New fire bill causes angst

Rural fire association cautious of changes

By Sonia Isaacs

THE Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland (RFBAQ) say they have been left out of the loop in the drafting of new legislation that will see an overhaul of Queensland’s fire and emergency services.
RFBAQ president, Ian Pike, said the association had been given less than a week to respond to the new legislative changes introduced on March 7.
He said the RFBAQ had been left in the dark over the proposed reforms, saying the amendments were causing angst among brigades.
“The outcome will be that the Rural Fire volunteers are not going to be happy,” he said.
“We are hearing that members are going to park up their trucks and walk away.
“They believe they have lost the respect of the powers to be, as they’ve been left out of the conversation.”
In its submission, the RFBAQ rejected several proposed legislation changes to the Fire and Emergency Sevices Act 1990.
Those include concerns around autonomy of rural fire brigades and assets, incident response protocol, extended commissioner powers and a perceived bias away from volunteer firefighters.
The new bill, will see QFES transition to a new entity – the Queensland Fire Department, with the Rural Fire Service Queensland and Queensland Fire and Rescue as separate and dedicated fire services within the QFD.
The changes follow an independent review of QFES which recommended a suite of departmental reforms including Emergency Services moving under the control of the Queensland Police Service.
In their submission, the RFBAQ called for all amendments to be dismissed ahead of a full legislative rewrite after the state election in October.
Fire Minister, Nikki Boyd, has reassured rural fire brigades that local funds and assets would stay local following legislative change currently being considered through a committee process.
“This Bill contains amendments that will set up the structures for QFD, RFSQ and QFR, support accountability and management of the services and Rural Fire Brigades, and ensure there are legal protections for fire volunteers,” Minister Boyd said.
Craig Young, Group Officer of the Caloundra Rural Fire Brigade Group which includes seven local brigades, including Landsborough, Beerwah, Maleny and Glass House Mountains, said day-to-day operations would largely not be affected by the proposed reforms.
He said there had been a lot of concern raised, particularly by the RFBAQ however he understood many of the concerns to be unfounded.
“There is no doubt the draft legislation can be seen as a little ambiguous, however at a local perspective we don’t share all the same concerns raised by the RFBAQ and we don’t believe the changes will have a detrimental effect on our operations,” he said.
“We see many positives for the Rural Fire Brigades.”