#QFES

Did spending $1bn more on fire services in 2018-19 just end up in smoke?

Based on a request for further data across more fire services in Australia, it is clear that funding hasn’t been a problem. It seems allocation of those funds must be. As we showed in the NSW RFS and VIC CFA reports, expenditure seemed to be directed at increasing staff in administration accompanied by higher salaries instead of equipment, where numbers went down.

Expenditures, not revenues are a better place to look because more than income, spending denotes actual deployment of capital. Note most of the country’s fire services spend more than they earn so as government entities, the state governments back and fill those budget holes. So what might not appear purely as a direct appropriation from a state government at the start of the year, someone has to shore up the deficit. Note many fire services keep the earnings from fire levies and other quasi-taxation lines so that doesn’t show up in the budget line.

More importantly, were expenses allocated sensibly we could reasonably argue that the so called “budget cuts” the media keeps banging on about clearly weren’t having any impact on their ability to spend an extra $956.4mn over and above the 2014-15 aggregate figure. That’s an average 33% increase.

We looked at 8 fire service across the country and compared 2014-15 spending to the latest 2018-19 published figures. Here are the results.

Fire & Rescue NSW

$674m -> $814m ( +20.7%)

NSW RFS

$311.2m -> $554.8m (+78.2%)

Victorian MFB

$372.5m -> $507.7m (+36.3%)

Victorian CFA

$484.8m -> $656.7m (+35.5%)

Queensland FES

$569.9m -> $724.6m (+27.1%)

WA DFES

$359.8m -> $435.5m (+21%)

SA CFS

$74m -> $89m (+20.4%)

Tasmanian TFS

$76.2m -> $96.6m (+26.8%)

Not a lot of budget crimp in there. If budgets were being so drastically cut no amount of calendars featuring fire fighters clutching puppies would make up the short fall. More than that, state governments would have tried to ratchet back the deficits in the future budgets. Yet they didn’t.

So once again if we look at the direct appropriations from the states as a line item we get:

Fire & Rescue NSW

$603m -> $724m ( +20.1%)

NSW RFS

$149m -> $491m (+329.5%)

Victorian MFB

$325.7m -> $414.3m (+27.2%)

Victorian CFA

$451.2m -> $622.2m (+37.9%)

Queensland FES

$494.7m -> $561.2m (+13.4%)

WA DFES

$303.7m -> $418m (+37.6%)

SA CFS

$74.9m -> $77.4m (+3.3%)

Tasmanian TFS

$57.8m -> $66.8m (+15.6%)

So in every case, government spending (whether state or federal) and the state levies these bodies can charge, went up on 2014/15.

Pity the media keeps jabbing with budget cut narratives when the numbers simply don’t paint that picture.

As we’ve said all along, we need to take a long hard look at who have been making the decisions inside the fire service administrations (not the front line fire fighters) before we start pinning medals to their chests.

“Senior management of the Fire Services act like a Mafia”

We have been lucky to speak to one of the brave volunteers (pseudonym Fred, a 25yr veteran in the RFS) who has spoken out about the utter incompetence of the administration within fire services HQ. You should be furious after reading this. You are being lied to and the media is complicit by failing to do basic investigative journalism.

Instead of all of the glowing praise being heaped on the senior management of the fire services, here are some brutal comments that contradict the current media narrative.

What you will read are some of the direct quotes from our conversation which throw more light on some of our earlier suspicions.

FNF Media has been questioning the competence of senior management in the HQs. We have been demanding that the fire services are thoroughly investigated when this is all over. At the moment senior fire management teams are being deified in ways that almost seek to make them exempt from any wrongdoing. If there is nothing to hide, they should welcome the clean bill of health that would arise from an audit.

Putting it down to climate change, as some of our former chiefs suggest, is just way too convenient a scapegoat to cover up for what looks more and more like poor management practice.

We noted last week that budgets and salaries have been rising at NSWRFS, but equipment levels falling. How is that that with $140mn extra dollars last fiscal year, a 78% jump on 2014/15 levels, can this be? Fred mentioned,

there has been a massive effort in restricting bushfire hazard reduction burning by the fire services. Also, the senior management of the fire services act like a mafia. I don’t know how they get away with it.

Scarily we’re told that no resources are being refused. Unfortunately, we have evidence to the contrary. Fred said,

Premier, Minister and Commissioner all lied when they said that all resources were being used and no offers of assistance were ever refused.

Fred has asked FNF Media to withhold the proof of the conversation with RFS and it is damning, to say the least. It is toxic.

Recall our post which discussed the frustration within the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (VFFA) with respect to restricted burning. The VFFA said,

“Hazard reduction is the only proven management tool rural firefighters have to reduce the intensity and spread of bushfires and this has been recognised in numerous bushfire enquires since the Stretton enquiry into the 1939 Victorian Bushfires…The amount of ‘green tape’ we have to go through to get a burn approved is beyond frustrating; says Peter Cannon. The VFFA is calling on the NSW State Government to reduce the amount of green tape involved in planning and conducting hazard reductions so that our Volunteer Firefighters can get on with the job of conducting fire prevention works in the cooler months to prevent the inevitable summer bushfire disasters…Remember that it’s far more cost-effective, say around 66 to 100 times more cost-efficient, to prevent wildfires through hazard reduction than it is to have reactionary fire response, which is what we have at the moment. With the great number of lost homes and decreasing property values through these wildfires, what then will the total fiscal amount be…when it could have all been prevented by effective Hazard reduction!”

Fred’s comments with us sing the same tune.

They spend such huge amounts of money on tech, equipment and salaries and yet achieve bugger all bushfire hazard reduction works. If I had half the budget of the FRNSW Bushfire Section I could do at least 4 times more burning. They are so inefficient.

My volunteer brigade did Zero burning last 12 months…volunteers are having to purchase their own uniforms and PPE… RFS senior management lies constantly and the media go along with them.

In the most recent fires, Fred commented,

The state government, RFS and FRNSW all declined our assistance, even as homes burned down with no trucks to save them.

The back burn on Bells Line of Road SW of Mt Wilson. It ended of pushing East and took out Mt Wilson and then went into the Blue Mountains National Park. Media reported that fire as part of Gospers Mountain but it was a wholly separate fire lit by RFS in exactly the wrong spot.

This is commentary from an experienced veteran volunteer with a quarter-century of under his belt, not some rookie with a garden hose who will just get in harm’s way. Yet Fred’s well-trained services were refused. Period. We have the evidence. He went further,

Very poor use of available volunteers. 70,000 are on the books but less than 7,000 are being used????

They [management] should be investigated and sacked. Not given medals and bigger budgets.

I am hoping I will be a witness in the inquiries or Royal Commission after…This all needs to come out.”

I have emails from RFS and FRNSW already shared with the Minister and Premier. They are well aware of the problem. But the RFS Commissioner is like Santa at Christmas right now.

Will our mainstream media going out of its way to ask probing questions instead of having the likes of Karl Stefanovic rant on morning TV about the PM’s shortcomings while blowing wind up the backside of the fire chief? Apparently not. Too simple to report on easy clickbait, devoid of any facts.

Let us pray that when all the fires have died down, the post-mortem avoids arse covering and blame-shifting. Although we know that is exactly what will happen.

Remember climate change is an irrelevant argument as we pointed out in our study here. FR NSW mentions the word ‘climate change‘ once in the last 6 years of annual reports. Even then it was in reference to fire stations voluntarily switching off non-essential lighting for Earth Hour. Hardly pointing to detailed statistics derived from their own experience. On the flip side, the Victorian CFA mentions ‘inclusion‘ 56 times in the last 6 years of annual reports. Priorities don’t seem to lie where the core business lies.

Money does not seem to be the major problem even though a further $2bn is being committed for relief. It is increasingly looking like mismanagement. If the volunteers, who do it without compensation, are screaming at the desk jockeys who orchestrate the controlled burn-offs (or lack thereof) doesn’t it make one curious as to why the fires got so ridiculously out of control?

We have every right to be angry. We should settle for nothing less. FNF Media is astonished at the generosity of the $40m in donations raised for bushfire relief. However, we worry that the fire services don’t appear to have a lot of skill in allocating vital funds where needed if volunteers like Fred are to be believed and as we wrote in previous discussions. Given we have the proof, he should be and the cover-up will be found out.

Data you’ve never seen compiled on our Australian fire services

CCFRNSW

For listed corporations, an annual report reads like an opus magnum which outlines the company’s major achievements, missions, strategic outlook, future concerns and goals. No ifs and no buts. The chair and CEO write glowing puff pieces about their achievements and why you, the shareholders, should keep them doing their jobs! Fire chiefs also write about the achievements during the year, every year.

Therefore when studying the language within the last 10 years of annual reports of the state fire services around Australia, why is ‘climate change‘, the words that 29 former fire chiefs told us is such a big factor, barely mentioned, if at all? Take Fire & Rescue NSW’s only mention of ‘climate change‘ on p.81 of its 2018/19 Annual Report,

Where practicable, FRNSW crews were encouraged to turn off all non-essential lights on 30 March 2019 from 8:30pm until 9:30pm, joining millions of people worldwide in showing their commitment to tackling climate change and inspiring all generations to support environmental initiatives and sustainable climate policy.

That is it. No words saying that the ‘catastrophic climate emergency’ preached by a 16-yo truant will lead to devastating increases in bushfires…Further evidence that we can sleep sound at night knowing that some (not all) firefighters might have switched the lights off for 1 hour on one day. So much for instilling a sense of unbridled panic preached by the retired fire chiefs…that’s right one mention of the word ‘climate change’ in 6 years.

Wasn’t Greg Mullins’ most important leadership role to warn NSW residents of the danger of climate change while in the top job? Wouldn’t it have been important to document those ‘climate’ fears in the annual reports that are presented to parliament each year? Clearly not. Best do it when sponsored by advocacy groups. Unfortunately, the ‘lack’ of acknowledgement by the fire service senior management surrounding climate change is an indelible mark by its very omission.

The chart above highlights the number of times the word ‘climate change‘ was mentioned in state fire authorities’ annual reports since 2010/11.

The QFES mentions ‘climate change’ 28 times in its 2018/19 annual report as it references an earlier report written on the subject. Prior to that, there are very few mentions.

Tasmania’s TFS notes ‘climate change’ alongside terrorism and economic downturn as things to watch in its 2015-16 annual report but makes no further in-depth reporting on global warming.

The Victorian Metropolitan Fire Brigade (VICMFB) mentioned climate change once in its 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14 annual report but it only refers to the federal department that includes the name ‘climate change’ as a footnote. In 2018/19 the VICMFB refers to an “awareness” of climate change but it hardly sounds like a definitive statement.

Note that in 2011/12, FR NSW mentions climate change twice – once in the index and a loose passage that refers to it potentially having impacts. Yet FR NSW makes no determination by virtue of its own personal experiences. Note in 2010/11, ‘climate change’ is mentioned eight times by FR NSW but even then it refers to the IPCC research, not the findings of its own in-house data.

Let’s get this straight. If climate change was such a huge flashing red light issue in 2010/11, why no mentions between 2012 and 2017, a time when alarmist Greg Mullins was Chief Commissioner of FR NSW?

FNF Media encourages readers to save the following link for future reference. It is the 678-page IPCC internal review tabulating qualitative feedback on the processes of how it compiles the very climate bibles our media and governments swear by. A few excerpts comfortably debunk the credibility of the science contained within.

On page 16, someone complains that:

“some of the lead authors…are clearly not qualified to be lead authors.”

Here are other direct quotes:

There are far too many politically correct appointments, so that developing country scientists are appointed who have insufficient scientific competence to do anything useful. This is reasonable if it is regarded as a learning experience, but in my chapter…we had half of the [lead authors] who were not competent.” (p. 138)

“The whole process…[is] flawed by an excessive concern for geographical balance. All decisions are political before being scientific.” (p. 554)

“Half of the authors are there for simply representing different parts of the world.” (p. 296)

Even those from minority backgrounds agreed (p.330):

“The team members from the developing countries (including myself) were made to feel welcome and accepted as part of the team. In reality, we were out of our intellectual depth as meaningful contributors to the process.”

Remember this is the IPCC evaluating itself. Imagine if this was a topic that wasn’t related to climate change. Would you be concerned at diverting billions of taxpayer dollars against such woeful governance and amateur approaches to compiling data and legislating policy? Exactly. Frightening!

hazred.png

The alarming part of the annual reports published by the state fire fighting authorities is that they don’t contain much in the way of words that the laymen would expect to see e.g. hazard reduction or fuel load. However, there has been an explosion in words such as diversity and inclusion. These two charts below outline clearly where the shift in purpose would seemingly lie.

Diversity.png

inclusion.png

Note that Californian power utility PG&E took this approach. The company had absolute clarity on the breakdown of gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity of its workforce and suppliers. Sadly it had woefully incomplete data on the age and status of its infrastructure (aka its core business) which caused the scheduled blackouts and forest fires. Unfortunately, because of this focus on diversity & inclusion, it dropped the ball on providing the very service its customers paid for and is now bankrupt. Get woke, go broke.

Forgive FNF Media for being blunt. If your house is at risk of burning down, will you be secretly praying that the emergency crew sent to put the fire out ticks the diversity box or competency box? If you prefer inclusion over ability, then don’t complain that your prized possessions have gone up in smoke. It is such an irrelevant metric to focus on all of this warm and fuzzy data without reporting the very actions that we should be benchmarking the brave men and women who actually serve in the capacity of firefighters.

We can wail at climate change as the cause of these dreadful bushfires or accept the sickening amount of people arrested for arson.

Sorry to keep labouring the point. We should conduct a thorough audit of the fire services to determine whether they have lost their way in deprioritising the safety of the very people they are supposed to protect for the sake of woke causes. Make no mistake, we cast no aspersions on those who work as first responders.

We hope that people drop their climate alarmist/denial bias and take a cold objective view of the data. Take out the emotion. Seriously, does the only comment in the latest FR NSW annual report surrounding voluntary ‘Earth Hour’ participation strike one as making meaningful impact on climate change?

Perhaps we appear cynical but when we see alarmist former fire chiefs sound the alarm on climate change, we could have at the very least expected consistent, comprehensive and extensive data/research “on the record” while they were in a position to do so. They didn’t. Those actions really have the alarm bells ringing!