Brenda Strong

Bipartisan support likely in firefighter cancer compo battle

THE controversial volunteer firefighter cancer compensation battle will be assigned to the ashes of history by the end of the week.

The LNP told APN Newsdesk a short while ago that it was likely to vote for the ALP's revised Workers Compensation amendment that puts our rural fire brigade members on the same footing as their paid colleagues.

Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Curtis Pitt on Tuesday announced his government would drop the clause requiring Queensland's 35,000-plus volunteer firies attend 150 events - such as fires or floods - over five years before being eligible for dormant or hidden disease compensation.

The Treasurer also confirmed the 10-year limit on making a claim was no longer on the table.

His newly amended bill and the LNP's proposed plan, which had no discriminatory provisions, are set to be debated late tonight or early tomorrow.

The state's MPs are most likely to vote on the issue tomorrow.

Shadow Emergency Services Minister Jarrod Bleijie said he believed Labor and the cross-benchers would vote against his party's proposal.

"I suspect what will happen is if the government gets the majority of the house to support their amendments, then they will ultimately vote against our bill," Mr Bleijie said.

"In that case we (the LNP) would support the omission of the 150 from the government's bill and support the amended bill in that regard.

"Essentially they (Labor) are copying what we had in the house anyway."

Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland general manager Justin Choveaux said the red and yellow army was happy "common sense has prevailed in George Street".

"This has been a long hard slog by the association to achieve this outcome that is beneficial to all firefighters regardless of a firefighter's pay status," Mr Choveaux said.

"We must temper our enthusiasm by always remembering that if you as a firefighter need to access this new coverage, it means that you have contracted cancer and that you will be in the fight of your life.

"This coverage is a way for the state to protect those who give freely of their time to defend their communities."

Mr Pitt adjusted his bill after the Finance and Administration Committee on September 8 recommended the 150 events clause be dropped.

Committee chairwoman Di Farmer told APN Newsdesk at the time that Mr Pitt's amendment lacked scientific evidence such as research showing a link between volunteers and exposure diseases.

She said it would also be a problem because rural brigades did not keep enough data about the events volunteers attended.

"We're saying that there isn't enough science - we did not receive enough evidence to actually justify the threshold of the 150 and a significant problem is record keeping," Ms Farmer said.

"There is a lot of work to be done to ensure that people can actually record their exposures.

"What we do say very strongly is that presumptive legislation like this must have some science behind it."

The committee recommended the State Government appoint a panel of experts to consider each compensation claim.

It also found the LNP's bill had drafting errors and lacked scientific evidence.

- APN NEWSDESK


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