Every 5 years, the Regulations to the Fire Brigades Act 1989 (and indeed all Acts) are reviewed. The current 1997 Regulations are therefore now set be replaced on 1 September by new 2002 Regulations. So what do the Regulations do? Section 85 of the Fire Brigades Act defines the purpose of the Regulations (which replaced the old By-Laws) as follows:
85. (1) The Governor may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, for or with respect to any matter that by this Act is required or permitted to be prescribed or that is necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act. (2) In particular, the regulations may make provision for or with respect to the following:
(a) enabling the Commissioner and the fire brigades to exercise the functions conferred on them by this Act or the regulations;
(b) prescribing generally the duties of members of fire brigades;
(c) the maintenance of the efficiency, discipline, and good conduct of members of fire brigades;
(d) the formation of volunteer fire brigades, and the regulation and inspection of fire brigades and their premises and equipment;
(e) prohibiting or regulating the lighting of fires where it would be likely to be dangerous to buildings;
(f) prescribing the forms of notices and other documents to be used in carrying out this Act and the regulations;
(g) prescribing for various classes of buildings the means to be provided to enable occupants to escape from the building in case of fire, and the inspection and maintenance of those means of escape;
(h) prescribing for any building used for a purpose which in the opinion of the Commissioner is of a hazardous nature or for any building the construction or use of which is, in the opinion of the Commissioner, likely to allow the rapid spread of fire, the installation of fire alarms, sprinklers, and other devices or appliances approved by the Commissioner designed to prevent or retard the spread of fire, and for the inspection and maintenance of those alarms, sprinklers, appliances, and devices;
(i) prohibiting or regulating the storage of flammable matter in, on or under any part of a building;
(j) prohibiting or regulating the storage of flammable matter in light areas or in close proximity to any building in any local government area to which this Act applies;
(k) regulating the deposit of flammable matter in yards or on vacant blocks of land in any local government area to which this Act applies;
(l) regulating the burning off of waste flammable matter in any local government area to which this Act applies. (3) A regulation may create an offence punishable by a penalty not exceeding 10 penalty units and, in the case of a continuing offence, by a penalty not exceeding 1 penalty unit for each day the offence continues.
Despite this broad scope and intent, the only point out of the 12 points (a) to (l) above to be covered in the Department’s draft 2002 Regulations is point (c): “the maintenance of the efficiency, discipline, and good conduct of members of fire brigades”. After all, why would a modern, progressive fire service want to regulate silly things like community fire safety standards or service operations when it can focus instead on trapping and burning its own employees with Victorian-era disciplinary codes? Disturbingly, the Board’s old By-Laws offered more natural justice and procedural fairness for firefighters than do these draft 2002 Regulations. This, sadly, is the measure of progress in the 21st Century NSWFB.
After months of negotiations the Union and Dept. remain poles apart. They’re now expected to ram through the new Regulation on or before 1 September, just as they did with the last review in 1997. The difference this time is that it won’t happen without a fight. Stay tuned…