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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7272

Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (10:56): by leave—I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Fair Protection for Firefighters) Bill 2011 and I am very pleased to join both the member for Melbourne and the member for McMillan in jointly sponsoring the bill. I recently spoke in parliament at greater length about the need to introduce presumptive legislation for Australian firefighters, so today I simply want to reiterate my support for this very important issue and make the point that, while we all very often acknowledge the life-saving work of our firefighters in this place—and we have done it on many occasions—we also need to acknowledge the human cost that their profession bears on their health and wellbeing, as well as the cost to their families.

Presumptive legislation is a legislative instrument which stipulates the health risks directly associated with an occupation by identifying diseases or conditions that have been shown to be hazards associated with that occupation—in this case, the firefighting profession. Presumptive legislation is not without precedents. Presumptive legislation now exists in seven Canadian provinces and some 43 US states. Legislation is also now being considered in Europe. It is therefore time for this parliament to get the ball rolling on this issue and we do so today through the introduction of this private member's bill.

Scientific evidence, through international studies, has shown that there is a visibly higher rate of cancer related illnesses amongst firefighters than amongst the general population. Again, because the member for Melbourne has so compre­hensively referred to the LeMasters study, which forms the basis of the international studies, I will not make any further reference to it. I simply want to make the point that the conditions identified are not an exhaustive list of diseases but rather an evidence based list of those diseases which have been identified to have a direct link with the firefighting profession. The bill identifies the main cancer related illnesses which have disproportionate rates of incidence amongst firefighters when compared with the general population. That is a very important point to make.

This is an important and timely bill relating to a very important profession and I am pleased to be part of a process which brings this issue to the attention of the House. In doing so, I acknowledge the many firefighters who are in the gallery here today, keeping a very close eye on the progress of this bill.