Firies Urged To Fight On After Legislation Rammed Through

Rural fire brigade members dismayed and betrayed at the radical overhaul of Queensland's disaster and emergency management framework rammed through Parliament on Thursday, have been urged to fight on for a workable solution.

Overriding a Palaszczuk government promise in October 2022 to establish a Rural Fire Service as a separate entity, the Miles government this week succeeded in bringing in laws that create a single fire service, encompassing Queensland Fire and Rescue and the Rural Fire Service.

The plan was rejected by the Rural Fire Brigade Association of Queensland as a bureaucratic power grab, and was opposed by all except government MPs, who had the numbers in parliament to bring in the changes.

The state government has described it as helping create a stronger, more resilient Queensland, saying that incorporating rural brigades and their volunteer members as a service within the Queensland Fire Department will address any ambiguity about the roles and legal status of brigades, and reduce concerns about brigade members being exposed to personal liability when performing functions on behalf of the brigade.

Mirani One Nation MP Stephen Andrew said members of the Clairview brigade in his area were considering resigning in the wake of the outcome.

He said it went against every principle of good governance for the government to be "strong-arming such controversial legislation through in the face of widespread disagreement over changes that will have a substantial impact on RFS management, funding and operational independence".

Maiwar Greens MP Michael Berkman also spoke against the changes, saying there were legitimate concerns about the operational structures proposed in the rearrangement under the bills, "not least of all the kind of top-down, almost quasi-militaristic structures that are proposed".

"I note specifically the RFS concerns about bringing volunteer-based organization's - these really grassroots, bottom-up organization's - under this kind of new proposed scheme and under the control of a bureaucracy that has little or no experience or understanding of the volunteer experience and the volunteer management in the fashion that it occurs in the RFS.

"The overhaul reflects a growing trend in Queensland towards the greater centralization of power and control in the state government and away from the decentralized groups with their own independent, community-based, decision-making processes."

RFBAQ president Ian Pike said his members expected Thursday's outcome given the government's parliamentary majority, and they would now be pushing hard for an independent rural fire service in the lead-up to the October state election, calling on all parties to support them.

"We'll be doing everything we can to support our brigades going forward," he said.

"We hope brigades will stay because it's my view that we have to stick together and fight on.

"When members leave a brigade, it brings in uncertainty and the community loses faith."

Opposition fire and emergency spokesperson Dale Last said rural Queensland couldn't afford to have rural volunteers leave because they performed a critical role.

"It is causing a fair bit of angst," he said. "These people are volunteers - if we can't give them support they'll walk."

Mr Last said the LNP would continue its consultation with the RFBAQ, and its policy on the issue would reflect that.

He added his criticism to others on the government's consultative and legislative process, saying 13 MPs weren't given the chance to debate the four bills combined in the legislation, including Gympie MP Tony Perrett, Gregory MP Lachlan Millar, and Southern Downs MP James Lister.

"The government has got a job in front of it now - there are issues not resolved, around brigade funds, assets, incident command and control, and training."

Mr Pike said it would be "really clunky" and dismissed the government's assertions of more personnel.

"I don't think you'll see more boots on the ground," he said. "The devil will be in the detail."

He cited an example of volunteers at Blackall, who's regional, district and area offices would be situated at Maryborough, on the coast.

According to a government media release, record support has been provided for state's local community disaster and emergency response volunteers, offering more resources, vehicles, critical safety equipment and protections for SES, marine rescue and rural fire service volunteers.

"The Miles government has committed funding of $578 million over five years for more resources, more personnel, more equipment and better frontline services to keep Queenslanders safe in the face of disaster.

"This includes an uplift of almost 500 additional emergency services staff."

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  • Guy Hickey
    commented 2024-05-12 21:36:26 +1000
    I’ve highlighted crimes (yes, crimes in both the moral and legal sense) committed by QFES management. QFES and Labor Queensland buried the crimes and persecuted the volunteers that reported them. We used to have 44,000 volunteers – we now have 26,000. QFES is the most sinister organisation I’ve ever encountered, managed by lairs and ruthless power grabbers. Guy Hickey – Former 1st Officer Macleay Island Rural Fire Brigade.
  • One Nation
    published this page in News 2024-05-03 17:37:52 +1000