By LUKE VOOGT
STATE Shadow Emergency Services Minister Brad Battin brought the debate for firefighters’ rights to Ocean Grove recently, signing a pledge for presumptive legislation.
“Volunteers protect us and we should commit to protecting them,” he said.
Presumptive legislation makes it easier to claim compensation for specific cancers commonly suffered by firefighters.
It presumes the cancer is caused by exposure to chemicals at work, unless proven otherwise.
The pledge comes as the State Government decides how it will implement the legislation – which it promised to deliver this year.
Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett said the government was working through the details.
“Firefighters put their lives on the line to keep Victorians safe and this is about protecting those who protect us,” she said.
Mrs Garrett pointed out that the previous government refused to introduce presumptive legislation.
During the visit on 30 March local firefighters also grilled Mr Battin about why his party didn’t support the policy when in power.
The Liberal MP responded by saying he was on the backbench at the time.
“I was on the record before saying I supported it,” he said.
At the time, he said, the government was waiting on a report on cancer among firefighters.
“We then committed to bringing in presumptive legislation in the next term based on the report,” he said.
Mr Battin criticised the government’s presumptive legislation policy.
He said it was based on the Tasmanian model, which required volunteers to complete a certain amount of service before they were eligible.
He said it should instead adopt the South Australian model, which, he said, treated volunteer and career firefighters the same.
“Many volunteers will never qualify on the Tasmanian model,” he said.
Local firefighter Gavin Fitzgerald said he supported the legislation for volunteers and career firefighters alike.
He said while safety standards had improved dramatically over the last two decades, several former colleagues had been diagnosed with cancer.
“Years ago there was a lot more bravado in relation to firefighting and firefighter safety,” he said.
There is similar legislation in other states covering 12 cancers commonly suffered by firefighters.