THE first angry shots of the election campaign in the ‘battleground’ seat of Bass have been fired.
And it’s the local CFA that has taken aim at the ALP candidate for Bass, Jordan Crugnale.
In a statement by a prominent Bass Coast CFA volunteer, who wishes to remain anonymous, Ms Crugnale has been accused of trying to use her relatively recent membership of the Pound Creek CFA for political advantage.
But not only has she rejected those claims herself, Ms Crugnale’s captain at Pound Creek, Peter Vanzuyden, has come out to say that she is one of the best new recruits the CFA brigade has had in years.
“She’s as good as the best of them. You only have to ask for her help and, if she’s available, she’ll be out there and working like a Trojan,” Mr Vanzuyden said.
He verified that Ms Crugnale had been a member for about 18 months, had successfully completed her Minimum Skills Training and, as a qualified Fire Fighter, had already turned out on seven occasions.
“As far as I know, she has been to a variety of incidents including a house fire, car fire, motor vehicle accident and grass fire.
“Whether it’s on a rake hoe or whatever, she works as hard as the boys,” he said, noting he hopes to attract more female volunteers.
But behind the vitriol of some local members is hostility over the damaging impact of Victorian Labor’s policy for reforming fire services, a policy which Ms Crugnale says she supports.
Here are some excerpts of the criticism that has been levelled at Ms Crugnale:
“As CFA members we are bound by rules regarding remaining apolitical. These are set out under Our Values: Operating with Integrity.
“Unfortunately, these rules are not adhered to by all so called CFA volunteers. It is bad enough for Premier Daniel Andrews to completely disrespect CFA volunteers but now his candidates are guilty of the same offence.
“At a recent residents’ meeting in Pakenham the Labor candidate for Bass, Jordan Crugnale stated that she had been a volunteer member for around 12-18 months and she had attended seven turnouts. She then went on to say that she had visited an integrated station and then named Koo Wee Rup which has a long and proud history as a volunteer only brigade.
“At the next resident meeting, in Koo Wee Rup, she made the claim that all volunteers at Pound Creek ‘her home brigade’ supported the restructure of the CFA. It is interesting that the candidate speaks on behalf of the Pound Creek Fire Brigade.”
Ms Crugnale claims she never said she had visited an integrated brigade nor that Pound Creek’s members supported the proposed changes.
“They simply told me that it doesn’t really affect us down here,” she said.
But her opponent in the race, the Liberals’ Brian Paynter says Ms Crugnale definitely said her home brigade supported the changes.
“There were 30 other people in the room,” he said.
The letter from the local CFA member states “the Victorian labor government and Premier Daniel Andrews have shown absolute contempt for the CFA volunteers during this term in government. The interference in the operation of the CFA board as a result of them not playing the political game and the numerous resignations and dismissals including the Minister Jane Garrett are a direct indication of the power that the UFU hold over this government.”
He said “volunteers are sick of being used as political footballs”.
“The Labor candidate for Bass is using the CFA for her own political purposes, it is an insult to all long standing and dedicated volunteers.”
He went on to say that John Schurink the Captain of the Sassafras–Ferny Creek CFA is the endorsed Liberal candidate for Monbulk for the State Election but was mindful of the criticism he would receive if he made a point of it.
(See full transcript of the letter, signed “name and address withheld due to being a CFA volunteer that respects rules”. The person is well-known to the ‘Sentinel-Times’ and is a decorated CFA fire fighter of long-standing.
CFA lights fire under Bass race