Firefighter cancer legislation – where are we up to and what happens next?

Monday, 17 Aug 2015

Now with video

Written submissions to the Parliamentary Committee closed on Monday 10th August and a very large number of submissions have been received and you can read them here.

Government Bill that sees volunteers needing to attend 150 fires under the schedule and paid staff attending 1 fire under the schedule.

Private Members Bill that sees all firefighters treated equally and requiring attendance at 1 fire under the schedule

The overwhelming majority of submissions saw the desire for all firefighters to be treated equally.

Firefighter and Rural Fire Brigade support and representative organisations such as the Queensland Auxiliary Firefighters Association (QAFA), Firefighter Cancer Foundation and the RFBAQ stated support for all firefighters equally in their submissions.

The exception to this was the submission from the United Firefighters Union Australia that stated that volunteers should attend 150 fires under the schedule to gain coverage.

On Thursday 13th August the Committee held a hearing in Parliament where the 5 representative organisations were able to supply committee members will further information to support their submissions.

Attending this hearing was –

Mr Steve Bunney - Firefighter Cancer Foundation Australia
Ms Leeha James - Firefighter Cancer Foundation Australia
Mr Justin Choveaux – RFBAQ
Mr Alan Gillespie AFSM – RFBAQ
Mr Peter Marshall – United Firefighters Union Australia
Ms Joanne Watson - United Firefighters Union Australia
Mr John Oliver - United Firefighters Union Queensland
Mr Rodger Sambrooks - Queensland Auxiliary Firefighters Association

In this hearing the United Firefighters Union stated that volunteer firefighters should attend 150 fires under the schedule before accessing coverage.

The other listed organisations stated that all firefighters should be treated equally.

Link to transcript here.

-> Link to video here <-

The RFBAQ states that the position of the United Firefighters Union does not appear to be the position of many of the fulltime or part time firefighters that RFBAQ elected representatives have spoken to. The position of these firefighters is that ‘fire does not discriminate between the colour of your truck, so why would the legislation?’

As fire season is well and truly here, with volunteer firefighters on the yellow trucks and paid firefighters on the red fire trucks out jointly defending their communities; the RFBAQ would like to thank the Firefighter Cancer Foundation Australia and the Queensland Auxiliary Firefighters Association for their support of all firefighters regardless of their pay status.

Where to from here?

There are still 2 Bills regarding firefighter cancer before the Parliamentary Committee.

The Members of Parliament on the Committee are still undertaking hearings on both Bills.

The Committee must provide a report to Parliament by Friday 4th September 2015.

This is when both Bills will move back to Parliament for a second reading.

‘Debate on the second reading is a free ranging debate and may address the principles of the Bill, the portfolio committee’s examination and report and any amendments recommended by the committee.
Proposed amendments during consideration in detail are sometimes foreshadowed in this debate. Also, the Minister might foreshadow amendments when, at the end of the debate, he or she sums up the debate and comments on contributions from other members.’

As both Bills will potentially be referred from committee for debate at the same time, there may be a Cognate debate.

This is the process where all 89 Members of the Queensland Parliament will be able to show their support for all Queensland firefighters and vote for fair and equitable legislation that does not require volunteers to be exposed to a double barrier to access potential compensation.

In the Treasurer’s introductory speech for this legislation he stated that -

‘The threshold introduced by the LNP unjustly denied access to common law rights to many workers permanently injured due to negligence on the part of their employer.’

‘Labor went to the Queensland state election committing to remove the unfair threshold if we were elected to government..’

‘This bill will restore fairness and balance to Queensland’s workers compensation scheme and our democratic process.’

The RFBAQ again calls on all members of Parliament to support a Bill that does not have an unfair threshold for volunteers.

All State MP contact details.

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