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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12218


Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (18:50): Given the fact that I have three metropolitan fire and rescue service stations in my electorate of Cowan, I am very pleased to join in this debate on the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Fair Protection for Firefighters) Bill 2011. I have the greatest respect for the emergency services and the great job that they do for the community. I would like to speak about the work undertaken by the firefighters and the risks they take in order to protect our community. Not only do they have to face deadly fires and the dangerous outcomes that can result from damage to structures caused by fire, heat and water, but they are also responsible for facing chemicals and hazardous substances, the nature of which may not even be known at the time of combating the threat. Added to those overt dangers is the additional hazard of having to wear protective clothing and use breathing equipment for protracted periods as well as work with foams and suppressants necessary to combat the threats. Clearly it is a high-risk employment, and they are not circumstances that other vocations share.

I am very happy to add my voice to this debate and speak about the inclusion in the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 of seven specific cancers relating to firefighter employment with their specified qualifying periods. Those cancers are: primary site brain cancer; primary site bladder cancer; primary site kidney cancer; primary non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; primary leukaemia; primary site breast cancer and primary site testicular cancer. Through this legislation a firefighter, who has achieved the specified qualifying period and has been consequently diagnosed with a specified cancer, then has their employment taken as being a dominant cause of the contraction of the disease. To me it is not right that under these very special and unique employment circumstances a person should have to prove the length of service when so many relevant carcinogenic risks are involved.

I thank my constituents who have contacted me and raised this matter and thank some of them who made contact, although there were more. Thank you to Kelvin Lockwood, Dean Fanderlinden, Ronan Gilmore, Sarah King, Claire Gregory, Michelle Williams, Chris Arter, David Parody, Gillian O'Callaghan and Paul Woodward, who all sent emails to me. I also thank those who sent additional emails in the way of follow-up: Kevin Jolly, James Hunt, Michael Sciaresa, Jason Cuperus, Timothy Jones, Darren Guelfi, Jacqueline Hardingham and Peter Chappell. I personally know Tim Jones from church and also from Kingsway Christian College, where his son, Paul, just became dux for 2011, so I congratulate Paul, and also Tim for his information to me. It is certainly an outstanding family.

As I previously said, I have three fire and rescue service stations located in Cowan: Joondalup, Wangara and Malaga. Four shifts at each station provide 24-hour protection and support to the surrounding areas in the northern and north-eastern suburbs. I previously visited Wangara Station earlier this year and met C shift. I have great confidence in all of these stations and in the members on each of the shifts.

In the last few days I have received further emails regarding additional varieties of cancer that should also be included such as: multiple myeloma; primary site lung cancer in nonsmokers; and primary site prostate, ureter, colorectal and oesophageal cancers. I have not had the opportunity since joining the list of speakers for this debate this morning to ascertain any great detail on these additional cancer types. However, from a look at the Cancer Council of Australia's website, it would seem that more information is required before these forms of cancers could be added. I am not saying that they should not but, given that one in 10 men are diagnosed with colorectal cancer by age 85, the already high frequency does make me feel that a clearer medical link is required. Similarly, the frequency of prostate cancer in men is significant without any known cause. The vocational link is again not clear to me.

I believe that further consideration is warranted of these additional cancers and that in the future such considerations should involve the medical evidence, the causal links to the vocation and how firefighters can be better protected and looked after. It is my understanding that this bill has primary coverage for those employed in the ACT; however, it will be influential for other firefighters around the country. I think the focus on these matters should cause the Fire and Emergency Services Authority in WA to continue to vigorously explore the procedures, the equipment and the exposure to risk factors of all firefighters. The firefighters do a great job for our community, and FESA must examine the processes, procedures and exposures to risk in order to minimise the threat to those who help our community.

I close by again thanking the shift teams at Joondalup, Wangara and Malaga fire and rescue stations for the great job they do.