Volunteer Firefighters To Be Given More Paid Leave To Fight Bushfires
Aussie public servants who volunteer to help battle the bushfires will be entitled to more paid leave off work.
The Prime Minister has issued an order that all public service employees be entitled to a minimum of four weeks of paid emergency services leave per year, to allow volunteers to fight fires without losing money.
The debate over compensation for volunteer firefighters -- such as those with the Rural Fire Service, Country Fire Authority or similar -- has intensified in recent days, with Labor leader Anthony Albanese calling for a system that allows volunteers to battle blazes without suffering a financial hit when they have to miss work.
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It is "the right time" to talk about paying or compensating volunteer firefighters battling bushfires, Victoria's Premier said, as debate ramps up over how to look after those on the frontlines of the national crisis.
Morrison resisted explicitly backing the proposal, while RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has said it would not work.
On Tuesday however, the PM announced that public servants would be given extra leave entitlements from their employer when they choose to volunteer in emergency services.
"I issued a directive to all Commonwealth departments and agencies that will see the full paid leave for emergency services be lifted to a minimum standard of four weeks," Morrison told a press conference in South Australia.
"This will lift emergency services leave to effectively what is the same standard for the defence reservists when they're called out."
This would be in addition to regular annual leave entitlements.
10 daily understands most public service employees -- such as those working in state or federal governments and local councils -- already are entitled to some amount of paid emergency service leave.
Morrison said there would be close to 150,000 Commonwealth employees entitled to take such leave, including those employed by Australia Post, the Australian Federal Police, and defence forces.
Morrison said the announcement was made after stories emerged of some volunteer firefighters using up their annual leave to stay out on the frontlines.
"With bushfire seasons starting earlier, one of the things I’ve heard on the ground is that some people are dipping into their other leave entitlements to stay out there battling blazes," he said in a statement.
It comes after the ANZ Bank announced on Monday it would extend further emergency services leave to its employees. Morrison cited their example in asking more big businesses to do the same.
"I would be calling on, as we've been in contact today with some of the large companies, for them to also work with us on this," he said.
"I acknowledge what ANZ did yesterday, in particular. I thought that that showed great leadership and I commend them for doing that. And we would be looking for more companies to be taking that role on."
The PM said he envisaged a situation where people working in cities could take leave and "relieve those in the country and rural areas".
SA Premier Steven Marshall, standing alongside Morrison, said state public servants already had access to 15 days paid emergency leave and did not commit to matching the Commonwealth scheme in his state -- but said "you can look at issues on a case-by-case basis and we're happy to do that in South Australia."
On Monday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews admitted there may be merit in paying fire volunteers.
"Given the length of fire seasons, given the nature of fire, the intensity we're dealing with, maybe it is the right time to at least think about this," he said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said her government would "leave that door open and we want to make sure the men and women who are saving lives and properties feel supported."
"If there is more we need to do, we will," she said on Monday.