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About Time: Scott Morrison Has Announced Payments For Volunteer Firefighters In NSW 

The scheme offers up to $6000 in compensation to volunteer firies who have been called out for more than ten days this fire season.

Australian bushfires, climate denial, nsw fires

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed a payment scheme for volunteer firefighters in NSW, as bushfires continue to rage across the state, the ABC writes.

“While I know RFS volunteers don’t seek payment for their service, I don’t want to see volunteers or their families unable to pay bills or struggle financially as a result of the selfless contribution they are making,” Morrison said this morning.

“This is not about paying volunteers. It is about sustaining our volunteer efforts by protecting them from financial loss.”

Firies could be entitled to up to $300 a day, to a total of $6000. The payments, available by the end of January, will be tax-free and not means-tested. They will be only be available to volunteers who have been called out for more than ten days this fire season, and who are self-employed or work for small- to medium-sized businesses.

Morrison said that it is expected that larger companies will provide 20 days of emergency services leave to their employees.

On Christmas Eve, the Federal Government offered four extra weeks of paid leave to government-employed volunteer firefighters.

The Prime Minister emphasised that other states and territories can seek a similar scheme if needed. Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese has already called for volunteer firies from all states to be able to access compensation.

“What about the South Australians and Victorians who’ve given up more than ten days travelling across at their own expense into New South Wales to fight fires, travelling to Queensland?” Albanese asked.

The move from Morrison sees the Government bow to concerted pressure from the Opposition. Albanese has been calling for firies to be compensated with tax breaks, one-off payments or special leave entitlements since earlier this month.

“We need to do more to make sure that people aren’t out of pocket, that they’re not in a position of choosing whether to go out on another run, or whether to have to go to work and provide for their family,” said Albanese.

On Friday, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said that Morrison had been discussing the issue of financial support for volunteer firefighters with state leaders.

The announcement today comes after Nationals MP and Minister for Veterans Darren Chester stressed last week that “it’s not logical or sustainable for volunteer firefighting forces to remain unpaid”.

“[W]e need to pay volunteers exactly the same as State Government employees for attendance at these long-term bushfire events.”

Interested in your thoughts…As a Federal Government, we pay our Australian Defence Force reserves to maintain a…

Posted by Darren Chester on Saturday, 21 December 2019

As of Saturday morning, more than 70 fires burned across the state, The Guardian reports. Fire warnings are also in place in South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria.

The remaining dates for Falls Festival in Victoria’s Lorne were cancelled this morning due to extreme weather risks.