Support for army reserve model in bushfire response

Pay for volunteer firefighters and disaster taxes on fossil fuel companies are among the "bold and ambitious" policies Australians want for dealing with climate emergencies, research reveals.

A poll by the Australia Institute think tank showed 85 per cent of Australians support better conditions for volunteer firefighters under the army reserves model.

Army reserves receive pay, tax incentives, medical support and employee protections, while working conditions vary across state and territory volunteer fire agencies.

The survey of 1002 people showed 90 per cent supported more funding for emergency equipment, and 83 per cent backed increased help for disaster-affected communities.

More than half of respondents - 52 per cent - supported a tax for fossil fuel companies to pay for climate disasters.

Firefighter at a blaze in Bilpin.
The Australia Institute says voters want significant changes in the face of worsening disasters.

Matthew Ryan, a climate and energy researcher at the institute, said voters wanted significant changes in the face of worsening disasters.

"Our research shows the Labor government, as they're reviewing emergency management, really needs to be bold, they need to be ambitious," Dr Ryan told AAP.

"They need to take this seriously and not just go for the low-hanging fruit, but to look for serious structural change."

The home affairs department is reviewing emergency response capabilities, after a report found the defence force cannot be a domestic recovery agency while also protecting national interests.

The defence strategic review found the ADF should be the "force of last resort" for domestic aid.

The government's emergency management review discussion paper said 80 per cent of Australians had experienced some form of disaster since 2019.

There were damaging cyclones, floods and storms in every month of 2022, and the scale and intensity of disasters was set to worsen in coming decades.

NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers near Colinton in 2020.
Volunteer numbers are declining and researchers say higher living costs could worsen that trend.

"Australia also expects to face a future punctuated by more complex crises – particularly crises that occur at the same time or directly after one another," the document said.

But the number of volunteers has been declining since 2015 in a trend that could be compounded by higher costs of living, Dr Ryan said.

"If there's a bushfire in another state, and you're being asked to travel there for a week or two, a lot of people don't have access to paid leave when they take those deployments.

"If you're a small business owner or you run a farm, then that's material lost income that is a serious barrier to our capability for dealing with these big protracted fires."

Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt has previously said an army reserves model could be one way to enlist more firefighters.

Establishing a semi-professional model was another option, Senator Watt told ABC's Insiders in September.

"We are facing a difficult changing climate and we need to be ready and we need to think differently."

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store