HON MARTIN ALDRIDGE MLC
Member for the Agricultural Region Shadow Minister for Emergency Services; Regional Health; Road Safety; Volunteering; Regional Cities
Greg Cook President
SES Volunteers Association
Dear Mr Cook
GREATER PROTECTIONS FOR EMERGENCY SERVICE VOLUNTEERS
This week, the National Liberal Alliance Opposition has given notice of amendments to the Workers Compensation and Injury Management Bill 2023 to better support fire and emergency service personnel, including volunteers.
Since becoming the Shadow Minister for Emergency Services, I have strongly advocated for the extension of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) presumptive protections to volunteers after they were initially afforded to paramedics in early 2022 and to career firefighters in mid-2023.
To put it simply, volunteers do exactly the same job day-in, day-out as our career staff. Their exposure to traumatic incidents is no less. Those who serve in regional and remote areas of our State are less likely to receive the same support or access to services as those in the metropolitan area or larger cities.
Our amendments will seek to extend in the same terms, the presumptive protection afforded to career staff to volunteers. It is equitable and the right thing to do in protecting those volunteers who selflessly serve our State every single day of the year.
Your Association is most likely aware of the prescribed firefighting diseases that were introduced a decade ago that provide protections for firefighters who contract certain cancers. These were recently expanded by the State Government to include Primary Site Melanoma and Malignant Mesothelioma.
The legislative provisions are contained in the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1998 and are unlikely in my opinion to ever provide protection to SES volunteers due to the legislative provisions and qualifications required to be met.
This is an area worthy of greater exploration, particularly given the recent inclusion of Malignant Mesothelioma. I submit that SES volunteers are equally if not more likely to be exposed to asbestos materials in the course of their duties when compared to firefighters and other first responders.
The same applies with respect to Primary Site Melanoma.
While the Opposition is pleased to move amendments to support WA’s fire and emergency services volunteers, we still have a long road to go to secure these protections
Support from your association is vital to help us deliver real change.
Unless the Minister for Emergency Services and the Minister for Industrial Relations accept these amendments, the WA Labor Government will use their numbers in Parliament to block these changes and deny these important protections for volunteers.
I would encourage your Association to carefully consider our proposed amendments, engage with your membership and hopefully advocate for change.
That advocacy is an important element of our democratic system. Associations like yours are deeply respected by the community and policy makers such as the 95 Members of State Parliament. To put it simply, your voice matters.
With the Parliament embarking on a winter recess at weeks end, the earliest opportunity to debate these amendments will not occur prior to early August when sitting resumes. I invite you to consider our proposal and provide feedback at your earliest convenience.
Should you have questions or would like me to meet with the Association to discuss these reforms further I would be only too happy to assist.
HON MARTIN ALDRIDGE MLC
Member for the Agricultural Region