June 1, 2020
The State Government has extended its controversial Blue Card application deadline for rural firies again … this time until the end of the upcoming fire season.
The processing of current applications has also been paused and suspension notices which have already been issued have been lifted.
Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said on Monday evening firefighters who had been suspended for not applying for a Blue Card would now be able to turn out to fires during the bushfire season.
However, the extension does not apply to QFES employees and volunteers who have applied for a Blue Card but have been rejected.
Mr Crawford said one-on-one meetings would now be held with volunteers who had not applied.
“They will now have until the end of the upcoming bushfire season to apply,” he said.
“It was always the Queensland Government’s intention to hold one-on-one, face-to-face meetings with QFES’ highly-valued volunteers but COVID-19 restrictions put that on hold.
“QFES has been requested by the government to extend the deadline for Blue Card applications to the end of the upcoming bushfire season.
“The end date of a bushfire season can vary based on conditions at the time, but a season generally ends in the first quarter of the calendar year.
“This extension applies to Fire and Rescue Service (FRS), Rural Fire Service (RFS) and State Emergency Service (SES) personnel who still need to apply for their Blue Card.
“QFES will work quickly to finalise the details of, and implement, this instruction from government and communication to staff and volunteers will be a priority.
“In accordance with this government request, QFES will now lift the suspension notices that individuals have received for not applying, and they will now have until the end of the upcoming bushfire season to apply.
“QFES will continue to assist personnel to apply for a Blue Card by the deadline, including providing comprehensive resources explaining the application process and an individual’s responsibilities.
“QFES is pleased that more than 22,500 (83 per cent) of QFES personnel have applied for a Blue Card.
“However, the goal remains 100 per cent and COVID-19 has been a major disruptor to implement the personalised approach fully.
“More time is ideal for reaching full compliance as COVID-19 restrictions ease.
“The extended Blue Card application timeframe does not impact on current Blue Card holders or processes for individuals who, as a result of Blue Card screening, are not eligible to hold a current Blue Card.”
The Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland (RFBAQ) has been campaigning against the compulsory Blue Card rollout since it was mooted last year.
The association, which represents rural firefighters, maintains that as people who apply to join rural fire brigades are already subject to a police check, it would be easy to refuse membership to anyone convicted of an offence against a child.
“A system like this would be easy to introduce, much less costly for the government and achieve the same policy outcomes,” RFBAQ general manager Justin Choveaux said last October.
southburnett.com.au has also spoken to rural firies who say the rollout has created division in some brigades with volunteers who resisted applying for a Blue Card because they believed it was unnecessary red tape arousing suspicion they must have something to hide.
Nearly 13,000 Rural Fire Service volunteers have applied for Blue Cards and just over 12,000 cards have been issued.
The LNP warned last month that almost 5000 rural firies were facing the sack as they had not yet applied.
LNP Shadow Minister Emergency Services Lachlan Millar said on Tuesday the Blue Card rollout had been bungled from the start.
“Craig Crawford must personally apologise to each and every rural fire volunteer over this fiasco and the way he has treated our rural firies,” Mr Millar said.
“Queensland couldn’t afford to have thousands of rural firies hand in their badges in the lead up to bushfire season and Labor pushing back the deadline for a third time is an admission they have botched this whole process.
“Clearly Labor should never have threatened to sack our rural firies.”
Mr Millar said before the Blue Card “backflip”, entire communities and brigades would have been left unmanned.
“In Minister Crawford’s own region in the Far North, 46 per cent of rural fire volunteers had not applied for a Blue Card,” he said.
“The Central and Northern Queensland regions have 34 per cent and the South West region has 33 per cent of volunteers who hadn’t even put their applications in.”