Chris Slee

A proposed law restructuring Victoria's fire services has been referred to a parliamentary select committee, and will not be put to a vote until parliament resumes in August. This follows the expression of "concerns" about the law by conservative crossbenchers in the upper house.

The proposed law would end the antiquated situation where regional cities and a large part of the Melbourne metropolitan area are covered by the Country Fire Authority (CFA), and receive an inferior service. 

The Victorian Labor government has announced its plans for restructuring Victoria's fire services.

Currently, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade covers only part of the Melbourne metropolitan area, while the Country Fire Authority (CFA) covers not only rural areas but also regional cities and many of Melbourne's suburbs.

The proposed law would create a new body, Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV), which would cover the whole Melbourne metropolitan area and regional cities.

The Fair Go For Pensioners coalition organised a rally on May 24 in response to the federal budget’s significant new restrictions for those on Centrelink payments, including older Australians.

Their main concerns are with the change to the pensioner assets test, attacks on Medicare, the threat to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and a reduction on the right to overseas travel. The rally also addressed issues faced by the unemployed on Newstart, those on disability support and single parents.

The Victorian Labor government is considering a restructure of Victoria's fire services, according to a report in the May 9 Herald Sun.

Victoria has two fire services — the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and the Country Fire Authority (CFA). The boundaries between the zones covered by these two bodies have not been changed for many years. With the expansion of Melbourne, many outer suburbs are covered by the CFA. So too are large towns such as Ballarat and Bendigo.

The predominantly Tamil north and east of the island of Sri Lanka were brought to a “complete standstill” on April 27, Tamilnet reported, as a result of a strike called by unions, civil groups and Tamil political parties.

It was supported by the Northern Provincial Council, which suspended its sitting. In some towns Muslims joined Tamils in the strike.

"Disability — not for sale!" was one of the slogans shouted by Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) members as they marched on Parliament House on May 10 to protest against the Victorian Labor government's plan to privatise state-run disability services.

HACSU state secretary Lloyd Williams told the rally that Premier Daniel Andrews had broken a promise not to privatise public disability services in Victoria.

Two asylum seekers who had been detained in Australia's offshore detention camps spoke at a forum organised by Refugee Action Collective Victoria on April 22.

Ravi, a Tamil asylum seeker from Sri Lanka now living in Australia, told the forum how he spent two years on Nauru after surviving a 22-day boat journey. He said he had left one "hell", as a former political prisoner in Sri Lanka, only to be sent to another "hell" on Nauru.

United Firefighters Union (UFU) members working in the Corporate and Technical Division of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) have voted overwhelmingly for a campaign of bans in support of their enterprise agreement campaign.

The Corporate and Technical Division includes non-firefighting employees of the MFB, such as payroll and finance staff and computer technicians.

About 30 people attended a meeting on February 23 on the theme: "How can we stop deaths in custody and hold the police to account?". The meeting was organised by the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA).

ISJA member Cheryl Kaulfuss spoke about the death of Aboriginal teenager TJ Hickey as a result of police action in Redfern in 2004. Nationwide protests on the anniversary of his death led to the formation of ISJA Melbourne.

Protesters have been camping outside a Sri Lankan Air Force base since January 31 at Keappaapulavu on the north-eastern coast of the island of Sri Lanka.

Women are playing a leading role in the protest. They are demanding the return of their land, which was taken away to create a military zone. 

The Keappaapulavu base is one of many military bases built throughout the north and east of the island. After the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who had been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland, Tamil areas are under what amounts to a military occupation.

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