‘Stirring up trouble’: PM, Premier in volunteer fire stoush
QUEENSLAND Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says she is not refusing free cash for volunteer firefighters, who have put their lives on the line battling raging bushfires for months, because of a technicality.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said he'd had a positive conversation with the Premier and accused her ministers of "stirring up trouble".
At the request of the NSW Government, volunteer firefighters in that state were offered up to $6000 tax free from the Federal Government to offset their losses from giving up work to battle the blazes.
Mr Morrison offered to do the same for Queensland, despite not receiving a request from Ms Palaszczuk. But her government is refusing to sign on because it is not a national scheme. Instead, it is being offered to each state individually. One minister claimed it was a "NSW scheme only".
In a statement late last night, Ms Palaszczuk said: "Queensland's volunteer firefighters deserve the same level of federal government support as do other volunteer firefighters across the country."
"I made that clear to the Prime Minister during our phone conversation on Saturday evening," she said.
"Queensland has not refused the offer.
"I will write to the Prime Minister as I have indicated."
Under the arrangement, volunteer firefighters who have been on duty for at least 10 days will be eligible for tax-free payments of up to $300 a day to a maximum of $6000.
The baffling decision comes as the South Australian Government confirmed its volunteers would receive the same financial support as their NSW counterparts and the Victorian Government said it would seek access to the payments.
Mr Morrison said that while the fires have been worse in NSW, volunteers in other states should not be missing out.
"Given the scheme is retrospective for the current fire season, no Queenslander who would be eligible will miss out if the State Government decides to take up the federal offer," he said.
He said he had a positive discussion with Ms Palaszczuk on Saturday night and had been expecting Queensland would sign on as early as Monday.
"It is disappointing that Labor in Queensland are reacting this way after the positive discussion I had with the Premier last night," he said.
Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan claimed Mr Morrison was "only putting the scheme in place for NSW" and it was not a national scheme.
"Quite frankly, I'm sick of this Prime Minister being a Prime Minister for NSW only," he said.
"I think it's an insult to all of those hardworking Queenslanders who are not only out and about fighting fires here in Queensland, but have in the past and in very recent times helped their colleagues in NSW."
State Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has written to the Premier urging her to sign up. "Your delay in making a decision will again delay benefits for these hard-working Queenslanders," she wrote.
Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese welcomed the PM making the money available, but said he had been calling for it since November.