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A fair share -

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A fair share

Broadcast: 26/10/2010

Reporter: Kirrin McKechnie

One small mining community in Central Queensland is fighting to see their share of investment and
support from the town's booming coal industry. Owners of a proposed coal mine in Moranbah want a
100 per cent fly in fly out workforce, but locals fear it will mean the community will be left
behind.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: They're at the heart of Australia's mining boom but many small mining
communities say that with inadequate infrastructure, they're not seeing their share of the wealth
they generate.

In Queensland, the union movement has appointed a Mining Communities Advocate to help the State's
coal towns get a better deal.

They fear unless they act now they'll end up like mining towns in Western Australia where the
widespread use of fly in, fly out workers has left some remote communities struggling.

Kirrin Mckechnie reports from Queensland's coalfields.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE, REPORTER: Moranbah in central Queensland is one of the State's largest coal
mining communities. The town was created in the early 70s, specifically to service the mines.

Almost all of its 10,000 residents are in some way tied to the industry.

COMMUNITY MEMBER (at meeting): We're here because we love the community, not because we're in mines
and I think that people need to understand it's not just miners here fighting for this.

(applause)

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: Now locals have picked a fight with the region's biggest employer and Australia's
largest coal miner - BMA, the BHP Billiton/Mitsubishi alliance.

The company wants to construct a new mine at Moranbah called Cavill Ridge and is proposing a 100
per cent fly in, fly out work force.

KELLY VEA VEA, MORANBAH ACTION GROUP: This is happening on our doorstep.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: Kelly Vea Vea is the Chairman of the Moranbah Action Group. Tonight she has
rallied a crowd of several hundred locals worried about the impact the BMA proposal will have on
their community.

KELLY VEA VEA: A hundred per cent fly-in, fly out, it doesn't support our local businesses. It
doesn't acknowledge the needs of creating a sustainable community.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: The problem is Moranbah, like so many mining towns, has a severe housing
shortage. Modest homes have capital city price tags and rents can be astronomical.

Kelly Vea Vea believes mining companies have a responsibility to provide housing.

KELLY VEA VEA: For a company that's profiting $23.5 billion this year, I really don't think it's
too much to provide options for workers.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: BMA's Steve Rae insists the company is doing its bit. Last year it invested $16
million into Moranbah.

While most of the mines in the region have some fly in, fly out workers, he says this time BMA has
little choice but to source its entire work force from outside the region.

STEVE RAE, BILLLITON MITSUBISHI ALLIANCE: We really do have a skills shortage. And if we're going
to actually get the people and the skills that we need for Cavill Ridge then we're going to need to
look further afield for our labour than Moranbah and central Queensland.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: He says the company has asked its work force what it wants and that's fly in, fly
out contracts.

STEVE RAE: It gives people who might want to reside in south east Queensland, for example, the
opportunity to live and work in these coal producing areas. So we believe it actually enhances
choice.

JIM PEARCE, MINING COMMUNITIES ADVOCATE: That's absolutely bullshit because I've had phone calls
from 11 young fellas in the last week saying 'Good on ya, Jim, you keep going. I don't want to you
mention my name or where I work but we can't get a house to live in the community where we work'.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: Jim Pearce is a former coal miner and one time Queensland Labor MP. He has a new
job as Mining Communities Advocate, a role funded by the mining union, the CFMEU.

SHOP OWNER: I've been in business here since 1986, and... they don't spend any money with me, mate.

JIM PEARCE: Yeah?

The people who live here dedicate their lives to this community and work in the mines locally are
just saying 'Look, we've had enough of this. The coal industry is just booming, and yet the
communities are staying idle'.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: Nowhere more so than in Western Australia.

According to Curtin University economist Fiona Haslam McKenzie, who's done extensive research on
fly in, fly out operations.

This year, more than 15,000 workers were flown into the Pilbara. That's the equivalent of a third
of the mining region's permanent resident population. She says the practice has been destructive.

PROFESSOR FIONA HASLAN MCKENZIE, CURTIN UNIVERSITY: Our research showed that communities such as
Karratha and communities around Karratha, where there is a large proportion of fly in, fly out, you
have all sorts of challenges that are not easily solved.

People move in, move out, don't have any sense of place, any sense of community.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: It's that lack of community that Moranbah social worker Angela Tudehope says puts
the emotional welfare of miners at risk.

Over recent years she has seen a surge in miners seeking help for a range of mental health issues,
and she blames fly in, fly out work.

ANGELA TUDEHOPE, MORANBAH DISTRICT SUPPORT SERVICES: The drive in, drive out, fly in, fly out is
obviously an attractive option at first. And the unfortunate problem is that people tell us it's
not until six months down the track that they've been working as a transient worker that they start
to recognise the full impacts and ramifications of that work.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: Those ramifications include depression, family breakdown and even domestic
violence.

ANGELA TUDEHOPE: These guys are really then in a really hard predicament. If it is 100 per cent fly
in, fly out and no accommodation, there's no choice for them to move their family into Moranbah to
try and rebuild that family unit.

STEVE RAE: Obviously any social issues are a concern for us. We've made a commitment to work with
the local communities to resolve those exact types of issues.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: So far, the Queensland Government hasn't had to declare its hand because BMA is
yet to lodge its application.

But Moranbah locals are vowing to keep up their fight.

KELLY VEA VEA: If we lose this, we lose the future for all sustainable resource communities and we
lose the future of all mining families that want to make choices amongst themselves.

I don't think we have a choice at the moment to not win.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Kirrin McKechnie reporting from Queensland.