100,000 volunteers fire up and could sway election

A proposed Emergency Volunteer Respect Act would help Queensland's emergency services volunteers keep their communities safe, proponents say.
A proposed Emergency Volunteer Respect Act would help Queensland's emergency services volunteers keep their communities safe, proponents say. Liana Turner

ABOUT 100,000 unpaid life savers will be the big winners under a push for the Queensland Government to improve funding resources and cut red tape for emergency service volunteers.

And if politicians do not support the bill, their voters could change the outcome of the looming state election as lobbying for the roll out of an Emergency Volunteer Respect Act begins.

Queensland is scheduled to go to the polls in 2018, but some commentators suggest the election will be held this year.

The mooted Emergency Volunteer Respect Bill aims to make saving lives a lot easier for the state's massive unpaid army working across rural and regional fire brigades, the State Emergency Service, Surf Life Saving Queensland, Marine Rescue Queensland, the coast guard, St John's Ambulance and the Queensland Ambulance Service.  

Driven by the Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland, the proposal would see three existing pieces of legislation become one, while one government department - instead of three - would be responsible for management of the state's emergency services volunteers.

The RFBAQ lobbies on behalf of the state's 36,000-plus unpaid fire fighters and with the backing of SLSQ, the SES, MRQ, St John's and QAS, a further 64,000 volunteers could mean the difference between Labor, the Coalition or dark horse Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party winning at the polls or holding the balance of power.

RFBAQ general manager Justin Choveaux warned Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk she needed to commit to getting the proposal off the ground or risk losing votes.

Mr Choveaux said Labor, the Liberal National Party, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party, Katter's Australian Party, the Greens and the independents should not under-estimate the volunteer voting power.

"Very rarely in the political landscape is there an opportunity presented to participate in a grassroots, bipartisan, non-politically charged proposal to create new and revolutionary legislation that empowers the people who defend Queensland communities for free,” Mr Choveaux said.

"Emergency volunteers have no single voice at the State Government level, so let's give them one,” he said.

"These same people who defend our community currently don't have the ability to cohesively talk to the Premier and Cabinet about what they need to keep their communities safe.”

The Premier's office would not commit to the plan but a spokesman said the government was willing to have "discussions”.

"The Palaszczuk government has enormous respect for the work done by emergency volunteers across Queensland, especially given our state's all too frequent encounters with natural disasters,” the spokesman said.

"The government has already had some discussions with emergency volunteers representatives and welcomes the opportunity to continue those towards greater acknowledgment for the wonderful service these volunteers provide.”

The LNP is expected to comment on the proposal in the coming days.

Katter's Australian Party, the Greens and Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party did not respond to our request for comment.


Topics:  coast guard qas queensland ambulance service rural fire brigades association of queensland ses slsq state emergency service surf life saving queensland

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