NSW Labor has accused the Liberal and National Party state government of budget cuts to the Rural Fire Service and the operational Fire and Rescue NSW budget as bushfires continue to burn across the state.
Labor called on the state government to immediately reverse the cuts to the Fire and Rescue NSW and the Rural Fire Service that were made in this year's State Budget
When asked about the funding cuts Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders said the claims were "false".
Opposition Leader Jodi McKay said the government's budget papers reveal cuts that mean fewer firefighters were on the ground to fight fires.
"Facts are facts, and Dugald Saunders' own government's budget papers show that Fire and Rescue NSW and the Rural Fire Service combined are facing a $40m budget cut - a cut that will mean fewer people on the ground to fight fires and less budget to do it with," she said.
This week in state parliament Labor MPs read from the June 2019 Budget papers and revealed a series of funding cuts and shortfalls they say have hobbled Fire and Rescue NSW and the Rural Fire Service in the lead up to bushfire season.
"At FRNSW, funding for front line staff has been slashed; employee-related operating expenses were cut by $13.1 million while other operating expenses at Fire and Rescue was cut by $10.25 million," Shadow emergency services minister Trish Doyle said.
Mr Saunders said the claims were "horrible."
"Labor's claims of cuts to budget funding for the NSW Rural Fire Service, as well as Fire and Rescue NSW, are false and the fact that this gets brought up at a time when these agencies are fighting extreme bushfires across the state is just horrible," he said.
"The NSW RFS is receiving $541 million in the 2019/20 budget, which is 12.9 per cent higher than the funding announced in the 2018/19 budget."
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the organisation has record budgets and has more money now than any other time.
Mr Saunders said NSW was also the only jurisdiction in the country with a dedicated large air tanker, which has a budget impact of $26.3 million
"Fire and Rescue NSW also has a record expenses budget this year of $774.3 million, so the government is certainly spending money on these services," he said.
"On a local level we have had a massive investment with the construction of the RFS Training Academy in Dubbo, and just a couple of weeks ago Minister David Elliott and I handed over the keys to a new tanker for the Dripstone RFS brigade."
Ms Doyle said Labor stood by its claims.
"At the height of a bushfire emergency, Gladys Berejiklian has used the political cover of an unfolding tragedy to misrepresent her record on emergency services," she said.
"Letters released by the Fire Brigade Employees Union show that firefighters have been subject to the labour expense cap policy to cut staff costs in all public sector agencies by 1.2 per cent each year - despite the government promising that public sector cuts would not impact frontline staff."
A statement from the Fire Brigade Employees' Union said there were now fewer permanent full time firefighters then there were eight years ago.
"This government knows why the overtime bill is through the roof, and it's because we just don't have enough firefighters," the statement said
"And there's no money to go out and recruit."
WHAT DO YOU THINK? HAVE YOUR SAY