Volunteer firefighters feel let down

LOCAL volunteer firefighters have voiced their disapproval of the State Government's new presumptive cancer laws.

Following a lengthy fight to include volunteer firefighters in a bill that would see them compensated should they contract a range of cancers attributed to the nature of their role, the government decided in late November to only include paid or retained firefighters.

Thousands of volunteer firefighters, including brigade members at Naracoorte, have seen the action as disregarding their effort.

"A lot of the volunteers were disappointed when the government announced there would be a policy for the professionals and retained firefighters but not the volunteers," Naracoorte brigade captain Shane Smith said.

"There's no difference, we do the same job be it a house or building or anything like that."

Brigade member Grant Sambell lamented the move.

"Singling out one service isn't right," he said.

Fellow volunteer Jim Reekie said the government wasn't being very community minded, dismissing the volunteers of the CFS who ask for nothing of their community to protect them.

"It's hypocrisy," he said.

Adding to the dismay of the volunteers is the last-minute withdrawal of support by the State Liberals when it came to a vote.

The Liberals and Greens had opposed the bill and fought to include volunteers when it was first brought up but then when it came to vote the Liberals supported the government's amended bill rather than have it lost completely.

Under these amendments only CFS volunteers who attend 35 fires per year for five years, equalling 175 responses, will qualify, which the CFS volunteer association said would effectively exclude 13,000 CFS volunteers.

Local brigade member Malcolm Johnston said while that notion was to protect against every single CFS member, active or not, claiming compensation, it was still flawed.

"There's so many thousand people in the service," he said. "But it's fairly obvious who is active and who is not."

The local brigade members were also angered by the response of the United Firefighter's Union of SA to the situation - which disregarded the volunteers.

Union secretary Greg Northcott celebrated the fact the bill was passed in a statement to members, discounting the efforts of volunteers.

"The Greens and Liberals attempted to argue that all people undertaking firefighting duties, whether professional or not, should be covered by the same laws," he said.

"This argument failed to recognise that it is not simply being exposed to a small number of fire events, but instead sustained exposure on a full-time basis over many years."

The CFS Volunteer's Association said it would not accept the discrimination against members and will continue to fight for the rights of volunteers.

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