Raising the BARR – Week ending 31 May 2019

Emergency Services – Workers Compensation – and a
15% Fee Coming Your Way

Late last year, literally the last day of Parliament, a new piece of Legislation was passed that will now recognise that firefighters actually do get cancer from the chemicals used in fighting fires.  Disappointingly, NSW was the last state in Australia to do this – with the Commonwealth Government getting the ball rolling way back in 2011.  It is suspected that in the 7 year delay between 2011 and 2018, hundreds of firefighters may have died from work related cancer and received no compensation.

The debate on this new Legislation was quite detailed and lengthy.   Labor proposed some slight changes to the new rule that would allow those firefighters already diagnosed with cancer to be covered for compensation.  The Liberal-National Government voted against the Labor changes in the NSW Lower House, but in the NSW Upper House the Labor changes were supported.  This meant that the debate had to come back to the Lower House where the changes were again refused by the Government.  The Government then sent the matter back to the Upper House for them to re-consider.  On the second debate in the Upper House, the Rev Fred Nile changed his mind and deserted the Labor changes, choosing to vote with the Government instead (refusing access to firefighters already with cancer) and hence, the new Legislation went through in its original form.

Now in all of this backwards and forwards the Liberal-National Government had everyone believing that the changes to the Workers Compensation Scheme, to cover these firefighters, would all be funded by the existing scheme and/or the Government’s own budget.  In the lead up to the March 2019 State Election this was the ongoing message from the Government, by way of silence on the issue.

However, just weeks after the election the Liberal-National Government finally revealed that it would be hitting on local Councils as well as those that pay insurances on cars, homes or contents that would pay for this additional overdue coverage of our firefighters by placing a 15% increase on the Emergency Services Levy.  What this means in real terms is that Councils are scrambling to find thousands and thousands of dollars (each) by cutting staff or proposed projects.  Those who take out insurance should also expect an increased Levy of approximately $100 when they renew their policy.  The Government has sent a bill for $150M to we, the people.

So, somehow, while the Liberal-National Government can find billions and billions of dollars to build a new tunnel or train or stadium, they can’t find the money to properly look after our firefighters without hitting the pockets of taxpayers across the state.  And somehow, after a lengthy debate and several months of time, the Government can’t find the gumption to tell the people the truth…until after the State Election.  I don’t know about you folks, but I am getting to the point where I don’t trust politicians.