Peregian Fire 23-10
Peregian Fire 23-10

Volunteer fireys threaten to quit over Blue Card fiasco

THE State Government has backed off sacking firefighters without Blue Cards this summer, after entire brigades threatened to quit in protest.

Barely a third of Queensland's rural firies have met the January 1 deadline to get a working-with-children check, forcing Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to grant a three-month amnesty during the worst bushfire season in living memory.

But brave volunteers will be kicked out of rural fire brigades and fined up to $6500 each unless they apply for a Blue Card by March 31.

And Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) will refuse to give new uniforms to volunteers until they have applied.

"The deadline to apply for a Blue Card has been extended (to 31 March) due to the bushfire season,'' a QFES spokesman told The Courier-Mail.

"QFES personnel who refuse to apply for, or are unable to hold a current Blue Card, will not be eligible under law to continue their work, volunteer or undertake a practical placement within regulated roles at QFES.''


Volunteer firefighters must now obtain a Blue Card by March 31 of face being kicked out of brigades.
Volunteer firefighters must now obtain a Blue Card by March 31 of face being kicked out of brigades.


Queensland is the only state that forces fireys to get Blue Cards, based on legal advice that volunteer firefighters provide a "health service''.

The QFES spokesman yesterday said 21,378 volunteers require a Blue Card, yet only 8039 had met the original January 1 deadline to apply.

Twenty-six volunteers had their application rejected due to criminal records for "serious offences'', which can include murder, rape, kidnapping, burglary and supplying dangerous drugs.

Army reservists and interstate volunteers will be granted week-long waivers to fight fires in Queensland, a spokesman for Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said yesterday.

Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland boss Justin Choveaux warned that communities could be left undefended as entire brigades quit in protest against the public service paperwork.

"Whole brigades will close down,'' he said yesterday.

"No one thought this through.

"The plan is to grow volunteers - sacking half of them is not part of that plan.

"The more volunteers there are, the safer communities will be - reducing the number of volunteers to fight fires and carry out hazard reduction burning is going to leave the community more exposed.''



In the north Queensland town of Mareeba, four senior members of the Paddy's Green rural fire brigade (RFB) have quit in protest against the "over-bureaucratic'' requirement.

"These members have nothing to hide, evidenced by having to pass a criminal check at the first instance to become a member of a RFB,'' brigade secretary Kay Eccleshare wrote to the Cairns area director.

Dr Eccleshare said Blue Cards were required for people providing services to children, but the role of firefighters was to protect communities from fire.

The Western Australian Bushfire Volunteers' Association blasted Queensland's Blue Card rule yesterday.

"To suggest that the average fire volunteer needs a Blue Card is the equivalent of arguing that the same requirement should apply to every retail assistant in every local convenience store because they both occasionally interact with children in the course of their work,'' executive officer Darren Brown said.