Hardworking Rural Fire Service Queensland (RFSQ) volunteers across Traeger could be disqualified from their roles within months as the Queensland Government’s mandatory Blue Cards deadline looms, State KAP Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter has warned.
Queensland Fire and Emergency (QFES) Services had originally given the rural volunteers until December 31 to comply with a State Government ruling that classes them as “health workers”, and required them all to acquire Blue Cards to continue in their roles.
Amidst the public outrage that ensued, an extension has been granted until March 31, 2020. All QFES, State Emergency Service (SES) and RFSQ personnel will need to obtain a Blue Card by this time.
However the Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland (RFBAQ) remains frustrated by the demands, with general manager Justin Choveaux concerned non-compliance will lead to an overall regression in Queensland’s rural fire fighting capability.1
This would be a crisis of epic proportions, given the grave fire danger the state has faced in recent months and is likely to continue to face in future.
Mr Katter said the government’s latest move against volunteers was at best a misguided attack on those who put themselves on the line to help their fellow Queenslanders.
He said all KAP MPs offices have been in receipt of complaints about the new rules, with RFSQ members describing feeling as though they were treated like criminals by the State Government.
“The Blue Cards system is admirable in its aim of keeping children in our state safe – no one would ever argue against this purpose,” he said.
“But the system itself over-reaches.
“More than that, these volunteers are fighting fires and saving property and lives – they are unlikely to come into close contact with children.”
A passionate KAP Member for Hill Shane Knuth spoke in the Queensland Parliament during the last sitting week of the year on behalf of the 22,000 rural firies who have been battling severe fires for years, saving lives and properties while risking their own lives.
“They do this without pay, fighting fires to the point of dehydration and exhaustion,” Mr Knuth said in the House.
“And what does the government do? They deliver a back hand and force our firies, many of whom have been with the service for decades, to apply for a Blue Card or be expelled.
“This has been poorly thought out with only 5,300 rural firies, out of 22,000 completing paperwork since July of this year”.
All KAP MPs will continue lobbying against the changes, in the interest of ensuring Queensland’s volunteer disaster response services remain at their full capacity.
1 Beef Central, “Blue card requirement for rural fire fighters sparks outrage”, November 29, 2019, https://www.beefcentral.com/news/blue-card-requirement-for-rural-fire-fighters-sparks-outrage/