Martin Aldridge blocked from visiting DFES emergency volunteers. Credit: Jessica Moroney/Geraldton Guardian

A war of words is intensifying between the Opposition and State Government, with the shadow emergency services minister claiming they continue to be blocked from meeting with volunteers.

MPs must submit a request and have it approved by the Emergency Services Minister in order to visit DFES facilities. This month, the minister’s office said they would not be accommodating the Opposition’s requests for visits in the absence of a pressing operational requirement.

Shadow minister Martin Aldridge said this firm response came after a request to visit the Geraldton Fire and Rescue Service.

He said he believed the blacklisting was a political, partisan and heavy-handed approach that required reconsideration.

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“It doesn’t allow the Opposition to engage with the important section of the community,” he said.

Mr Aldridge said if DFES volunteers spoke to a Member of Parliament without permission they could face disciplinary action or dismissal, and their code of conduct, coupled with the minister’s decision, meant there could be no contact between the Opposition and emergency services community.

“Without being able to engage with those volunteers to understand their issues so you can represent them in Parliament, it makes our job really difficult, if not impossible,” he said.

But Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson said the Opposition continued to politicise and undermine the efforts of the emergency service personnel.

He said requests from the Opposition required significant DFES time and resources and were considered on a case-by-case basis, but they continued to undermine the tireless efforts of emergency services personnel.

“Visits are approved during times that are operationally suitable for the appropriate staff and volunteers,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the Opposition has continued to politicise the State’s emergency response and recovery efforts.”

Mr Dawson said the Opposition was regularly briefed on DFES matters and he ensured emergency volunteers were supported with the complex and challenging work they did.

He said his office regularly facilitated briefings for the Opposition from DFES on emergency response, incidents, legislation, and other policy matters.

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