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Industry body slams FIFO crackdown as excessive

A not-for-profit mining industry association has denounced the Queensland Government’s efforts to ban 100 per cent fly-in fly-out (FIFO) operations across the state.

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) accuses the State Government of being determined to punish the mining sector for receiving regulatory approval from a previous government for two new coal mines in the Bowen Basin during the resource boom time.

“While we accept that none of the parties in the Queensland Parliament support future 100 per cent FIFO operational workforces where there is a nearby regional community, the so-called Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Bill is an excessive response with worrying retrospective elements,” QRC chief executive Michael Roche .

“There is no justification for this sledgehammer approach when, of the nearly 50 operating coal mines in Queensland, there are just two FIFO mines, and those were approved by the State Government. It is simply ludicrous to ban 100 per cent FIFO operations if a proposed new mine is within 100km of a community as tiny as 200 people.

“The minister’s own media release says the ban will apply where ‘a nearby regional community has a capable workforce’ but inexplicably the legislation defines such a community as one of just 200 people. Equally of concern is the implication in the Bill that a daily round trip commute of 200 km, after a 12 hour shift, can be done safely. In fact this is at odds with the Mines department’s own fatigue management guidelines.”

According to the QRC, these new laws would apply to mines that have operated for a number of years with approved workforce arrangements.

“We remain opposed to the retrospective nature of these provisions in the Bill and are concerned about the potential vexatious misuse. QRC accepts that all parties in the Queensland Parliament do not support future 100 percent mining operations where there are nearby towns that have a capable workforce. However, we do not support any retrospective regulatory action against existing mines,” Roche says.

“Just when commodity prices are recovering, more red tape will heap extra costs upon companies, which are doing everything possible to compete globally and employ thousands of Queenslanders. In 2015-16 the natural resources sector was directly and indirectly responsible for one in every five dollars in Queensland’s economy and one in every seven jobs, or worth an estimated $56 billion to the Queensland economy.”

QRC plans to make the following submission to the committee:

  • 72 per cent of the Queensland resources workforce live outside the south east corner, according to the QRC’s latest economic contribution report for 2015-16
  • More than 13,000 businesses based outside the south east corner are suppliers to Queensland resource companies
  • QRC’s latest workforce survey reveals that better than four out of five employees would not change where they live or their accommodation arrangements even if they were given the opportunity
  • The same workforce survey found that four out of five employees also were happy with the standard of employer provided accommodation, while 85 per cent of workers from around Queensland regarded their physical and mental health and quality of life as either excellent, very good or good

However, Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham defended the proposed legislation, claiming it will prevent 100 per cent FIFO operations in new large resource projects where nearby regional community has a capable workforce and require large resource projects to consider locals for employment, ensure competitive local businesses have the opportunity to win contracts and be part of the project’s supply chain. The new laws are also promised to help protect resource worker health and wellbeing.

“It is only right that local workers get an opportunity to be considered for these jobs and are not discriminated against because they are local residents,” Lynham says.

“They should be allowed to live in the local community if they so choose.”

The requirements will apply to all large resource projects 100km or less from a regional centre. The Office of the Queensland Coordinator-General will have the power to set, monitor and enforce the conditions on new large resource projects through their environmental impact statements, which will need to comprehensively assess social impacts.

Proposed laws will make it an offence to advertise positions in a way that prohibits residents from nearby regional communities from applying.

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