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Fire Services Levy reforms a step in the right direction

The Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) notes the release of the State Government’s final response to the report of the Bushfire Royal Commission.

VECCI welcomes the announcement by the State Government that it will proceed with reform to the inequitable Fire Services Levy (FSL). VECCI supports a broader based levy than the existing FSL, but believes any new levy must be simple, efficient and equitable and reserves its views on collection mechanisms.

“The State Government must ensure it consults with the community on the design of the new levy, and that the levy provides incentives for actions that reduce the risk of bushfire related damage and injury,” says VECCI CEO, Wayne Kayler-Thomson.

VECCI also welcomes the decision by the State Government to not proceed with the Retreat and Resettlement policy proposed by the Royal Commission. VECCI does not support a property buy-back scheme as it is not likely to be economic or efficient.

VECCI remains alert to ongoing concerns about ‘Code Red’ days, and the need to ensure there is greater clarity for employers about their obligations under the law.

Planned increases in fuel reduction enjoy widespread support from industry as a method of reducing fire-risk.

“However, any additional planned burns should be considered against their impact on business and residents, particularly for their capacity to disrupt peak tourism periods,” Kayler-Thomson says.

In addition, VECCI notes the State Government’s decision to fund a $2 million taskforce to investigate ways to reduce fire-risk posed by electricity infrastructure.

“Proposals to cable all power lines underground in fire-risk areas have been estimated at up to $20 billion. This would pose a significant additional cost to electricity consumers, and more cost effective ways to reduce fire-risk from power lines should be investigated,” concludes Kayler-Thomson.