Addressing a group of firefighters in Geelong yesterday, Mr Turnbull said his government “will immediately amend the Fair Work Act to ensure the Victorian Government cannot have its way. That is my commitment.”
Mr Turnbull said he would not normally make political speeches to volunteer organisations.
But turning his focus on Labor, he accused the Victorian government of Daniel Andrews of perpetrating “an assault not just on the safety of Victorians … it is an assault on what is the very best in our Australian spirit.”
The dispute involves the Country Fire Authority, a largely volunteer agency. Its board has been concerned that an enterprise bargaining agreement would hand too much operational control to a union. This has angered volunteers.
The CFA board was subsequently sacked after if refused to back the deal, claiming the EBA would be in breach of a number of acts and would leave the United Firefighters Union with greater power.
Mr Turnbull met with the firefighters when he was campaigning in the marginal Liberal seat of Corangamite in Victoria, held by former ABC journalist Sarah Henderson by a margin of just 3.9 per cent.
Internal Liberal Party polling shows that Ms Henderson’s chances of hanging on Corangamite have been boosted by the Andrews Government’s handling of the issue. Mr Turnbull’s intervention yesterday might have made that more likely.