Former Orange firefighter Trevor Eassie has revealed the struggles he has endured after contracting leukaemia at work and not receiving any financial compensation.
Mr Eassie was in the Orange brigade for 32 years until he was diagnosed in 2012 with the life-threatening cancer disease.
He joined firefighters, union officials and the Member for Orange Phil Donato on Monday to call on the state government to make its new compensation laws apply retrospectively.
The government last week approved compensation for firefighters who contract one of 12 cancers from September 27, 2018, but did not support amendments that would have covered all affected firefighters since 2011.
Mr Eassie said it had been tough to leave his job.
“I used up all my sick leave, holiday, long service, while I was with the brigade and then I wasn’t fit enough to do the job so I had to leave,” he said.
“I just didn’t have the energy to do anything. It was something I’ve been doing for so long and enjoyed so it was hard to leave, but our life and family come first.
“When I went on Centrelink you have to use up any funds you’ve got before they’ll pay you and then the payment didn’t even make the house payments but we managed.
We do the work and put our lives on the line and something like this happens and you are out on your own, it is hard.Trevor Eassie, former Orange firefighter
“I had three years on the dole which took some getting used to and I finally got a casual job.”
Mr Eassie said he had expected there would be some help from the government.
“I never even thought really about it, but I thought I would have got some compensation,” he said.
“We do the work and put our lives on the line and something like this happens and you are out on your own, it is hard.”
“It would have made it a lot easier instead of struggling and worrying about you can’t go here or you can’t go there. It does affect you if you haven’t got money.”
He said he was concerned about his future.
“At the moment the leukaemia is in remission but [there is a] high chance it will come back and we’ll have to go through it all again and whether it works next time is another question,” he said.
“It has got a 86 per cent survival rate but there is 14 per cent who don’t make it so it is in the back of your mind all the time.”
VIDEO: FORMER ORANGE FIREFIGHTER TREVOR EASSIE
Mr Donato accused the government of “manipulating the parliament” to block amendments he had supported.
“It’s completely callous of this government to only recognise cancer diagnosed on one day as a work related injury, but not recognise cancer diagnosed on another,” he said.
Mr Donato said the government had suggested retrospective compensation would cost about $1 billion which he said was “scaremongering” as the cost was unsubstantiated.
He said it could be months or years before it was passed.
“The reality is there could be firefighters who die in this time,” he said.
Fire Brigade Employees Union Country representative Tim Anderson said the legislation would hurt many firefighters and their families.
“What this government has done is create two classes of firefighters. That is absolutely terrible,” he said.
“It is an utter act of bastardry, it is the only way I can explain it.”
Finance and Services Minister Victor Dominello said cost was a factor in the government’s decision.
“The cost of unlimited retrospectivity, as proposed by the Opposition, would have a significant impact on the cost of emergency services levies and council rates,” he said.
Mr Dominelli said the goverment’s legislation was in line with the approach taken in other states in Australia.
He said the ‘presumptive legislation’ reversed the onus of proof for firefighters’ compensation claims.
The government will hold an inquiry into the costs of retrospectivity – after next March’s state election.
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