Government employees fighting this season’s devastating bushfires will have their paid volunteer leave allowance boosted.
The Prime Minister and Minister for the Public Service said he had directed all Commonwealth public service leaders to permanently offer at least 20 working days paid leave, or 28 calendar days, for volunteers aiding with firefighting efforts. And for additional leave to then be provided as when needed.
“We’re helping get more boots on the ground and giving people who’ve been out there for weeks some relief,” the Prime Minister said.
“With bushfire seasons starting earlier, one of the things I’ve heard on the ground is that some people are dipping into their other leave entitlements to stay out there battling blazes. Today’s announcement is about ensuring our volunteer firefighters can keep focused on the job at hand.
“We’ve also already deployed our Defence Forces to assist with logistics, fire mapping and even meals and accommodation, already nearly $23 million in disaster recovery payments has flowed to affected families and businesses with more to come, and we’ve boosted our support for waterbombing planes and helicopters by $11 million.
“My Ministers and I are in constant contact with our state and territory counterparts and fire chiefs and we stand ready to deliver whatever extra help they ask of us.”
The change to volunteer leave entitlements for Commonwealth public servants brings those contracts into line with the arrangements offered for Australian Defence Force reservists.
“We’ll do everything in our power to ensure these fireys have the resources and support they need,” the Prime Minister said.
“Once again I’d also like to thank the many businesses – small and large – and the state and territory bureaucracies who have been so generous giving time off to our volunteer fireys.
“We call on other large employers to follow our lead and we commend those who have already put in place more generous volunteer leave arrangements. We know this does not address the situation for self-employed and small businesses directly, but it does mean those working for larger organisations can step in and take some of the load from those volunteers who work for themselves or small businesses.
“This comes on top of existing Commonwealth disaster relief support, both direct and through the states, supporting families, businesses and primary producers impacted by the fires.
“The current contracts for our Commonwealth employees have ad hoc volunteer leave entitlements but this direction brings that up to a consistent standard and one that we offer ADF reservists.
“Our brigades in metro areas are working right across the fire fronts in non-metro areas and this will give them greater capability to deploy and meet the demand and provide relief to some of those very tired firefighters.”