Major changes to the volunteer rural firefighter compensation scheme have been announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Following a series of reports in the Fassifern Guardian, which broke the news that many volunteer rural firefighters would be ineligible for the compensation scheme, the Federal Government has relaxed the eligibility criteria.
Rural firefighters who are primary producers, self employed or work for a small to medium sized business will now be able to claim $200 per day, for any days spent on the fire line beyond the first 10 days, without having to prove loss of income. The compensation payment will be capped at $6,000.
“We have made some improvements to simplify the [compensation] payment,” the Prime Minister said.
“For those particularly working for small businesses, and who are self-employed and are farmers, particularly in drought-affected areas, then that payment was done to recognise the tremendous strain that was being put on them, and particularly in rural and regional communities.
“What we have agreed to do is to speed this process up.
“There will be no substantiation requirement for payments of up to $200 per day. So if you're a farmer and you may not be earning any income at the moment because you're in a drought-affected area, we recognise that farmers earn their income over many seasons and at the moment they're going through some of their most difficult seasons.”
Federal Member for Wright, Scott Buchholz, who has been advocating for a change to the rural firefighter compensation scheme since the Fassifern Guardian broke the story of the difficulties caused by the eligibility criteria, welcomed the changes.
“I commend the Prime Minister on his leadership … these changes make good common sense and will make many of our local volunteer rural firefighters eligible for compensation.”
• Eligibiltiy criteria for claims of $201 to $300 remain the same - income loss will have to be substantiated.