CONCERNS: Cancer risks from exposure to smoke and chemicals and compensation claims were top priorities for the region’s Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland members.
CONCERNS: Cancer risks from exposure to smoke and chemicals and compensation claims were top priorities for the region’s Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland members. Gerard Walsh

Rural firies fight fires and fairness in 2015

WARWICK'S volunteer firefighters take grave risks and they are hoping Queensland election candidates will do the same.

Changes to legislation and fairer distribution of levies top the 2015 poll wish list of the Warwick-Toowoomba region's 4496 Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland members.

RFBAQ general manager Justin Choveaux said his organisation contacted every political party in the state to help them formulate policies that would benefit the organisation's members.

He said cancer risks from exposure to smoke and chemicals and compensation claims were top priorities.

"Firefighters are more at risk of getting some cancer than the rest of the general population because of the work they do," he said.

Mr Choveaux said there was legislation at a federal level and in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania protecting the financial needs of volunteers who developed cancer through firefighting.

"Presumptive legislation means that firefighters can access workers' compensation easier and quicker when they are diagnosed without needing to prove that employment caused the cancer," he said.

"Firefighters in Queensland, where there is no presumptive legislation, can still claim compensation if they develop cancer but it is decided like any other claim for workers' compensation and the firefighter needs to prove the entitlement."

Mr Choveaux also said a change in levy distribution would benefit local brigades.

He said, under the existing system, not all brigades had assured financial support, with almost 1000 of the 1400 brigades in Queensland receiving no financial support.

"The RFBAQ sees the Emergency Management, Fire and Rescue Levy as an opportunity for the State Government to put in place an assured, ongoing, reasonable and rational way of supporting all volunteer fire brigades across Queensland," he said.

A spokesman for Fire and Emergency Services Minister Jack Dempsey said the government planned to improve rural brigades.

"Funding is at record levels and we're investing in new trucks and new fire stations to support the great work of our firefighters," he said.

Wish list

What the Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland wants from the 2015 Queensland election.

  • Volunteers included as fire service officers under Queensland Fire and Emergency Services legislation.
  • Emergency management fire and rescue levy distributed to brigades.
  • Law changes without discriminatory qualifying and attendance prerequisites for firefighters.
  • Putting in place the Malone Review recommendations for Rural Fire Service Queensland.
  • Clear definitions for the legal status of brigades.


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