Federal MPs supportive of firey campaign
Given that fire seasons are starting sooner, running longer and becoming more intense, it makes sense to look for a political solution to assist our firefighting volunteers who are often left struggling to make ends meet after taking extended time away from work to fight bushfires.
Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud said he was profoundly grateful to our firefighters and the businesses that support them.
“I had some sideline discussions about the issue of paid leave at the recent national emergency management ministerial meeting in Adelaide but no state raised it formally,” Mr Littleproud said.
“While there is merit in the idea, state governments have responsibility under the constitution for this issue.
“If however the states bring forward a proposal, the federal government stands ready to facilitate discussions with all states to achieve national consistency if that’s their wish.”
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said the hard work firefighters did when bushfires were threatening lives, homes and property was truly special and their efforts should be commended.
“I’m very happy to look at different ideas about how to better support our volunteer firefighters. They absolutely deserve that consideration by elected politicians,” she said.
“I believe the potential effects that another form of paid leave will have on small and medium sized businesses in regional areas needs to be carefully considered.
Ms Landry said volunteer firefighters often came from regional areas and were either employed by small businesses or run their own business.
She didn’t want to add another version of paid leave and another layer of bureaucracy could have detrimental effects on regional businesses already on the margins.
“The Queensland Government can take the lead and be an example to the rest of the states and territories,” she said.
“It has the constitutional power to make real change on this issue for Queenslanders tomorrow.
“If the Queensland Government is serious about making paid leave a reality for volunteer firefighters, they are more than welcome to approach the Federal Government formally to work constructively towards a positive outcome.”
While Ms Landry welcomed the Federal Opposition’s contribution on this subject, she said they should be lobbying their state and territory colleagues who had the constitutional power to make it a reality.
“The last thing I want is for this issue to turn into a political football, and I am happy to make representation and speak to my parliamentary colleagues on what can be done,” she said.
Minister for Northern Australia Matt Canavan said he was very happy to consider different ideas about how to better support our volunteer firefighters.
“At a meeting of state and territory emergency ministers a few weeks ago, this issue wasn’t formally raised and I understand in informal conversations, ministers agreed that paid leave for volunteer firefighters was the sole responsibility of the state governments,” he said.
“That said, I am of course willing to listen to new views. We must also be conscious of costs that could be incurred by small businesses.”
Senator Canavan said the Federal Government was already playing a considerable part in supporting the national bush firefighting effort.
“State Governments get everything they request from the Commonwealth and there’s a national co-ordinated process for requests to be made for that assistance, whether it might be logistics and support arrangements or whether that’s the ADF’s assistance,” he said.
“This week the Federal Government committed $11 million to boost Australia’s aerial firefighting capabilities, which will see more specialised aircraft in the skies this summer, improving safety around bushfire emergencies.
“That is over and above the $15 million already delivered each year for aerial firefighting. The national aerial firefighting centre has more than 140 aircraft at its disposal to be directed to wherever they are needed.”
He said these aircraft, contracted on behalf of state and territory governments, were supplemented by additional state owned, and state contracted aircraft and other aircraft hired to meet peak demand across Australia.
“In total more than 500 aircraft, provided by over 150 operators, are available for firefighting across Australia,” he said.
“There is immediate financial support for those worst hit by the New South Wales and Queensland Bushfires.
“The Disaster Recovery Payment will provide $1000 for eligible Adults and $400 for eligible Children. And, for those who have lost their income as a direct result of the bushfires, the Government will provide those eligible up to 13 weeks income support via the Disaster Recovery Allowance.”