The death of Muhammed Ali has been widely reported. The various transformations that occurred over his life, transformations that meshed with broader changes taking place, make him a truly remarkable and memorable figure made more remarkable by his own manner Rest in peace.
has deepened. It's remarkably difficult to keep track of issues across Australia, more so since paywalls started coming in. I had no idea of this particular dispute until I bought a copy of the Australian to find it featured. Then I started digging.
In very simple terms, Victoria has to firefighting bodies, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and the Country Fire Authority. To those outside Victoria and perhaps within, the CFA is far better known because of its role in fighting bushfires.
The MFB operates with paid staff, while the CFA depends on a large number of volunteers with some paid staff. The United Fire Fighters Union represents MFB staff and has a institutionalised role in the management of the MFB. The UFFU wishes to extend its role in the CFA. After a rancorous dispute, Fair Work Commissioner Julius Roe delivered non-binding recommendations supporting the demands of the UFFU for greater control of the CFA, infuriating the Authority and its volunteer base.
Victorian Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett with the apparent backing of the Premier backed the CFA and its volunteers in opposing the FWC recommendations. Then it appears that the Premier after consultation with the Union shifted his position, in some ways hanging his minister out to dry. The end result was a political mess, with a search now on for a compromise.
The first is what I call the bitsy effect. While the totality of government activities may not have changed, Australian governments at all levels want to be seen to be doing new things. To achieve this, they repackage activities that they were doing into new package with a unique name attached, thus creating an apparently new initiative. Then, too, they use relatively small sums of money to create new activities at the margin that respond to particular community pressure points.
This does, I think, create an expectation that if there is a problem, governments will fix it. Effort that might have gone into creating new community activities is sidetracked into seeking funds from Government for that activity.
There is also the creeping professionalisation that I referred to earlier. In the desire to improve standards and performance, professional staff start replacing volunteers in major activities such as fire fighting, while governments place greater demands on those receiving funding in terms both of applications and subsequent reporting. Reporting can be a particular burden because the information sought has become broader and has to be provided in very particular formats, requiring time, computer systems and expertise. Faced with the choice of either becoming more professional or getting out, many volunteers choose exit.
One side-effect is the rise of the not for profit. Governments have encouraged their development as a way of outsourcing activities and to take advantage of the taxation concessions enjoyed by not for profits, concessions not available to Government itself. These not for profits have to operate on a professional basis and are therefore picking up activities previously undertaken by volunteer groups. Even though some not for profits utilise volunteers especially in fund raising, the net effect is to crowd out previous voluntary activity.
Another factor then comes in in the diminishing space occupied by voluntary activities, the increasing compliance burden. Safety regulations, health regulations, insurance requirements, working with children requirements, obligatory criminal checks, political party registration requirements all combine to make life difficult. One side effect again is to increase professionalisation. In many cases, you require umbrella organisations with the staff and systems necessary to ensure compliance and to provide the necessary insurances.
People still volunteer, especially where their children are involved and especially in the country. However, the volunteer workforce is shrinking and we are, I think, all the poorer for that.