Slap in the face

The recent increases to the Emergency Services Levy (ESL) reveal the ugly side of politics.

The State budget measure has delivered millions of dollars to a cash-strapped SA Government with little political pain.

That’s because those affected the most by the removal of the rebate are rural South Australians and the chances of them delivering a rural electorate to a Labor Government are extremely slim.

On the surface making everyone (except concession card holders) pay the full amount on what is effectively a property-based tax sounds equitable.

But not everyone is receiving the same level of service.

If you live in or close to Adelaide your household ESL might have gone up by 50% or even doubled.

It’s a hard hit but most people acknowledge that if their house catches fire, emergency services will turn up in a timely fashion.

As you head into the country areas some farmers have been slugged with ESL increases of up to 1000%.

But when fire threatens their properties, most of them put on their CFS uniforms and go out and fight it themselves or they start up their own farm fire units to do the job.

It’s no wonder volunteers are so angry that certain brigades have resorted to the only protest available to them, withdrawing their labor on Government land.

Now a brigade close to home is joining in the protest.

Echunga CFS Captain Mark Clothier said he and his fellow volunteers were being slugged three times.

They pay their own ESL, they pay for the ESL increases on council properties through their rates and they donate their time for free – which can mean a loss of salary or lost income if they run their own businesses.

The volunteers are also risking their lives and taking away time from their families when they head out to fight fires or manage car crashes.

Making them pay for their own service is a slap in the face.

At the very least a rebate for active emergency services volunteers would be a  demonstration of appreciation.

These CFS volunteers donate their time and risk their lives on an almost daily basis because they care for their communities.

The same cannot be said for the current State Government.