The Nationals WA have expressed concern after the Minister for Emergency Services barred visiting MPs from meeting with local emergency services volunteers in the Pilbara this week.
Spokesperson for Emergency Services, Colin de Grussa MLC, said barring elected Members of Parliament from speaking with local volunteers was a gross overreach by the McGowan Government.
“It’s a disappointing decision by the Minister for Emergency Services and one that will leave many volunteers feeling understandably frustrated,” Mr de Grussa said.
“Prior to visiting the Pilbara this week, I reached out to many emergency services volunteer groups, including the State Emergency Services (SES), Volunteer Marine Rescue Services and Fire and Rescue Services to extend an opportunity for a catch up while I’m in the region.
“I’ve always had an open-door policy between with these volunteer groups and it gives them an opportunity to speak about any issues or challenges they may be having, particularly around issues like volunteer recruitment or access to training opportunities. It’s also an opportunity for me to thank these groups for the service they provide to our regional communities.
“These are important conversations to have with our local emergency services volunteers, and I’m shocked that the Minister would seek to intervene and effectively place a ban on Members of Parliament speaking with volunteers in a free and open manner.”
Mr de Grussa said his office was contacted by a representative from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services to discuss the planned meetings.
“The DFES staff member told my office he’d been directed to make contact with us by the Minister for Emergency Services, and any future meetings with emergency service volunteers required Ministerial approval. I then contacted the Ministers office seeking approval for a planned meeting with volunteers in Port Hedland today, but my request was denied by the Minister.”
Mr de Grussa said he was concerned the Minister was trying to silence emergency services groups from speaking their mind about important issues.
“I receive quite a lot of feedback from regional emergency services groups who are keen to let me know their thoughts on any number of Government decisions.
“We’ve recently seen major issues with volunteer retention, particularly in the State Emergency Service, and it’s something I am keen to speak to local volunteers about to hear their views and find a solution.”
The ban on speaking with emergency service volunteers comes shortly after several Nationals MPs were barred from touring the Moora Residential College.
“The McGowan Government is developing a habit for blacklisting or silencing anyone with a different view to their own,” Mr de Grussa said.
Image: Colin de Grussa MLC was barred from meeting with the Port Hedland Volunteer Marine Rescue Service while visiting the Pilbara this week.