Volunteer Firefighters Offered Up To $6000 To Fight Bushfires
Volunteer firefighters will get up to $6000 each in tax-free compensation for those who have lost income to battle bushfires.
The federal government has bowed to pressure to provide payments to those on the fire front this bushfire season, which in NSW has already cost eight lives, as many as 1000 homes and millions of hectares of bushland.
The payments of up to $300 per day will be available to Rural Fire Service NSW volunteers who are self-employed or work for small and medium businesses.
It will be capped at $6000 per person, tax-free.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the payments would be equivalent to 20 days of emergency leave for the eligible volunteers.
The payments will not be means-tested and will start after a minimum of 10 days on duty.
It follows the government's announcement last week that Commonwealth public service volunteers would get at least four weeks of paid leave to fight bushfires under a plan to ensure more "boots on the ground".
MP David Littleproud told reporters on Friday the plan aimed to "acknowledge what firefighters have done, here in NSW and right across the country".
The announcement comes after Victorian MP Darren Chester appeared to break ranks and called for payments to be made to volunteer firefighters on Facebook.
"It’s not logical or sustainable for volunteer firefighting forces to remain unpaid," he wrote.
"On these 'campaign' fires which could take weeks and months to extinguish, it becomes unrealistic to expect volunteers to spend so much time away from their workplace, small business or family farm, without compensation."
Volunteer firefighter Mick James told 10 News First it was likely those who had been on the front line for the past few months would be struggling financially.
"A lot of people obviously have mortgages and bills to pay, and if they're out here fighting fires, they're not making money to pay their bills," he said.
Previously, former prime ministers Paul Keating and John Howard paid volunteers through the Social Security Act (1991), which allows the government to declare a major disaster, and give money to those affected.