Sledgehammer to crack FIFO nut

08 November 2016

In tabling new laws in parliament today to ban 100 percent fly-in fly-out (FIFO) operations, the Labor Government continues its fixation with punishing the natural resources sector for the approvals given by the previous Bligh Labor government for two new coal mines in the Bowen Basin at the height of the boom, says Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive Michael Roche.

‘While we accept that none of the parties in the Queensland Parliament support future 100 percent 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,’ Mr Roche said.

‘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 Bligh Labor government.

‘It is simply ludicrous to ban 100 percent 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,’ Mr Roche said.

The Bill takes industry into uncharted territory with its anti-discrimination provisions that will apply to mines that have been operating for a number of years with approved workforce arrangements, Mr Roche said.

‘We remain opposed to the retrospective nature of these provisions in the Bill and are concerned about the potential vexatious misuse,’ he said.

‘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.

‘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.

‘The QRC will make a submission to the committee, which presumably will be the same committee that oversaw the original FIFO inquiry,’ Mr Roche said.

QRC will again present to the committee inconvenient facts such as:

• 72% 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;
• The 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 percent of workers from around Queensland regarded their physical and mental health and quality of life as either excellent, very good or good.

*This is what QRC said in its submission on the draft Bill:

To prescribe a population measure of 200 people for the nearby regional community in legislation is also potentially problematic. It is difficult to understand the rationale for such a small population measure to be selected as a town of this size will be severely limited in its capacity to provide labour for a resource project, especially given the skill level that is characteristic of resource sector workers.

As an example, using the latest Queensland population age profile and an unemployment rate of 6.2% (2015-16), in a town of 200 there are likely to be 160 people aged 15 and over, with 104 in the labour force and of those, 6 are likely to be unemployed. Given approximately 60% of Queenslanders have post school qualifications and in view of the skill requirements of the resources sector workforce it is unlikely that anyone would have appropriate skills and be available to be employed by a resources company.

Media contact: Angela Harper or Anthony Donaghy 07 3295 9560