Rural firies to turn up heat on funding
RURAL firefighters have called on the Newman Government to overhaul their funding and legislation in a scathing submission made as part of a review into Queensland's bushfire operations.
As fires continue to rage down south, the Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland (RFBAQ) - which represents the state's 35,300 volunteer rural firefighters - has put forward more than two dozen recommendations in its submission, released yesterday.
Association president Mike Garrahy has labelled current funding arrangements as "bordering on the immoral", citing the need for rural firies to pay for equipment "out of their own pocket" while claiming the urban Queensland Fire and Rescue Service runs at a surplus.
The association's submission to the Rural Fire Service Review recommends that a State Emergency Fire Controller be appointed to coordinate urban and rural fire response and other agencies.
At the core of the submission is a demand that funding for rural brigades be based on "need and risk", rather than current models which rely in part on vastly-differing council levies on ratepayers, as well as raffles.
"This is the only fire service in the country where your community's safety is directly reflected by your local community's capacity to pay for protection, instead of a model that is based on need and risk," Mr Garrahy writes.
"If this current system were replicated in the Queensland Police Service, there would be no police presence across the majority of Queensland, with the majority of police located in the higher socio-economic areas of Bellbowrie and Ascot.
"To have the (urban) QFRS run at a surplus that equates to over 50% of the total Rural Operations budget when RFB volunteers are paying for equipment out of their own personal pockets shows a complete lack of empathy and understanding of RFB's in Queensland."
Mr Garrahy also pulls no punches on what he calls "co-ordinated and ongoing attacks" by the government on rural fire services - in the form of cutbacks to paid operational staff - since the Newman Government committed to the review at the time of the State Election last March.
A response from the State Government is expected within the next few months.
To see the full RFBAQ submission visit www.rfbaq.org.