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NSW emergency levy should remain: FBEU

The NSW fire brigade union has slammed moves to change the way emergency services are funded, saying it would simply provide a “free kick” to insurers.

As part of the state budget on Tuesday, the government announced it would be investigating changing the way Fire and Rescue NSW, the NSW Rural Fire Service and the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) are funded.

Currently, almost 74 per cent of the services’ funding comes from an Emergency Services Levy (ESL) imposed on insurance companies, with the rest covered by state and local governments.

It is a system that has “serious weaknesses”, the government said.

“Taxing insurance may lead to non-insurance and under-insurance,” the state government said in its budget papers.

“(It) is also unfair … People who are not insured do not contribute to the ESL but nevertheless receive the same benefits as those who are.”

The announcement was welcomed by the Insurance Council of Australia, which estimates that the levy adds 21 per cent to the premium for a typical NSW home and contents policy and about 36 per cent to business insurance premiums.

“A property-based charge is a fairer and much more efficient way to fund NSW’s emergency services,” CEO Rob Whelan said in a statement.

But the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union (FBEU) Secretary, Jim Casey said any move to shift the funding burden from insurance companies to the broader community would be “vigorously resisted”.

“At a time when the Government is crying poor, we would be alarmed at any move to give the insurance companies a free kick by cutting the fire levy,” Mr Casey said in a statement.

“The Government is already trying to boost the profits of big insurers through changes to workers compensation.

“If they try the same trick with the fire levy, we will fight it tooth and nail.”

The State Government said it would be releasing a discussion paper into the issue by September, with a final decision due at the end of the year.

About Darin Sullivan (1967 Articles)
President of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union and a professional firefighter with more than 25 years’ experience. Father of two daughters, he lives and works on the NSW South Coast, Australia. He is a strong advocate for firefighters and emergency service workers with an interest in mental health issues and caring for those around him. He is a Director on the NSW Fire Brigades Death and Disability Super Fund and works with charities including ‘The Movember Foundation’. As a leader and activist he has long been active in the campaign for action on climate change. Now a Station Commander in the fire and rescue service in NSW and has decades of experience fighting fires, both rural and urban. He is passionate about highlighting the impact climate change is having on fire preparedness and fire behaviour in Australia, and the risks associated with inaction on climate change. Darin is also a spokesperson for the Australian Climate Media Centre.
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