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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9248

Mr CHRISTENSEN (DawsonThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (21:04): My constituents in the Mackay region are feeling the pain of a downturn in the mining industry and the extent of that pain can be clearly outlined with a few cold hard facts. Mackay is the predominant service centre for the Bowen Basin mining region. It is the centre where many families in the mining industry choose to live. But there has been a $1 billion drop in mining expenditure in the region, 8,000 jobs have been lost in the mining and services sector, and on today's count there are more than 1,200 properties for rent and close to 2,500 properties for sale on the market. The flow-on effects of the downturn are affecting every area of business in the region.

While we cannot change the coal price or change the new realities of doing business, there is something we can do or, more correctly, something mining giant BMA can do. BMA can stop their geographic discrimination—the destructive practice of operating mines with a 100 per cent fly-in fly-out workforce. This is taking place just a few hours west of a large and experienced workforce in Mackay, which prefer to live on the coastal fringe. At the National Party's Federal Council, which was held over the weekend, the Nationals took a strong stance on this practice—a practice dubbed the cancer of the bush in a report last year to the previous government.

My fellow Nationals MPs, the member for Hinkler and the member for Maranoa, and I backed a motion put forward by the member for Capricornia which stated:

That this Federal Council of the Nationals call on state governments to ensure that all mining contracts include requirements to employ locals and prohibit 100 per cent Fly-in Fly-out … workforces, where a local workforce is available.

In June this year the Queensland LNP government took a great step on this issue, when they announced that there would be no more approvals for 100 per cent fly-in fly-out mine workforces. I congratulate them very much, particularly the Deputy Premier, for taking that stance and saying 'No more' to 100 per cent FIFO.

In Queensland, the coal companies were granted permission by the previous state Labor government, under the leadership of the then Premier, Anna Bligh, to initially engage 100 per cent FIFO workforces. It is a destructive legacy of that Labor government and, to the shame of the local Labor member for Mackay, Tim Mulherin, he was in cabinet when that decision was made.

It is a decision that has meant that the seat he represents has lost workers, business and confidence. BMA operates both the Daunia and Caval Ridge mines, west of Mackay, with 100 per cent fly-in fly-out workforces. Workers must fly in from either Brisbane or Cairns. It leads to ludicrous situations like this one. A mine worker, who lives but 15 minutes from the mine site, has to jump on a plane and fly to Brisbane so that he can then jump on another plane and fly back to Moranbah, his hometown, get on a bus and go to the mine site past his home, which he has in that community. He has to stay on that mine site and the mining camp for the entire time he is there. He is not allowed to go back to the family home. That is wrong.

As previously mentioned the Queensland LNP government is to be commended for stating that there will be no more approvals for 100 per cent fly-in fly-out workforces like this one but, just as a council cannot backtrack on a development approval, the state government cannot backtrack on the original fly-in fly-out approval, which was given by the previous Labor government, for the Daunia and Caval Ridge mines.

However, there is something that the mining giant BMA could do. They could support the communities that have supported them over many years during the highs and lows of the coal industry. They could do the right thing. They could change their workforce-hiring requirements and end the geographic discrimination. Just because the previous Labor government gave BMA permission to operate with a 100 per cent fly-in fly-out workforce at two of its mines, it does not mean that they still have to do it. They could instead return to a mix of options, which has always existed in the mining sector. A fly-in fly-out workforce is an important part of the mix of a mining workforce. Drive-in drive-out is also an important part of the mix of a mining workforce. But a resident workforce is also an important part of that mix.

BMA have been asked to do the decent thing and accept workers from any area, regardless of postcode. They have been asked to give those choices back to workers. In turn, this will return lifeblood to regional towns and cities. I ask them to do that, Madam Speaker.