Fuming fireys used as unpaid police for border block

 

VOLUNTEER firefighters are blazing at being asked to cover shifts patrolling the controversial Queensland-NSW border block, saying they don't support its closure.

Firies, the heroes of Queensland and Australia's nightmare summer bushfire season, are also smouldering at being asked to do a job they did not sign up for saying they want to help not hinder communities.

Internal emails reveal Gold Coast Rural Fire Service (RFS) has asked members to sign up for six-to-ten-hour shifts at the border this coming weekend, and a "number of weeks to come".

It follows revelations 2730 hours of overtime has been clocked by police deployed to the border.

Volunteer firefighters used as unpaid police for Coolangatta-Tweed border patrol. Picture: Scott Powick
Volunteer firefighters used as unpaid police for Coolangatta-Tweed border patrol. Picture: Scott Powick

The LNP Opposition have also previously blasted 36 bikie-busting Rapid Action Patrol officers - a third of the squad - working the shifts.

It is understood rural fire fighters would be assisting police, doing tasks similar to the State Emergency Service (SES).

One firefighter told the Bulletin the request had "frustrated" members.

"Volunteers would have no authority to block roads when there are no fires. Using the volunteers as unpaid police isn't something you expect when joining brigades," they said.

Another told the Bulletin members were baulking because they didn't believe the blocks were necessary and many were small business owners who didn't support it being closed.

A firefighter told the Bulletin the request had “frustrated” members. Picture:Scott Powick
A firefighter told the Bulletin the request had “frustrated” members. Picture:Scott Powick

"You take time off work or out of your business to keep your community safe. But I can't see too many people being happy about picking up these shifts to stand at a border on a cold night.

"Many will have their own opinions on whether the border needs opening anyway, I imagine they won't volunteer their time.

"It is not as if you are protecting the border from the Russian or Chinese army or Martians, you are protecting it from New South Welshmen and you need them come origin time anyway. They must be getting desperate for labour."

LNP Member for Mudgeeraba Ros Bates said: "Volunteer rural fireys should be on standby ready for bushfire protection and prevention, not being used as Labor's border patrol.

"These are the same rural fireys threatened with the sack only a few months ago.

"My local rural fireys helped out during the bushfire disasters over summer because that's their job, not patrolling the border."

 

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Army personnel have been called in for Coolangatta-Tweed border patrol. Picture:Scott Powick
Army personnel have been called in for Coolangatta-Tweed border patrol. Picture:Scott Powick

One local volunteer said the request wasn't new.

"During council elections we were asked if we would assist at polling stations to keep people apart but we had no authority there either.

"I have no problem with the border because police will be there. When it comes to fireys I think they will get the numbers, but it is going to be tough, I know people will think twice."

Minister Fire and Emergency Services Craig Crawford said Queensland Police Service requested the offer be extended to RFS volunteers.

Since April, SES volunteers had been assisting police at the border.

"RFS and SES personnel who choose to volunteer at the crossings will be aiding with multiple tasks, including site maintenance and providing important information to those crossing the border," Mr Crawford said.

Originally published as Fuming fireys used as unpaid police for border block



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