Rural firies must fight 30 fires each year to get care
JOHN Massurit has been putting his life on the line for our community for eight years.
All the Captain Creek Rural Fire Brigade first officer asks in return is a guarantee that he will be cared for if he gets sick as a result of battling fires.
Research shows that as a firefighter, Mr Massurit is at higher risk of cancer than non-firefighters.
Despite the risk, the 48-year-old and the rest of the Gladstone region's 1773 unpaid firies will continue to respond to natural disasters.
The local yellow army attended 1025 fires in the past 12 months.
Mr Massurit is among more than 36,000 unpaid Queensland firies lobbying Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Curtis Pitt to rethink a small clause in the Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill that was introduced to Parliament earlier this month.
The clause means unpaid firefighters will have to attend 150 fires over five years before they are eligible for dormant or hidden fire-related cancer compensation.
They will only have 10 years to make a claim.
Their paid colleagues have lifetime cover for cancer and they will only have to attend one fire to be eligible for compensation.
Mr Massurit juggles running his farm and pool building business with volunteering for the local brigade.
But the father of three would not change a thing.
"I joined the brigade to help the community," he said.
Mr Massurit urged the government to put volunteer firefighters on an equal footing with their paid colleagues.
"This is crucial (because) we deal with same risks and exposures," he said.
"We (rural fire brigades) have to be anti-discriminatory in all of our operations so why should we be discriminated against because we are cheap labour? Be fair and equal to all emergency workers including the free ones."
Mr Pitt said the amendment was not about saving money.
"It's about ensuring sick firefighters who contract potentially deadly illnesses through their work receive the compensation they deserve in a timely and equitable fashion," he said.
"The Government is open to considering the views that key stakeholders like the Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland have.
"This includes any additional data or research that volunteers have on their exposure risk relative to permanent and auxiliary firefighters."
The government is also considering the LNP's Protecting Firefighters Bill, which would see all firies needing to only attend one blaze to earn compensation.
Emergency services shadow minister Jarrod Bleijie said Mr Pitt's proposal was "unfair".
"All firefighters should receive the same protection, irrespective of pay status or the colour of the fire engine," Mr Bleijie said.
- APN NEWSDESK
HOT UNDER THE COLLAR
Queensland volunteer firefighters are outraged over a photo of a NSW firefighter used on a State Government department flier promoting this state's cancer compensation changes.
The flier, which provides some information on the government's Worker's Compensation amendments, was sent out to 36,000 unpaid firies on Friday by a QFES staffer.
The State Government wants to change the Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill to ensure paid and volunteer firefighters have access to compensation for late-onset cancers caused during their duties.
To be eligible, volunteer firefighters will have to attend 150 fires in five years and they will only have 10 years to claim compensation.
Paid firefighters have only to attend one fire and there will be no time limit on their claim.