Media Blamed For Firefighters' Sickies

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16th December 2009, 09:00am - Views: 1090

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MEDIA RELEASE Wednesday December 16 2009


MFB fire chief Tony Murphy has moved to clarify his evidence to the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission

after widespread media coverage that he claimed 46 MFB firefighters took sickies on Black Saturday.

In a corrective statement to the Royal Commission he says he agrees with affidavits of the United

Firefighters Union that there weren’t 46 unplanned absences that day – and only 9 firefighters were absent

due to illness.

He blames the media for getting it wrong.

Mr Murphy says he’s written to The Age and the Herald Sun over their reports of his evidence, and that ABC

TV news edited his evidence to link a question about sickies with a later answer. He says firefighters and

members of the public quite reasonably have confidence that the ABC news would be factual.

Mr Murphy says he agrees with the broad premise of affidavits by United Firefighters Union official Greg

Pargeter to the Commission on December 8 and 10 – and believes that Mr Pargeter’s statements support his

evidence of December 3.

UFU National Secretary Peter Marshall says this is total backflip by the MFB fire chief.

“On December 3 Mr Murphy was asked:

Of the 300 or so who were supposed to be at work, 46 calling in sick meant you

had about a 15 per cent absenteeism rate on that day?

“Mr Murphy had a chance then to correct the record.  Instead he answered: 

That's what the mathematics is, yes.

“The bottom line is that he got it wrong in his original witness statement to the Royal Commission. At

paragraph 116 of his statement he unambiguously said:

On the day [Black Saturday] 46 staff were absent on unplanned leave.

“He contradicted this next day on 3AW’s Neil Mitchell program:

NEIL MITCHELL: Did you have 46 of them on unplanned leave?


“Firefighters and the public remain confused by Mr Murphy’s evidence to the Royal Commission and his

attempts to spin out of trouble and blame others.”

“Now that the reputation of firefighters has been restored in the public arena, we hope we never see another

slur like this again on dedicated professional firefighters, serving the community.”

For more information

Peter Marshall, National Secretary, United Firefighters Union

0419 127 004

Greg Pargeter, Senior Industrial Officer, United Firefighters Union

0425 790 676

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