Compo win for vol­un­teer firies

Com­mit­tee re­jects 150-event cri­te­ria for el­i­gi­bil­ity, but asks for in­de­pen­dent panel

Isis Town and Country - - Kolan News -

OUR re­gion’s yel­low army has scored a ma­jor win in the bat­tle for fair fire can­cer com­pen­sa­tion.

A pro­posed amend­ment to the Work­ers’ Com­pen­sa­tion Act re­quir­ing the state’s 35,000 vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers at­tend 150 events – such as fires or floods – over five years be­fore they are el­i­gi­ble for com­pen­sa­tion for dor­mant dis­ease is un­likely to go ahead af­ter the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment’s Fi­nance and Ad­min­is­tra­tion Com­mit­tee rec­om­mended it be dropped.

In­stead, in its re­port to par­lia­ment the com­mit­tee sug­gests an in­de­pen­dent ex­pert-based panel con­sider re­quests for com­pen­sa­tion on a claim by claim ba­sis.

Com­mit­tee chair­woman Di Farmer said Em­ploy­ment and In­dus­trial Re­la­tions Min­is­ter Curtis Pitt’s amend­ment was not work­able.

Ms Farmer said it was not based on sci­en­tific ev­i­dence such as re­search show­ing a link be­tween vol­un­teers and ex­po­sure dis­eases.

She said ru­ral brigades also needed to keep stronger data about the events vol­un­teers at­tended.

“We’re say­ing that there isn’t enough science – we did not re­ceive enough ev­i­dence to ac­tu­ally jus­tify the thresh­old of the 150 and a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem is record keep­ing,” Ms Farmer said.

“There is a lot of work to be done to en­sure that peo­ple can ac­tu­ally record their ex­po­sures.

“What we do say very strongly is that pre­sump­tive leg­is­la­tion like this must have some science be­hind it.”

Ms Farmer said there was no doubt vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers needed to be com­pen­sated if they got sick dur­ing their du­ties.

“We’re say­ing they need to have some­thing – they can’t just go with­out any­thing,” she said.

“So we’re rec­om­mend­ing that the gov­ern­ment set up an in­de­pen­dent panel which will be re­spon­si­ble for work­ing with the fire ser­vice to iden­tify the na­ture of the ex­po­sure.”

Ru­ral Fire Brigades As­so­ci­a­tion Queens­land gen­eral man­ager Justin Choveaux said he was pleased with the re­port’s out­come.

“If they drop it (com­pen­sa­tion re­quire­ments) down to par­ity for fire calls for ev­ery­body re­gard­less of pay-grade and that’s non-dis­crim­i­na­tory – that’s good,” Mr Choveaux said.

The com­mit­tee found the LNP’s pro­posed pre­sump­tive leg­is­la­tion also had flaws and would need sig­nif­i­cant re­work­ing.

The gov­ern­ment is not bound to ac­cept the com­mit­tee’s re­port, but Mr Pitt has said he would con­sider re­vis­it­ing the con­tro­ver­sial clause.

Mem­ber for Bur­nett Stephen Ben­nett was happy about the de­ci­sion.

“Af­ter con­tin­u­ing to push for sen­si­ble pol­icy and fund­ing ini­tia­tives to sup­port our ru­ral vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers, I am pleased to see that fi­nally it has been rec­om­mended that these ex­tremely un­work­able and dis­crim­i­na­tory re­forms pro­posed by an out-of-touch La­bor Gov­ern­ment be abol­ished,” Mr Ben­nett said.

“La­bor’s pro­posal was noth­ing more than dis­crim­i­na­tion and an ab­so­lute in­sult to those vol­un­teers who self­lessly put them­selves in harm’s way for our pro­tec­tion.

“It seems a small act to re­pay this sac­ri­fice by en­sur­ing fair work­ers com­pen­sa­tion is in place if a fire­fighter suf­fers from a dis­ease, in­clud­ing can­cers, in the course of their em­ploy­ment.”

The NewsMail also con­tacted Mem­ber for Bund­aberg Leanne Don­ald­son for com­ment.

PHOTOS: JODIE DIXON

SEEK­ING CHANGE: A pro­posed amend­ment to the Work­ers Com­pen­sa­tion Act was re­jected.

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