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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11493


Mr CHRISTENSEN (DawsonThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (10:18): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Australian culture dictates everyone deserves a fair go and that cultural belief is reflected in anti-discrimination legislation.

But what is happening now in the mining communities of Central and North Queensland is anything but a fair go.

The 100 per cent fly-in fly-out workforce practices at Daunia and Caval Ridge mines have devastated local communities.

Highly skilled and experienced local workers are locked out of local employment opportunities because they live too close to work.

For example, a search for Mackay and the Coalfields jobs on Seek this morning reveals a number of jobs available, such as this advertisement for a production superintendent, which is great news if you have all the right skills and experience, as long as you do not live anywhere near the work site because the ad stipulates: 'To be eligible to apply for this role you must reside within 100 kilometres of the Brisbane Airport'.

Such a secure lock-out of local workers has had a devastating effect on the regional economy, especially in towns like Moranbah and nearby centres like Mackay.

Firstly, we witnessed a spike in unemployment.

Secondly, we witnessed the fallout of that unemployment—depression, despair, family breakdown, suicide and then desertion.

In Mackay, where homes were once virtually unobtainable—you could not get one for love or money—this morning there are more than 1,200 vacant homes for rent, not to mention the empty homes not advertised or not for rent.

The resource industry downturn has been exacerbated by these 100 per cent fly-in fly-out operations—a situation that should never have been allowed in the first place.

Unfortunately, the Bligh Labor government in Queensland either failed to consider potential future scenarios—or just did not care—when they approved 100 per cent fly-in fly-out operations at Daunia and Caval Ridge mines.

It was also unfortunate that the Newman government failed to take action to counter this discrimination.

But worse was to come, because despite promising to end 100 per cent fly-in fly-out practices, the Palaszczuk Labor government has broken that promise.

Before the Queensland 2015 election, Labor's policy document on this issue specifically said it would end existing 100 per cent fly-in fly-out operations near regional communities within 100 days of government—no doubt attracting plenty of votes from the most affected regions.

But, more than 300 days after the election, they have walked away from that promise.

This bill seeks to restore the fair go for local workers by using the existing framework that is designed to ensure everyone has a fair go.

This bill will amend the Fair Work Act to specifically say that employers cannot discriminate against potential job applicants on the basis of where they live, other than in cases where living locally is an essential component of being able to perform the job.

The act already prevents discrimination on other grounds, such as gender, race and religion.

This bill is both simple and effective. It uses the same framework that has proven to be effective against other forms of discrimination.

This framework allows the flexibility to use FIFO where needed. When the resource industry recovers, workers may need to be sourced from elsewhere—but locals can never be specifically excluded.

This bill would not have been necessary had the employer shared our cultural ideal of a fair go.

BMA, which operate Daunia and Caval Ridge mines, were given approval by the previous Labor government to use 100 per cent FIFO, but that does not mean they have to use it.

If BMA wanted to share the ideal of a fair go, they would remove any requirement about where a worker must live from their recruitment ads.

They would also reconsider their policy of casualising the workforce, which goes hand-in-hand with FIFO.

The simple knowledge that locals are allowed to apply for local jobs would immediately inject some much needed confidence into local economies.

North Queenslanders and Central Queenslanders are a resilient bunch, capable of rising to any challenge.

They have the skills and experience to drive our national economy forward.

All they ask is that they get a fair go.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?