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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Page: 13481

Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (17:57): In addressing the Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave) Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 I note that there is broad industry and union support for the legislation. I, too, am happy to support this bill and associate myself with the minister's remarks. This legislation presents a fair outcome for the people who dedicate their working lives to what is a very tough occupation. I am proud to say not only that coalmining is in my family, with both a brother and a brother-in-law working as miners in the industry, but that my electorate of Dawson also has a substantial part of its population working in the coalmines in the Bowen Basin.

The enduring image of a coalminer with hard hat and blackened face is still a pretty valid stereotype. Although coalminers use different methods today, it can still be a demanding way to earn a living. Today's coalminers still endure long working days; in fact, today's coalminers still endure long working weeks. Today's coalminers endure hard physical work. They often spend many days, weeks or even months away from family and friends. The money is often very good but, unfortunately, too much attention is paid to the monetary rewards and too little attention is given to what coalminers endure—what they forgo, what they miss out on—and what they contribute to our economy and our lifestyle.

Just as the booming coalmines of the Bowen Basin have shaped the national economy, the coalminers who work in those mines have shaped the economies of regions which support the resources industry, like Mackay. Some of the changes to our economy present us with challenges; there is no doubt about that. For most, however, the booming regional economy is very much welcome. It is welcomed by most people, except perhaps for the Greens. If there is one thing the Greens cannot stand it is someone who works hard and makes a good living, and the Greens will stop at nothing to destroy the coalmining industry, other mining industries and all other endeavours that allow hard workers to earn more than a part-time basketweaver would. If the economic vandals in the Greens had their way, a very high proportion of Central and North Queensland residents would be earning less than a part-time basketweaver—a lot less. With such a high percentage of people still employed in the coal industry, the culture of regions like Mackay changes to suit. Lifestyles and families are forced to adjust to the demands of shift work. The demands of working seven days on and seven days off, the demands of working night shifts and rotating rosters are incorporated into how a family lives and how the regional community provides assistance and services to those families. We are blessed to be part of the boom in the Mackay region and in Dawson, but we should keep those issues in mind, as well as the fact that coalmining is demanding work. It is a legitimate occupation, despite what the Greens contend, as is any other type of work in the coalmining industry and the resources sector.

These workers deserve equitable access to long service entitlements. It is important that these workers be entitled to long service leave on the basis of service in the industry rather than service with a particular employer, given the nature of shift and transience within the industry. Under the Howard government, in 1999 an industry scheme was established to support funding of long service leave entitlements. I am pleased to say that this bill ensures continued fair access to long service leave entitlements for workers in the coalmining industry. I commend the bill to the House and am glad that it has bipartisan support.