The state government has introduced legislation to NSW Parliament to make it easier for firefighters to claim compensation for certain types of cancer.
But the opposition has called on the government to support its version of the new law, which shadow emergency services minister Guy Zangari introduced to parliament late last month.
Finance Minister Victor Dominello and Emergency Services Minister Troy Grant released a statement on Wednesday saying the government had tabled legislation that would remove the burden of proof for firefighters with cancer.
They said serving and former firefighters, who met designated employment periods, diagnosed with one of 12 types of cancer would not have to prove their illness was a result of their work.
“Firefighters risk their lives every day to keep the people of NSW safe, and they deserve our complete support,” Mr Dominello said.
“The new legislation, which covers both career and volunteer firefighters, will be effective immediately and make the process of claiming compensation much easier.”
[It] will ensure our firefighters ... promptly receive their entitlements when they need it most.Mal Connellan, FRNSW deputy commissioner.
But Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said the government should have instead worked with Labor’s legislation and put up amendments in order to add to it.
“Labor currently has legislation before the house that the government could support and vote on today,” he said.
“We have done extensive consultation over the last year on this and the government has not done its homework.
“We have worked closely with key stakeholders including unions. The government has been dragged kicking and screaming to these reforms by Labor.”
Leukaemia, brain cancer, non-hodgkin lymphoma, ureter cancer and prostate cancer are among the 12 types included in both the government’s and Labor’s version of the legislation.
Similar laws exist in most other states and there will be no changes to existing workers compensation entitlements for firefighters.
Fire and Rescue NSW and the NSW Rural Fire Service have welcomed the proposed new law.
“The amendments reverse the onus of proof for firefighters and do not impose a limit on accessing the provision post-employment, which will ensure our firefighters, who risk their own life and health to protect the people of NSW, promptly receive their entitlements when they need it most,” FRNSW deputy commissioner Mal Connellan said.
RFS deputy commissioner Rob Rogers said it meant volunteer firefighters would be entitled to the same access to compensation as their counterparts in other states and territories.
“Our firefighters have always taken care of our communities so it’s important we take care of them, and this bill will allow those diagnosed with cancer to concentrate on their treatment and recovery,” deputy commissioner Rogers said.