4 September, 2020
Rural firies burnt by huge funding cut
THE QUEENSLAND Opposition has called on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to reverse the decision to cut a further $7 million from the budget of Queensland’s Rural Fire Brigades.
Member for Gregory and Shadow Minister for Fire and Emergency Services, Lachlan Millar, said the funding cut meant the Palaszczuk government had slashed spending on rural firies by $20 million in the past two years — from $52 million in 2018-19 to $32 million this financial year, or 38 per cent.
Mr Millar said Ms Palaszczuk was using her decision to cancel the State Budget announcement to impose spending cuts by stealth.
“This is a devastating and demoralising blow to our rural firies just as the bushfire season is beginning,” Mr Millar said. “To cut $20 million from our volunteer brigades is reckless beyond belief.
“Just a year ago these men and women were on the frontline of a horrific bushfire season. They were giving their all, and they gave it for nothing,” Mr Millar said.
A Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland spokesperson said truck build numbers had also been slashed from 20 trucks to a meagre 14 trucks, funded by a $4.25 million capital works budget.
“Fire season is here but ministerial and departmental support is not,” the spokesperson said.
“The operating budget for Rural Fire Service Queensland is $32.6 million. This will immediately have $600,000 deducted to fund the slip-on unit and trailer unit build as there is not enough money in the capital works budget to build them.
“This robbing Peter to pay Paul will mean less money is available for training and volunteer support.”
Queensland’s 1400 rural fire brigades comprise more than 33,000 volunteers and cover 93 per cent of the state.
Mr Millar predicted the funding cuts came after the Palaszczuk Government failed to meet its annual hazard reduction targets in the lead-up to the horror 2019-20 bushfire season.
“The Palaszczuk Government completed only 54 per cent of planned burns between 2016 and 2019,” Mr Millar said.
“Queensland also saw a 40 per cent decrease in the number of fire breaks being built, as well as a 45 per cent reduction in bushfire community education.
“All of this comes on top of the botched blue card fiasco, which resulted in Labor sending 4700 termination letters to rural firies threatening their termination.”
Mr Millar said the ongoing saga had resulted in thousands of rural fire brigade volunteers choosing to leave in disgust at how the process was handled.