Premier Dismisses CFA Cost Claims | The Age

Premier Daniel Andrews has dismissed claims his wage deal with the firefighters union could cost almost $700 million, claiming it is based on old information, politically motivated and wrong.

Mr Andrews is standing by his earlier assertion before Parliament – based on calculations by the Department of Treasury and Finance – that the industrial deal will cost no more than $160 million over four years.

The Sunday Age reported that the cost of the industrial deal could be in the order of at least $663 million, an estimate made by the CFA’s current chief financial officer, Nigel McCormick.

The opposition has promised to write to the Auditor-General this week and call for an inquiry into the deal, amid claims Mr Andrews could have misled Parliament over the true cost of the agreement. In further comments aimed at the beleaguered public agency, Mr Andrews suggested on Sunday the estimate was politically motivated, out of date, and based on incorrect assumptions. ‘‘Other estimates that do not relate to the current agreement, they are two or three or five drafts ago, with all sorts of assumptions that don’t stack up –well the government won’t be relying on those estimates, they are wrong and the CFA have overnight confirmed that,’’ he said.

Public sector enterprise agreements in Victoria are typically costed by the Department of Treasury and Finance. After taking out normal wage indexation costs, the department estimated the contentious deal would cost $160 million over four years, including extra salary, conditions, and allowances. The budget has also already set aside money for additional firefighters.

Shadow attorney-general John Pesutto, a former industrial relations adviser in the Napthine government, said he found it ‘‘impossible to accept’’ that the deal with the United Firefighters Union could only cost $160 million, given the generous conditions built into the agreement.

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