Arthur Gorrie
Arthur Gorrie

OPINION: Insulting our volunteers

THE first word people in government should say to volunteers is thanks, especially in the dangerous world of rural fire fighting.

These volunteers, thousands of them, are now threatened with dismissal from their unpaid jobs if they do not have a child safety certificate, or Blue Card.

Anyone working with children should have one, obviously. But rural firefighters do not enter burning homes to rescue children. They are not trained to do so and work outside only.

One possible unintended consequence, raised by an insulted volunteer, is the status of interstate crews, called in to help in extreme disaster situations.

They are not required to have Blue Cards and so many probably do not.

Does that mean they will not be allowed to help?

In the same week that Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford marked International Firefighters’ Day with words about respect, his Government is threatening to sack thousands of them ot these volunteers.

It might be paperwork phobia or an understandable annoyance about nitpicking bureaucracy, but volunteers can easily walk away.

I am so old I can remember when fire brigade rules contained the words “common sense.”

They banned alcohol consumption on fire brigade property, for example, but accepted that sometimes the local fire shed is the only community infrastructure around and “common sense” should apply.

Then came the health and safety requirement that fire fighters have a zero alcohol limit.

“That eliminates half my men if the fire happens on a Saturday afternoon when they are having a barbecue,” one near-Gympie First Officer reacted.

Do they just let the fire burn? Would a Blue Card make everyone safer?

Or do we hope for “common sense?”

Gympie Times

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