Adrian Lozancic, Democrats campaigner
Members of our Rural Fire Service aren’t just volunteers – they’re heroes.
Everyday Australians stepping up for the cause – risking their lives for their town, family and country. Those on the front lines and their families deserve proper financial assistance. We need thousands of professional and paid firefighters in our Rural Fire Service so that we can prevent, defend and combat future fires.
Mr Prime Minister, there’s no price on human life. We know you’re concerned about “economic implications” and whatnot.
But what’s an economy without its farmers, its tourism – its people? If we must go into economic red, it’s better than seeing our skies in red and our homes in flames. To do this right, there will be economic implications.
Talk Less. Spend More.
Thousands of brave men and women on the front lines, are sacrificing sources of income so that they can fight the flames and save their towns. The least we can do to thank them, is to pay them for their struggle. A cap of $6000 per firefighter for the Financial Support Program is too low, for those who have been out there – fighting for months.
That’s $6000 to feed a family, fill up the truck, manage the farm, pay for the electricity, water, clothes – over a period of several months. It’s not enough.
It’s estimated that your initiative, Mr Prime Minister would cost a total of $50 Million this year. That’s not enough. It’s hardly more than a pat-on-the-back
Don’t forget. Never forget that our volunteers have taken out money from their own pockets for fuel, tools and other supplies to fight the fires.
Mr Prime Minister, put it in perspective.
Taxpayers had to fork out $250 Million last year for your pet-project, “Shark-Force One” – your luxury jet.
Get your priorities straight.
You say that you stand for all firefighters but they won’t all get payment. Many will give up trying. NSW’s call for volunteers to Register Interest in the Program is unclear and short on detail of what will be paid to whom. Unfortunately, this scheme puts in more restrictions than opportunities.
In Queensland, Firefighters are only eligible for payments after 10 days. 10 days away from family. 10 days without a job. 10 days risking your life
And how does the state reward heroes? Well they don’t.
If an Australian works extra hours on their day job while fighting fires – those extra hours are deducted from hours eligible for compensation during firefighting. So just because a person fits in an extra shift into their schedule… it’s somehow supposed to reduce the hours they spent firefighting?
Firefighters are only eligible for compensation during working hours. But are firefighters only active from 8 to 4? No.
Your system, Mr Prime Minister requires firefighters to prove a loss of income.
Needless complexity. Needless stress. Retirees get nothing.
Firefighting is work that should be paid for.
Some say volunteers shouldn’t be paid “because it’s in the spirit of volunteering.” Well Mr Prime Minister, what happens when the spirit is exhausted? Remember – right now they’re our only hope.
We can’t just rely on the heroism of everyday Australians – we need more professional firefighters in the Rural Fire Service – so we can better prevent, combat and survive the fires. In NSW, only 911 of a force nearly 80,000 are paid and in a permanent position. More paid personnel will allow us to respond and coordinate responses to emergencies better.
It’s not just personnel, but resources. Build more stations, ship in more trucks and make sure that the government pays for the fuel.
Remember what the people of Corbago told you…
“I’m only shaking your hand if you give more funding to the RFS. So many people here have lost their homes,” – Corbago Resident Zoey. “This is not fair. We are totally forgotten down here. Every single time this area gets a flood or a fire we get nothing”
Mr Prime Minister, Australians want a plan.
A plan that will work.
And here are some ideas;
- Don’t harass our heroes for every last cent! Make the process simpler, expand eligibility and get rid of the red tape.
- Invest in a professional Rural Fire Service. Hire thousands more paid Rural Firefighters.
- Invest in tools, fuel and more trucks
- Change the system and make fire fighting a job because that’s what it is – hard work. Pay them for their hard work
- Invest in effective fire prevention. Listen to Indigenous Australians and learn about looking after country, mosaic burning.
Reward our heroes – don’t starve them for their sacrifice. Protect our forests, protect our homes, save Australia – invest.
Or… just take a second to think about how history will remember you, Scomo.