Kristy Muir

Government to work on cancer compo for Gympie firies

THE State Government is expected to negotiate with Gympie's volunteer firefighters about a controversial cancer compensation clause.

The Gympie-Fraser Coast region's 2038 unpaid firies want the government to rethink a proposed amendment to amendment to the Workers' Compensation Act that requires them to attend 150 events - such as fires or floods - over five years before they are eligible for compensation for dormant or hidden disease.

The amendment was introduced to parliament last month and says paid firefighters must attend at least one event in a minimum qualifying period to be eligible.

RELATED: Firefighters need a proper compensation plan, says expert

The volunteer firefighters believe the amendment is discriminatory.

Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Curtis Pitt confirmed the government would consider all suggestions put forward during the public consultation phase which ends at 10am on Monday, August 10.

A public hearing into the issue will be held on Thursday, August 13.

"I have met with volunteer firefighters and I'm very aware of their concerns in relation to the eligibility threshold and how it would be implemented in terms of an individual's burden of proof, but they recognised the need for a threshold to be established," he said.

"I have advised rural firefighters to put their position forward through the parliamentary committee process and I will consider those recommendations."
He also confirmed there would be no sunset clause on applying for the compensation.

"Under Labor's legislation volunteer firefighters may be entitled to a statutory lump sum payment of up to $315,000 in addition to weekly payments and medical benefits," Mr Pitt said.

"This is especially important where a firefighter might have a significantly reduced life expectancy or even die from their contracted disease - circumstances where weekly payments may not enable a firefighter to financially care for their own family without our assistance."

Rural Fire Brigade Association Queensland, which represents the state's 36,000 volunteer firefighters, said the government must treat all firies the same.

"The appropriate number is one (event) in the schedule period - one for fulltime (firefighters), one for part-time (and) one for volunteers," RFBAQ general manager Justin Choveaux said.

"All have lungs and all are equal."

Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg described the 150 events quota as "ridiculous".

"I have rural firefighters in my own electorate of Southern Downs who have told me they wouldn't attend 150 fires in a lifetime but this doesn't lessen their chances of developing certain cancers and it doesn't diminish their selflessness in the protecting our community," he said.

- APN NEWSDESK

 



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