Craig Warhurst

Volunteers fire up over cancer bill push

VOLUNTEER fire fighters  across Queensland are burning mad over the State Government's plans to change the Worker's Compensation Act.

The Rural Fire Brigades Association is irate that its members will have to attend 150 blazes before they are eligible for fire-related cancer compensation.

However, Industrial Relations Minister Curtis Pitt said his amendments to the Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, introduced to Parliament this week, the changes would mean peace of mind for paid and unpaid firies.

The RFBAQ is outraged at section 36d of the amended bill which says:" if the person was a volunteer firefighter for any period of the person's employment … has attended at least 150 exposure incidents."

Paid firies will not have to attend a minimum set of incidents.

Brigade general manager Justin Choveaux said the government was discriminating against the tens of thousands of regional and rural Queenslanders who put their lives on the line for their communities.

"Smoke does not discriminate between the colour of your truck or you pay status so why does the Government?" he said.

"We raise money to build our own fire stations, we raise money to buy tyres for the trucks and fuel to go in them.

"We give our own time to train and do hazard reduction burning and then for free we respond, sometimes a great personal hazard, to defend our communities for danger.

"And this is the support we get from the Government."

Mr Pitt said the amendments showed his government was concerned about volunteer firies.

"Firefighters are essential to the safety and peace of mind Queenslanders and they can always count on the Palaszczuk Government's support," Mr Pitt said.

"Our amendments will ensure local firefighters who get sick after fighting house fires or containing grass fires will not have the burden of proving that their cancer is the result of their firefighting work.

"Critically, this means they will get access to their compensation benefits in a more timely fashion."

The LNP has tabled a presumptive legislation bill that would ensure all fire fighters are compensated regardless of the number of blazes they attend.


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