A correspondent has written and said:
I can only assume that your all over the payments for Rural Fire volunteers for lost wages for the National fires however QLD has also added SES Volunteers into the payments. Perhaps this will become a national decision to widen the opportunity for all emergency service volunteers.
The following link from the QLD Government today has the entire process.
I cannot see if there’s been any change in the Commonwealth’s position since the initial announcement (Prime Minister, New Payments to Support NSW Volunteer Firefighters (29 December 2019)). He said (emphasis added):
Volunteer firefighters will receive financial support from the Morrison Government for loss of income, where they have been called out for extended periods of service.
Other State and Territory governments are invited to enter into a similar scheme based on their assessment of need and the demands on their volunteer effort from their own fire seasons. Other requests for assistance will be assessed on their merits.
The web site we have been referred to says ‘Support for QFES Volunteers’. It doesn’t distinguish between rural fire service and SES volunteers.
There are two things that may have happened here. First, Queensland asked the Commonwealth to expand the range of eligible volunteers, or and I think this is more likely, Queensland included SES volunteers as they are all part of the same organisation – Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 (Qld)), hence the reference to QFES, not rural fire service and/or SES volunteers.
Now many will say that this is not the case, that QFES (ss 8-60A) is the paid fire service but distinct from the SES (ss 129-140) and rural fire brigades (ss 79-86). I have however argued elsewhere that there is a difference between the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service, and the overarching organisation of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services – see Rural Fire Brigades as part of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (not Queensland Fire and Emergency Service) (August 6, 2018).
Queensland can say, rightly, that its SES volunteers and volunteer members of the rural fire brigades are all volunteers in a firefighting organisation – the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
A similar argument could be open in South Australia where the SES comes under the umbrella of SAFECOM and the SES and Country Fire Service are both established by the Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005 (SA). I cannot see any details of how SA volunteers are to claim this money so I do not know who the government claims are eligible.
It would be a much harder argument in NSW where there is no overarching Emergency Services Commission, or Commissioner, and the SES is established by the State Emergency Service Act 1989 (NSW) and the Rural Fire Service by the Rural Fires Act (1997).
But maybe the Commonwealth has agreed to allow the extension, or maybe Queensland is paying for SES volunteers out of its own pocket, or maybe they have extended it to the SES and will wait and see if the Commonwealth objects?