$16m Qld fire levy money used to pay for hotel quarantines

Rural Fire Brigades Assn queries use of levy money for quarantine costs

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The use of $16 million of fire service money levied from Queensland ratepayers to pay for hotel quarantine expenses is being queried by the Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland.

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Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland general manager Justin Choveaux has queried a possible misuse of fire service levies for quarantining people returning from overseas.

Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland general manager Justin Choveaux has queried a possible misuse of fire service levies for quarantining people returning from overseas.

The use of $16 million of fire service money levied from Queensland ratepayers to pay for hotel quarantine expenses is being queried by the Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland.

RFBAQ general manager Justin Choveaux has written to the Queensland Audit Office with his concerns, saying money raised by the fire service levy from Queensland ratepayers was specifically for providing a fire service.

"The commissioner confirmed to me that QFES had been given specific instructions to pay accommodation for members of the public who were in hotels at government expense for a 14-day quarantine period, on the understanding that it would be paid back at some time in the future," he said.

"If it is found that this is not an appropriate way to spend landholders' money that was raised for a purpose I would like to see it returned and spent for its intended purpose; on boots, helmets, training, mop-up units and yellow trucks.

"Fire season is coming and we need the money here and now."

According to a government spokesman, the state government, along with other state and territories, agreed at National Cabinet to cover the cost of accommodation for individuals who need to be quarantined under the direction of the Chief Health Officer.

"Queensland Fire and Emergency Services manage the specialist logistics of bookings as part of their lead role in the state's disaster management framework, however costs will be covered centrally," he said.

Opposition Fire and Emergency Services spokesman Lachlan Millar said reports that more than $16m had been pulled out of QFES's budget was concerning.

"The Emergency Services Levy shouldn't be used fund other services because Labor has cancelled the budget," he said.

"This levy money is for someone at the end of a hose, not to accommodate people off the Ruby Princess.

"And why are they using fire levy money rather than consolidated revenue."

He called on the government to release a full budget so Queenslanders could see where their taxes were going.

"At the moment, there's no way for the public to scrutinise where money is coming from," he said. "Good government should be able to fund these sorts of support services without reducing fire and emergency services funding."

He said the Audit Office would provide a determination.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said that discussions are underway about seeking reimbursement from individuals.

"At a National Cabinet level we have agreed that state governments would pay for that, but now we are looking in the future for people who are returning back from overseas for them to pay that bill," she said. "So there's work happening across jurisdictions about that."

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