Media Release: Priorities all wrong as NSW Coalition delivers thousands more police but hundreds fewer fire paid fighters

Analysis by the Greens NSW shows in the nine years since the Coalition was elected in NSW the number of paid professional firefighters has fallen by over 110. At the same time the number of NSW police has already increased by over 1,150 with another 1,500 police budgeted to be recruited within four years. This skewing of scarce emergency resources away from fire safety and firefighting towards more and more police has left NSW dangerously exposed in the current fire crisis.

Full details of the analysis based on published state budgets and annual reports for the various emergency services agencies are found below. 

Retained firefighters are fully trained Fire and Rescue personnel who work on an “on-call” basis. They are paid a base weekly retainer and additional hourly payments whenever they work.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said: 

“There is something dreadfully wrong with the Coalition’s priorities that has seen it pump billions of dollars into more police while stripping back the number of paid firefighters. 

“Since 2011 when the Coalition government was first elected, NSW has 108 fewer retained firefighters and three less full time firefighters, meanwhile police numbers have skyrocketed to record highs.

“When there are record low crime rates and record levels of risk from climate change and fire it is extraordinary that emergency services funding has been so misdirected.

“At a time when we need hundreds and hundreds more firefighters and probably fewer police, we have got the exact opposite, with the government now budgeting for a further 1,500 police. 

“While the RFS has seen a funding increase, none of that has been for paid front-line fire-fighting staff and the state’s over-reliance on volunteer firefighting is already seeing exhaustion take its toll on the volunteer base.

“This is a case of politics failing the ultimate test of keeping the public safe, where both Labor and the Coalition compete between themselves to support the greatest number of police regardless of the evidence.

“We urgently need to review these budget allocations going forward. 

 “Parliament needs to respond to the current crisis and that means immediately diverting to NSW Fire and Rescue all of the $583 million extra that has been set aside for extra police over the next four years,” Mr Shoebridge said.

Detailed budget analysis below: 

In 2010/2011 the budget for NSW Fire and Rescue was $636 million 2011 dollars. Adjusted for inflation that is $750 million in 2019 dollars. In 2011 there were 3,516 full time fire officers and 3,382 retained fire fighters.

For the 2019/2020 FY the NSW Fire and Rescue budget is $774 million and as at 30 June 2019 there were 3,513 full time fire officers and 3,274 retained fire fighters. This is a loss of 3 full time and 108 retained firefighters over 8 years

In 2010/11 the budget for the NSW Police was in $2,849 million in 2011 dollars. Adjusted for inflation that is $3,360 million in 2019 dollars. In 2011 there were 15,943 NSW police.

For the 2019/2020 FY the NSW Police budget is $3,807 million and as at 30 June 2019 there were 17,111 NSW police. This is an increase of 1,168 police in just 8 years. This number will increase to well over 18,000 by 2023.

In 2010/11 the budget for the NSW RFS was in $239 million in 2011 dollars. Adjusted for inflation that is $282 million in 2019 dollars. In 2011 the RFS had 920 employees and 70,448 volunteers on the books.

For the 2019/2020 FY the NSW RFS budget is $524 million and as at 30 June 2019 there were 936 full time employees and 71,234 volunteers. This is an increase of just 16 full time employees over 8 years. The number of volunteers on the books is a highly contested figure with the number of active volunteers being a fraction of the total number disclosed.