Federal Government to compensate firefighters as South East blazes continue

Genevieve Jacobs 29 December 2019 41
Volunteer firefighters

Volunteer firefighters will now receive compensation payments for more than ten days of service. Photo: RFS Facebook.

After weeks of mounting pressure, NSW volunteer firefighters will receive compensation payments for loss of income. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced this weekend that volunteers will receive payments of $300 per day, up to $6000 in total if called out for more than 10 days this fire season.

Some firefighters in the South East have been on duty for weeks since the Palerang, Charleys Forest and Currowan fires broke out. The Charleys Forest, Currowan and Deua Valley fires continue to burn today and the RFS is bracing for heatwave conditions this week across the Capital region.

The RFS is dependent on the services of volunteer firefighters, many of whom have now been absent from their employment for the duration of the extended fire crisis, with no end in sight.

Victorian National Party MP Darren Chester broke ranks with the government at the end of last week and joined calls for firefighters to be paid, as community calls also mounted for recognition of the toll on volunteers.

South East fire-fighters

South East fire-fighters have been on duty for weeks as the fire crisis continues. Photo: Lake George RFS.

The Federal Government had previously said that payment decisions were the responsibility of state governments and would be considered in consultation with them after the crisis had passed. Mr Morrison said this weekend’s announcement came as a result of a direct request and consultation with fire chiefs and the NSW Government.

RFS volunteers who are self-employed or working for small or medium businesses can apply for tax-free financial support from the Federal Government to cover lost wages. It will not be means-tested and the NSW Government will administer the payments.

The Federal Government’s expectation is that larger businesses will provide their staff with up to 20 days of emergency services leave for firefighting duties. While the scheme is currently limited to NSW, the focus of the crisis, it could be extended to other jurisdictions if similar conditions occur.

One-off Federal Government payments for volunteers have been authorised in the past by the Keating and Howard governments during previous crises, but the Morrison government has consistently said that management of the bushfire crisis rests with state governments.

Fireboss water bomber

Fireboss water bombers take on three tonnes of water from the Moruya River. Photo: Toby Whitelaw via Facebook.

As of 11:00 am today, the Charleys Forest fire is at control level west of Braidwood but now covers more than 33,000 hectares after growing from the Currowan Fire on its western flank. It is currently burning from Nerriga in the north to Monga Lane in the south and fire crews are focusing on maintaining containment lines and property protection to the north-west and west of Nerriga.

The Deua River Valley fire continues to burn approximately 10 km north-west of Moruya in the Wandera State Forest and Monga National Park. Crews are using heavy plant machinery to strengthen containment lines. Firefighters will be supported by waterbombing aircraft in an attempt to slow the progress of the fire.

Low lying areas around Batemans Bay and Moruya are likely to experience significant smoke impact.

The Currowan fire also continues to burn between Nowra in the north, Braidwood in the west, and Batemans Bay in the south and there has been a significant increase in fire activity south of the Kings Highway to the west of Nelligen. There RFS says that there is still a significant area of uncontained fire to the south of the Kings Highway, west of Nelligen.

To stay up to date on bush fires in your area call the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737 or check the NSW RFS website. For road reports and updates visit Live Traffic NSW.

Use the Register.Find.Unite service to register your location, and find and reunite with family, friends and loved ones after an emergency.

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41 Responses to Federal Government to compensate firefighters as South East blazes continue
HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:26 pm 30 Dec 19

The fact that the volunteer organisation which has been campaigning stridently for such payments responded to this news by expressing worries that the payments might attract “the wrong kind of people” (or words to that effect) makes clear that this is a very difficult issue – which is why previous government of both persuasions have been reluctant, and also why it is a very good idea to leave it to the States and Territories to administer the federally-funded payments.

Karen Feng Karen Feng 3:35 am 30 Dec 19

YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING. i cant believe they have to ask. if it werent for them the economy will be ruins. think about the massive lost of assests.

they shouldn't have to ask.

Mark McEwen Mark McEwen 7:01 pm 29 Dec 19

So.. federal public servants already have that entitlement?

    Kim Rose McIver Kim Rose McIver 7:17 pm 29 Dec 19

    Depends on the agency and what's in the enterprise agreement. Each department is different, but ones I have worked for have community service leave or an equivalent, which could cover disaster relief such as firefighting. Don't quote me, but I think It's usually 2-4 weeks. My understanding was that one of the initial packages was to grant additional community services leave on top of whatever is provided in the ea, but I haven't read the provisions, so can't say for sure.

    Veronika Sain Veronika Sain 3:58 am 30 Dec 19

    In my old work place they had to ask for approval to go and then it was only two weeks I believe. The expectations were people shouldn’t take more time “off” work. The public service isn’t supportive of volunteers.

Mary Pearce Mary Pearce 5:30 pm 29 Dec 19

Elisabeth Rundle would be good if some goes to Steve..

Shayne Borger Shayne Borger 4:37 pm 29 Dec 19

It shouldnt have to be asked for. Once crisis state declared should be automatically paid

    Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 7:27 pm 29 Dec 19

    Shayne Borger what! Leadership?

    From this lot?

    No kicking and screaming to provide bandit governance, the only quick responses are to their donor mates in mining irrigation or developers

Rod Holesgrove Rod Holesgrove 3:58 pm 29 Dec 19

.. and what about doing something serious on climate change and leading a global effort instead of cheating with ‘ credits’ from another scheme. In the long term the main safeguard for firies!

    Stuart Barkley Stuart Barkley 4:59 pm 29 Dec 19

    Do a bit of research on how many fires are started by arsonists, and how many of those are fire fighters. The numbers will not shock you, it will floor you.

    Nora Rovner-New Nora Rovner-New 6:17 pm 29 Dec 19

    Stuart Barkley I've been looking for reliable data for this and can't find any. Do you have a link please?

    Stuart Barkley Stuart Barkley 8:41 am 30 Dec 19

    No link Nora. My brother is a firey based on the central coast. I also have a friend who has just joined fire and rescue based in south west Sydney. Both said “approx” 80% are deliberately lit. My brother was tasked to taree when the fires first started up there over a month ago. One of the big fires there was started by some intellectual giants setting fire to a stolen car. Both also said that of the approx 17000 fire fighters in NSW, over 30% of them are caught lighting fires at some stage. That was the

    Number I struggled to process.

    Nora Rovner-New Nora Rovner-New 8:53 am 30 Dec 19

    Stuart Barkley so horrendous! It's like these "people" are out of some dystopian movie. The scary part is, they're real.

    Dot Willcoxson Dot Willcoxson 4:52 pm 30 Dec 19

    Rod Holesgrove what workable suggestions do you have?

Henry Kivimaki Henry Kivimaki 3:55 pm 29 Dec 19

What an amazing country we still have where volunteers get compensated by their regime !!!! ❤🙏🙏🙏 Can't believe the left want to destroy it and make it into a 3rd world country . They will be forced at gunpoint to fight fires or anything theyre demanded to do and for free if They get their "utopia".

Mark Piper Mark Piper 3:26 pm 29 Dec 19

Don’t forget about the mozzies. Would be hundreds around Braidwood with 1000L tanks on the back of there own utes , Own fuel , own time. Definitely helped save my mum and dads house.

Linda Leavitt Linda Leavitt 3:26 pm 29 Dec 19

Divisive, as usual. Piecemeal approach - should be a national scheme. What about retiree fire fighters, teenagers who study, unemployed? So many holes in this “plan” to which he was dragged kicking and screaming.

    Natalie Grey Natalie Grey 3:46 pm 29 Dec 19

    Linda Leavitt it's not meant to pay people for volunteering. It's meant to compensate them for lost wages. Retirees, students and the unemployed don't count because they would not have been losing a wage.

    Linda Leavitt Linda Leavitt 3:49 pm 29 Dec 19

    Natalie Grey That’s ok then - what they have had to do this season goes well beyond the occasional volunteering. The whole system needs to be reviewed.

    Margaret Gracie Margaret Gracie 5:24 pm 29 Dec 19

    Natalie Grey some students and unemployed have casual or part time work. The point is everyone not just the NSW fire fighters deserve some compensation for the period of time they have given to help their communities and others. We all know volunteers don't expect to be paid. But they also don't expect to give up 3,4,5 months of their lives each year to fight fires.

    Mark Chapman Mark Chapman 6:43 pm 29 Dec 19

    Scotty from Marketing can be relied upon to do the right thing ... if enough pressure is brought to bear ... and kept on so that he doesn't wriggle out.

    Linda Leavitt Linda Leavitt 6:44 pm 29 Dec 19

    Mark Chapman Not sure I’d like to rely on him, in any circumstances.😉

    Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 7:25 pm 29 Dec 19

    Natalie Grey that’s not true

    My son is a student and gave up some casual work oops to do firefighting

    It’s the usual ad hoc divisive and erratic policies approach of this government coming as a thought bubble by kids in the ministers office not experienced policy advisors and analysis of evidence

    Linda Leavitt Linda Leavitt 7:36 pm 29 Dec 19

    Julie Patricia Smith Exactly, and I’m sure the comment ‘Retirees, students and the unemployed don't count ....’ would be like a slap in the face to them. Once these fireys stop running on adrenaline they will be very resentful and angry.

    Mark Dunstone Mark Dunstone 8:30 pm 29 Dec 19

    Linda Leavitt Don't forget women. Around here lots of firies are women who only work in unpaid jobs. .,Clearly they don't count in ScuMo's moral compass....perhaps he was raised by a robot.

    Linda Leavitt Linda Leavitt 8:34 pm 29 Dec 19

    Mark Dunstone So many issues that have not been thought through properly.

    Mark Dunstone Mark Dunstone 8:46 pm 29 Dec 19

    Linda Leavitt Yep that's a problem for this government. ...'thought', they just can't do it.

Greg Newton Greg Newton 3:11 pm 29 Dec 19

What about other volunteers like SES, VRA and Red Cross? Many of them are in the same position and have been supporting RFS since August.

    Peter Drady Dradrach Peter Drady Dradrach 3:31 pm 29 Dec 19

    Greg Newton it's available.

    Kathy Campbell Kathy Campbell 8:54 pm 30 Dec 19

    Greg Newton proud to say that my employer launched 20 days paid leave for all volunteers irrespective of location or organisation. If they are fighting fires or providing volunteerism, they get paid leave.

    Greg Newton Greg Newton 9:20 pm 30 Dec 19

    Kathy Campbell great news.

Jenny Gleeson Jenny Gleeson 2:45 pm 29 Dec 19

Should be a national decision not state!!

Leigh Briggs Leigh Briggs 2:35 pm 29 Dec 19

Scomo trying to desperately regain some face

    Mark Dunstone Mark Dunstone 8:31 pm 29 Dec 19

    Leigh Briggs But stuffing it up as usual for him.

Peter Mills Peter Mills 2:32 pm 29 Dec 19

And what about other states, I know of fires that went on for months in QLD, some began in winter still going in places. So unfair to SA, WA, VIC, QLD.

    Matthew Windebank Matthew Windebank 2:50 pm 29 Dec 19

    Peter Mills from Canberra times

    The NSW government will administer the payments funded by the federal government. Other states and territories will have to apply for the scheme based on their assessment of need and the demands on their volunteer effort."

    David Malcolm David Malcolm 5:02 pm 29 Dec 19

    Peter Mills the other states need to apply for it.

    Peter Mills Peter Mills 5:03 pm 29 Dec 19

    David Malcolm no, that’s not how this is going down, the PM was just dragged kicking and screaming having been shamed everywhere to paying up for other states

    Peter Mills Peter Mills 7:42 pm 29 Dec 19

    Matthew Windebank independent news reports show how it went down, the 'other states' aspect was policy rushed thru on the run hours after social media went wild after the payments statement for NSW vollies decision earlier in the morning, interstate vollies that are fighting fires in nsw and supporters went ape and Morissons spindoctors changed policy/reworded his earlier statements to then include others, dont believe in everything the CT writes.

    Matthew Windebank Matthew Windebank 7:43 pm 29 Dec 19

    Peter Mills don't care how it went down - it happened.

Be Kate Be Kate 2:26 pm 29 Dec 19

Finally, thing is they'll say that it was their idea..good job Australia,we did it.

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